Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hockey News Top 50 Players

The Hockey News came out with their yearbook which lists the top 50 players in the NHL according to Mike Brophy. This list always brings up some contreversy. Here is their list along with the rating the player had last season and my comments.

1. Miikka Kiprusoff (31st overall in 2005) In order to jump 30 points and land in first overall, one would think Kiprusoff would have won the Hart Trophy by a large margin. That is not so. While Kiprusoff won the Vezina and finished third in the Hart Trophy voting (though I would not have nominated him for the award). I cannot find any logical way to justify Kiprusoff as the best player in the NHL. Would you expect he is the most likely guy to win the 2007 Hart Trophy? I wouldn't.

2. Chris Pronger (up from 4th). While Pronger is clearly a very good player and deserved (but did not win) the Conn Smythe trophy is he the best defender in hockey? If so why was he not a Noris Trophy nominee?

3. Jaromir Jagr (up from 20th). His time in Washington was unimpressive and led to a drop in his ranking, but he jumped back to the standard we'd expect from Jagr this year. I picked him as the man most deserving of the Hart Trophy. This ranking is about right.

4. Joe Thornton (up from 6th). A Hart Trophy didn't give Thornton as big a bump up the list as I would have expected.

5. Alexander Ovechkin (debut). The rookie of the year is poised to have a great career. This ranking is about right.

6. Sidney Crosby (debut). The runner up to the rookie of the year. He is almost two years younger than Ovechkin and probably projects to having a better career, but I am not sure he is quite this high yet. The fact Crosby is a centerman makes his rokie defensive lapses a bigger deal than Ovechkin's on the wing. When that is coupled with the fact Crosby is a poor faceoffman and not a huge imposing force, I wouldn't rate Crosby quite this high yet.

7. Jarome Iginla (down from 2nd). Last year wasn't Iginla's best. Sure he led the Flames in scoring, but he wasn't among the top scorers in the NHL. Some are down on him because he has never had a huge 100 point year (his huge scoring years happened in a lower scoring NHL than today), but I think this rating is justified.

8. Scott Niedermayer (up from 13th). Hard to make sense of the fact he is rated higher in a year he is Norris trophy runner up than last year when he was defending champ.

9. Rick Nash (up from 50th). Huge jump for a guy who only got 54 points last year (granted it was in 54 games). Sure Nash has loads of potential, but he has never shown himself to be as good as the nineth best player in the NHL.

10. Dany Heatley (down from 5th). It was a mistake to rate Heatley as high as 5th last year when he was coming off an awful season recovering from the mental and physical injuries of the car accident that killed Dan Snyder. This is shown by the fact Heatley had a 103 point season and dropped in the rankings.

11. Martin Brodeur (down from 7th). Sure Brodeur is a very good goalie, but he hasn't been the best goalie in the NHL in a while. He starts to look beatable now that the defence in front of him is no longer as good as the Scott Niedermayer/ Scott Stevens Devils.

12. Patrik Elias (up from 26th) His 45 points in only 38 games while recovering from hepatitis should have earned him the Masterton trophy. Not sure why the Devils media didn't even nominate him.

13. Peter Forsberg (down from 1st) If he was healthier I'm sure he would be ranked higher, but Forsberg rarely has injury free years. His off-season ankle surgery is the latest in a long line of injuries. Just imagine what a healthy Forsberg could have accomplished

14. Eric Staal (debut) Sophomore center had a great breakout year and capped it off as the top scorer in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

15. Nicklas Lidstrom (down from 12th) What must Lidstrom do to move up? He was a runaway Norris Trophy winner who deserved a Hart nomination (but didn't get it) and for this he drops in the rankings?

16. Wade Redden (debut) Redden was a Norris favorite before injuries dropped him in the stretch drive. How could he have been omitted from last year's list?

17. Joe Sakic (down from 10th) He may be 37, but he is still going strong. He led Colorado in points last year. At his age, things may start to slow down, but they haven't yet.

18. Ilya Kovalchuk (down from 8th) I think he's the best pure goal scorer in the NHL today. He tied for 3rd in goal scoring last year and he drops?

19. Zdeno Chara (up from 21st) I think he was the best Ottawa defenceman last year, despite Redden being slightly higher rated by THN.

20. Daniel Alfredsson (down from 16th) Tied for fourth in points in the NHL last year. If he is dropping its only because he was slighlty overrated last year.

21. Vincent LeCavalier (up from 27th) Why isn't Brad Richards the highest rated member of the Lightning?

22. Jason Spezza (debut) A great passer (second in assists last season), but a bit too one dimensional for this high a ranking. He is not too strong defensively and benefits from the offensive depth in Ottawa to pad his assist totals.

23. Brad Richards (up from 25th) Should be the highest rated Lightning player.

24. Marian Hossa (down from 14th) He deserves a better ranking than this. I think Hossa suffers because he plays in the hockey backwater of Atlanta now and gets seen fewer times a year by most writers.

25. Roberto Luongo (up from 38th) I have no idea why he was rated a low as he was two years ago when he could have won the Vezina trophy had voters noticed him. 2005/06 was still a good year for Luongo, but he was unhappy with Keenan in Florida. Look for new life now that Luongo got a new start in Vancouver. I think 25th is still too low for him.

26. Martin Havlat (up from 28th) A great talent, but I'd like to see him have a year where he approaches 90 or 100 points before ranking him this high. Will he get lost in Chicago without the same calibre of linemates he was used to in Ottawa?

27. Marian Gaborik (up from 42nd) Another great talent who is yet to have an elite offensive season, however playing under Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota has made Gaborik much stronger defensively than Havlat and thus should be ranked ahead of him.

28. Henrik Zetterberg (debut) Although came through with an 85 point year (which is much bigger than Havlat or Gaborik did), but doesn't carry the same uside of either of them and has benefitted from from having many strong teammates. I am not convinced he can keep up that level of offense now that opposing teams will be keying in on him much more strongly.

29. Tomas Vokoun (debut) Worthy of a Vezina nomination, but I am, uncertain of his future given the blood clot that kept him out at the end of the year. That uncertainty would keep me from rating him this highly.

30. Rob Blake (down from 17th) At age 36, I am not sure he still has enough left to justify this high a ranking. The phyiscal part oBlake's game is gone now and often he relies on the reputation he has earned in past years. If players start to test him in his own zone will he stand up? He is still a top offensive defenceman.

31. Simon Gagne (debut) Gelled well with Peter Forsberg to start the season off with a lot of goals. His scoring rate slowed a bit when Forsberg ran into injury problems.

32. Dion Phaneuf (debut) He's not ready for this kind of a ranking. Sure he's a fine young defender who had an (undeserved) Calder nomination, but he is still beatable in his own zone and this became painfully obvious when Anaheim eliminated the Flames in the playoffs.

33. Ryan Smyth (up from 49th) Smyth really wasn't a better player in 2005/06 than he was in previous years, but his trip to the Stanley Cup finals got him more exposure in the eastern media. His real ranking should be in between these two extremes.

34. Markus Naslund (down from 3rd) Naslund played through injury most of last season and it kept him out of the Olympics. I think a healthy Naslund will bounce back and show this ranking is unreasonably low.

35. Pavel Datsyuk (up from 36th) I see him as the best Detroit forward. He should be ranked ahead of Zetterberg.

36. Jonathan Cheechoo (debut) He meshed extremely well with Joe Thornton and led the NHL in goals. Can he keep up that pace and how good is he if Thornton is not feeding him?

37. Patrick Marleau (up from 46th) The best number two centreman in the NHL last year. Needs to continue developing his defensive skills as Joe Thornton will play the other team's checking lineleaving Marleau to more often than not play the number one line of the opposing team. This wasn't an easy transition for him, as was shown by his -12 +/- rating.

38. Rod Brind'Amour (debut) The Selke winner and captain of the Stanley Cup winning Carolina Hurricane. He was embarrassingly left off the list of players eligible for the Olympics when he should have made the team. Since he is 36, he might slow down this year, but last year he showed no signs of it.

39. Shane Doan (debut) Suprisingly left off last year's list. Top scorer in Phoenix but he should be able to score more than he has so far. This past season was a bit of a disappointment for him both offensively and defensively (I suppose if you can disappoint and lead your team in scoring then you are a pretty good player).

40. Lubomir Visnovsky (debut) His 67 point year on defence was a suprise given he hadn't scored more than 30 points since 2001. I am not sure he can keep up this scoring rate, especially given that he won't be the clear go to offensive guy in LA with Rob Blake around.

41. Olli Jokinen (debut) Has developed into a very good forward since he arrived in Florida, but I am not confident in his consistency.

42. Sergei Zubov (debut) He is too good a player to be this low in the rankings. He was a deserving Norris trophy nominee and has a long string of solid seasons.

43. Alex Tanguay (up from 44) A better than point per game forward the last two seasons he played in the NHL. He deserves a better ranking than this one. I expect he and Iginla could really ignite a Calgary offence.

44. Robyn Regehr (debut) The best one dimensional defensive defenceman in the NHL today. The best defender in Calgary (why is Phaneuf rated higher?). That said he is not an offensive contributor so I don't think I would rank him this highly.

45. Bryan McCabe (debut) A somewhat one-dimensional offensive defenceman, but one who offers more than Regehr having made second team all star in 2004 and having been a leading Norris contender before injuries slowed him in the second half of the season.

46. Brendan Morrow (down from 41st) A very good two way forward, but since he has never approached a point per game season, I think his inclusion on this list is a (repeated) mistake. Why isn't Mike Modano the top rated Dallas forward?

47. Martin St Louis (down from 9th) The 2004 Hart trophy winner has dropped hard. I think he lost a lot of momentum losing a year during the lockout. Quite possibly it cost him a Hall of Fame career.

48. Mats Sundin (down from 15th) Sure he's 36, but he led Toronto in scoring last year so that kind of drop is unwarranted.

49. Marty Turco (down from 39th) Third in wins last year, but his saves percentage suffered. Still he has a track record as a top goaltender.

50. Brian Gionta (debut) Suddenly scored 89 points last year (previous career best was 29). I am not convinced he can repeat now that he will draw more coverage from opposing teams.

There is a thread on hfboards.com that discusses this list in detail if you want to see what more people have to say about it.

Comments:
Well.... this list is better than the one that Sportsline put out that I blogged about yesterday.. but that's not saying much.

Lidstrom's ranking in both lists is just ridiculous.... Hell, anything below the top 3 is ridiculous.

... and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that doens't think that Phaneuf deserves the attention he's getting.
 
I might be a bit biased as a Flames fan, but if you really want one guy going into the playoffs...I'll take Iggy thanks. Also, Phaneuf kicks ass -and most players on this list can testify to that.
 
holy shit! morrow may not have a point a game but he's certainly better on defence than datsyuk or zeterberg. and phaneuf should be in the top ten. how many defencemen do you know that scored 20 goals and play a stellar defensive game in his rookie season?
crosby should be ahead of ovechkin. end of story
 
I have generated my own top 50 list. Although I do agree with some positive comments made towards the list, I still feel that certain placements are way off.

Below is my top 50:
1) Alexander Ovechkin
2) Jaromir Jagr
3) Joe Thornton
4) Niklas Lidstrom
5) Mikka Kipperusoff
6) Jarome Iginla
7) Peter Forsberg
8) Scott Niedermyer
9) Ilya Kovalchuk
10) Chris Pronger
11) Martin Brodeur
12) Joe Sakic
13) Danny Heatly
14) Roberto Luongo
15) Sidney Crosby
16) Marcus Naslund
17) Daniel Alfredsson
18) Brad Richards
19) Marion Hossa
20) Patrick Elias
21) Mats Sundin
22) Olli Jokinen
23) Teemu Selanne
24) Eric Staal
25) Rob Blake
26) Zdeno Chara
27) Paul Kariya
28) Jason Spezza
29) Pavel Datsyuk
30) Hendrik Zetterberg
31) Sergei Zubov
32) Rick Nash
33) Wade Redden
34) Ryan Smyth
35) Todd Bertuzzi
36) Marion Gaborik
37) Martin St. Louis
38) Vincent Lecavalier
39) Dion Phaneuf
40) Kieth Tkachuk
41) Pavol Demitra
42) Jonathon Cheechoo
43) Simon Gagne
44) Mike Modano
45) Brian McCabe
46) Alex Tanguay
47) Hendrik Lundqvist
48) Brian Gionta
49) Daniel Briere
50) Ales Hemsky
 
Lidstroms is good but he is definately not top three in the league. No Crosby is not better than ovechkin maybe in a few years.
 
welll hello the dominatior hes fing like old as dirt nd hes still stelar
 
how did Hasek not make the top 50 i mean he is one of the best goalies to ever play the game
 
crosby should be ahead of ovechkin. end of story
love that comment the entirty of the list is pretty scabled and quite weak
 
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Every top list will brings a lot of controversy specially when there are different methods involve in the picking players.
 
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