Friday, August 18, 2006

My Top 50 List

Since I critiqued the Hockey News Top 50 player list yesterday I thought I would make an attempt at making a list of my own. In order to begin, I decided I needed a better definition. Top 50 players - top 50 how? My definition is these are the 50 players that I would most want to build a winning hockey team right now (that may not be exactly what Mike Brophy had in mind, but it is my best attempt to define the question). I will only leave a comment with the top 10 players and any players on my list who Brophy left off his list. I think it would be redundant otherwise. I dont have too many new things to say about player number 30 that I didn't say yesterday.

Here is my list:

1. Joe Thornton NHL MVP and at age 27 he might still be getting better. Why wasn't he ranked higher by Brophy?

2. Nicklas Lidstrom Consistently the best defender in hockey. Sure he is 36, but he is not showing any signs of decline. I still don't know why he didn't get nominated for the Hart Trophy.

3. Jaromir Jagr Had a great year and could have won Hart as well. Had shoulder surgery in the off season, which keeps him from the very top of this list.

4. Alexander Ovechkin Third highest scorer in the NHL as a rookie. This guy will be incredible. How can you score more than 50 goals when Dainius Zubrus is the best guy to pass you the puck?

5. Scott Niedermayer A great defenceman in his prime. Lidstrom kept him from repeating as Norris winner.

6. Roberto Luongo The best goaltender in the game. When he steps out of Florida and into Vancouver he should post some eye catching numbers He faced more shots than anyone else in the last two NHL seasons and still posted very good numbers. Give him a defence and he will take a run at Vezina.

7. Jarome Iginla A dominant scorer who should be among the top scorers in the NHL now that Tanguay helps him carry the load.

8. Ilya Kovalchuk The best goal scorer in the NHL and he's only 23 so he has many great years ahead.

9. Sidney Crosby Another great young talent who is already a great scorer. If he has a weakness its his defence.

10. Chris Pronger Dominant performance in the playoffs should have won him the Conn Smythe, but voters couldn't see past the fact his team didn't win the cup.

11. Markus Naslund
12. Miikka Kiprusoff
13. Peter Forsberg
14. Martin Brodeur
15. Patrik Elias
16. Zdeno Chara
17. Erik Staal
18. Marian Hossa
19. Joe Sakic
20. Dany Heatley
21. Daniel Alfredsson
22. Rick Nash
23. Brad Richards
24. Marian Gaborik
25. Henrik Lundqvist
The forgotten rookie star from last season. He was better than Phaneuf but couldn't get a Calder nomination. One of the better goalies in the game.

26. Todd Bertuzzi An absolute monster. He's been dealing with the mental issues that go with the Steve Moore hit. A new start in Florida and he could bounce right back.

27. Mats Sundin
28. Vincent LeCavalier
29. Wade Redden
30. Pavel Datsyuk
31. Sergei Zubov
32. Jason Spezza
33. Jonathan Cheechoo
34. Alex Tanguay
35. Simon Gagne
36. Mike Modano
Led Dallas in scoring and very solid defensively. Sure he is 36, but he's still very good.

37. Ed Jovanovski Sure he has suffered some injuries in the past 3 seasons, but its nothing recurring. He should give a very good year and much more injury free.

38. Milan Hejduk Last year may not have been his best offensive season, but he is still 30 and was good enough to score 98 points in the low scoring 2002/03 season. He has too good a scoring touch not to find it again.

39. Martin Havlat
40. Marty Turco
41. Keith Tkachuk
Sure he came to camp overweight and he suffered through injuries all season. But he still managed to score nearly a point per game and dominate games physically with little or no supporting cast

42. Pavol Demitra Has put up some very consistent numbers for several years. Better than point per game again last year. Should fit in well in Minnesota.

43. Bryan McCabe
44. Daniel Briere
58 points in only 48 games last year. He's always had a scoring touch and he looks ready to show us with a big full season.

45. Ryan Smyth
46. Rod Brind'Amour
47. Tomas Vokoun
48. Shane Doan
49. Rob Blake
50. Martin St Louis

Missing from my list but appearing on the Mike Brophy list are Brian Gionta, Olli Jokinen, Patrick Marleau, Brendan Morrow, Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Lubomir Vishnovsky and Henrik Zetterberg.

Hmm, neither list gave Teemu a shot at top-50? I wonder how many points many of those wingers would have gotten with linemates like Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz/Todd Fedoruk?

Ah well, good list anyway.
The problem with Teemu isn't what he did last season. Its the three or four years before last season. He sure looked like he didn't have much left before proving that wrong last year. I am not confident he can back it up anymore. Afterall he is 36 and before last year hadn't clear 80 points in a season since the year 2000.
True enough, less than stellar stats pre-lockout.

Still, you don't quite stumble your way into 90 points on a fluke, do you?

Or if you did, it's usually because you were put on a good line to start with, and you're just "borrowing" stats from linemates.

Teemu's year was pretty astounding, because he kind of did it with 'nobody' (except Scott N. on the blueline), and he really appeared to have rediscovered something in his game.

Still, good enough justification (age, history) to not build a team around. I'm still glad he found another year in his Anaheim bag, though.
I have a hard time putting Iginla in the top 10. The guy has only had one season with more than 73 points. Yeah, he plays on a team without many offensive weapons but good players make the players around them better. Forsberg had more points in just 60 games last year and should definitely be rated in the top 10 if not top 5. He probably should be first overall if he wasn't so injury prone.

Luongo is good but he shouldn't be ahead of Brodeur and Kipprusoff, both of whom are just as good and have proven they can win.

Heatley should not be ahead of Alfredsson. Spezza-Heatley just weren't as good when Alfredsson wasn't on the line with them.
Earl Sleek: Of course you dont "fluke" into 90 points. Teemu Selanne is a very good player. And you are underrating Andy McDonald when you claim he isn't a very good linemate (I might rank him slightly outside the top 100 players in the NHL which is not bad). I don't have much faith that Selanne can repeat what he did last season, so I didn't rate him in the top 50.

David Johnson: The stat that Iginla has only once exceeded 73 points is one chosen specifically to make him not look good. He is a two time top goal scorer in the NHL, one tiem Art Ross winner - he just did it in a different era when there was less scoring than we have today. If you adjusted his stats you would see how impressive they are. hockey outsider calls his 2001/02 season the 19th best goal scoring season ever. I have no problem picking Iginla in the top 10 (and neither does Mike Brophy).

When I watch Luongo I see the best goalie in the NHL. He hasn't put upü the numbers without a defence in front of him. I think he definitely deserved the 2004 Hart Trophy (but didn't even get nominated). The only reason Luongo hasn't "proven he can win" and Brodeur and Kiprusoff have is that Florida is nowhere near the team New Jersey and Calgary are.

The main reason I rank Healtey above Alfredsson is that at age 25 we likely haven't seen Heatley's best years yet and at age 33 we probablöy have already seen Alfredsson's. That said, Healtey has outscored Alfredsson the last two years he played a full season in the NHL.
Your selection process was to "build a winning hockey team right now." If that is the case, wouldn't you choose Alfredsson over Heatley because Alfredsson is the better player now. Anyone who watched the Senators knows that Spezza and Heatley weren't the same when Alfredsson wasn't on that line. That is why Murray had to keep putting Alfredsson back on the top line when he really wanted to create a second scoring line.

As for Iginla, 19 players scored more goals than him last year and several dozen players scored more points than him including 16 of the 19 players who scored more goals. I like Iginla as a hockey player but he has had one really awesome year and a bunch of pretty good ones. He's a very good goal scorer and does a lot of the little things right but he doesn't necessarily make the players around him better and in my mind the best players make the players around them better (another reason for Alfredsson over Heatley).

When healthy Forsberg is the best player in the NHL bar none. He's a dominant force on his own and he makes the players around him substantially better. Gagne had 39 goals, 67 points in 51 games playing with Forsberg. In 21 games without Forsberg in the lineup he had 8 goals 12 assists. That is the mark of a truly great player and if I knew he was healthy I'd have Forsberg at the top of my list.
Alfredsson was the Sens MVP last year and Heatley was their highest scorer. The distance between them is not particularly big. I could see one pick either as the best player right now. Given that Heatley is likely still improving and his age and Alfredsson may be on his downside of his career, I be Heatley is the better player right now and will show it next season. I agree with Mike Brophy rating Heatley higher than Alfredsson (although I close the gap a great deal). I also agree with Mike Brophy about Iginla. SO these gripes you have with my list are far more universal than just with my list. You disagree with several knowledgable hockey observers.

I would certainly consider a healthy Forsberg a good candidate for the top player in hockey. Unfortunately no such animal exists.
"You disagree with several knowledgable hockey observers."

One Word: Groupthink

Just because 100, a 1000 or a million people think it is so does not make it so. Lots of people assumed that Saddam Hussein had WMD but that didn't make it true. An unbiased observer would have probably concluded otherwise because the most reliable evidence from those on the ground in Iraq at the time was pointing to the fact that he didn't. But sometimes people don't believe the evidence sitting right in front of them because they'd rather believe what everyone around them believes. It's easier, but it doesn't make it true. Now that doesn't make me right either but you can't claim you are right because some other guy believes the same thing.

Is Iginla better than Rick Nash? They are both goal scoring power forwards. In the last 2 seasons Nash has scored 72 goals, 111 points in 134 games. Iginla has scored 76 goals, 140 points in 163 games.

Nash: 0.527 gpg, 0.828ppg
Iginla: 0.466 gpg, 0.859ppg

Who's better? I'd say Nash. And Nash is 22 and getting better while Iginla is 29 in the prime of his career. Nash had just 4 fewer goals in 28 fewer games last year and yet you have Nash at 22 and Iginla at 7. Makes no sense. If I were building a team i'd take Nash over Iginla in a heartbeat.
That groupthink line is such a fallacy. You are basically arguing that veryone disagrees with me, therefore I am correct (does that make any sense at all?. I say the sky is fluorescent green. Everyone disagrees with me but its just groupthink). I think I have presented a reasonable argument in the points that you have disagreed with in my rankings. You stopped trying to argue them and just argue its "groupthink".

Would I take Jerome Iginla or Rick Nash? Iginla. You think it is a knock against Iginla that he has only once scored more than 73 points. Rick Nash has never even approached that 73 figure. His career best is 57 points. Iginla has more value playing without the puck as well. They played on the same Olympic team in Turino and Iginla put up more points than Nash.

Frankly, I am suprised at your criticisms. I expected that somebody would question those places that significantly DISAGREE with the "establishment" in The Hockey News, but not you, you are here disagreeing with the places where I tend to agree with them.

I wonder if your decision to attack me is because I criticized your rather weak hockey analysis that attempts to show that teams with young players cannot win the Stanley Cup. Nah ... your motives are not that cynical (I hope).
"That groupthink line is such a fallacy. You are basically arguing that veryone disagrees with me, therefore I am correct "

Actually no, I never said that. In fact, I specifically stated the opposite: "Now that doesn't make me right either..." My point was you cannot claim you are right just because someone else agrees with you which is the argument you essentially made when you wrote "You disagree with several knowledgable hockey observers."

"Rick Nash has never even approached that 73 figure. His career best is 57 points."

Well, that is a bit of a cheap shot because you know as well as I do that had Nash not been injured to start last year he would easily passed 57 points and had a good chance at 45 goals, 80 points. Nash is a guy who in just his second year in the NHL tied for the league lead in goals scored and if we prorated his performance last year to a full 82 games would have been 7th in the NHL.

"I expected that somebody would question those places that significantly DISAGREE with the "establishment" in The Hockey News, but not you, you are here disagreeing with the places where I tend to agree with them."

I frequently disagree with 'the establishment' because frequently they are wrong. The establishment thought that Larry Murphy was washed up and should retire when he played for the Leafs but he wasn't washed up and proved it by playing a significant part of 2 Stanley cup winning teams in Detroit. The establishment thinks that Lecavalier is a superstar/franchise player when in fact he is just a pretty good player. The establishment thought that Patrick Lalime was a very good goalie (for a while anyway) but he wasn't. Again, just because 'the establishment' says it is so doesn't make it so.

That said, I am surprised you didn't have Phaneuf, Jokinen or Zetterberg on your list.

No, I am not criticizing you because your criticized me because honestly I never really made the connection. Also, because your criticisms are for the most part fair. It wasn't a serious, deep analysis nor was it really intended to be. It was more intended to get people to think about things. But I do believe my conclusions to be mostly true and that it is much harder to win with youngsters are core components of a team.
Here are a few reasons why I would pick Jerome Iginla over Rick Nash

1) Jarome Iginla has scored more points every year both of them have been in the NHL
2) Jarome Iginla is a better defensive player
3) When they were teammates on the Canadian Olympic Team, Iginla played better and accomplished more
4) Iginla plays in the toughest division in hockey and Nash plays in the easiest one and that is reflected in their stats. Iginla's point per game total is down and Nash's is up due to differing calibre of opposition.

Does that mean that I am 100% certain that Iginla will have a better year than Nash? Of course not. But I would bet that way - I think it is a safe bet. I certainly could imagine circumstances where Nash does better than Iginla. I think the disagreement comes in that fact that Iginla did not have the best year of his career in 2005/06. I believe that at age 29, Iginla has many top level seasons left.
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