Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Top 50 List

The Hockey News Top 50 player list is out and I want to respond to it (as I did last year) by listing my top 50 list. I believe these are the 50 players I would most want to build a winning hockey team right now. As The Hockey News did, I will consider Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne likely retired and thus not include them on the list. I have also included comments for the top 10 players and any players omitted in The Hockey News list.

1. Sidney Crosby The top scorer and MVP in the NHL last year and likely still improving. How good can he get?

2. Joe Thornton Over the last two years, the best player in the NHL.

3. Nicklas Lidstrom One of the all time great defencemen in hockey. The only guys with more career Norris Trophies are Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey.

4. Chris Pronger The NHL's most talented villain given his playoff suspensions and the way he left Edmonton. He should be the reigning two time Conn Smythe Trophy winner, but in both cases he was snubbed.

5. Roberto Luongo His reputation has grown with a great season in Vancouver. His first season with a top defence in front of him and his first playoff berth. He should win several Vezinas before he is done.

6. Alexander Ovechkin A fine young star who should have a great career. He regressed a bit offensively (to mere 92 points - how many 2nd year players can drop to that total?) and showed some defensive faults at times. The THN ranking of 2nd best player in hockey is too high, but he could get there someday soon.

7. Martin Brodeur A Hall of Fame goalie who just played what is arguably his best season ever. Now that he is in his mid 30's will he start to slow down?

8. Vincent LeCavalier He has tons of talent. Nice to see him put it together with a Richard Trophy winning season.

9. Jaromir Jagr When you can play through injuries that (among other things) keep you out of the All Star Game and still have a 96 point season, you must be good.

10. Dany Heatley The best goal scorer in the game since the lockout. His arrival has coincided with Daniel Alfredsson's best offensive years also.

11. Miikka Kiprusoff
12. Marian Hossa
13. Jarome Iginla
14. Martin St Louis
15. Ilya Kovalchuk
16. Zdeno Chara
17. Joe Sakic
18. Daniel Alfredsson
19. Marian Gaborik
20. Sergei Zubov
Over the past two seasons he has been the best defenceman beyond the big three (Lidstrom, Pronger, Niedermayer). Not sure how THN could omit him. The biggest concern is he is 37 years old and may start to decline.

21. Jason Spezza
22. Pavel Datsyuk
23. Henrik Lundqvist
24. Brad Richards
25. Henrik Zetterberg
26. Patrik Elias
27. Jay Bouwmeester
A talented young defenceman who is overlooked because he is in Florida (well outside the hockey mainstream). He has developed into one of the best in the game.

28. Jean Sebastien Giguere
29. Simon Gagne
30. Evgeni Malkin
31. Eric Staal
32. Rick Nash
33. Olli Jokinen
What must he do to make the THN list? Back to back seasons of 89 and 91 points didn't do it.

34. Marty Turco
35. Marc Savard
A talented setup man who will be among the league leaders in assists and put up 90+ points the last two seasons. Not good enough for THN?

36. Wade Redden The star defenceman who leads the Ottawa Senators blueline. Has consistently put up top seasons for several years. THN not impressed.

37. Rick DiPietro
38. Tomas Kaberle
39. Daniel Briere
40. Kimmo Timonen
The THN list had too few defencemen. Here is another overlooked one who didn't get the press he deserved in Nashville. Let's see if he gets noticed in Philadelphia.

41. Patrick Marleau Probably the best number two centreman in hockey (behind Joe Thornton). Consistently scores at point per game rate or better. Not good enough for THN.

42. Lubomir Visnovsky Another overlooked defenceman. He is coming off of 67 and 58 point seasons but cannot crack the THN list.

43. Martin Havlat
44. Ryan Smyth
45. Dion Phaneuf
46. Tomas Vokoun
One of the best goaltenders in the league, overlooked because he has played off the beaten track in Nashville and now Florida.

47. Dan Boyle
48. Rod Brind'Amour
49. Sergei Gonchar
50. Paul Stastny
Runner up to the rookie of the year who could make a big leap forward this season.

Ten players are missing on my list who appear on The Hockey News list. They are Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Mathieu Schneider (signing a big new contract does not make you a better player), Brendan Shanahan (who regressed offensively and made the THN list), Ryan Miller (not as good a goalie as those I picked who benefits statistically from a top team in front of him), Dominik Hasek (too big an injury risk but otherwise a top 50 player), Jonathan Cheechoo (Richard Trophy winner in 2006 in what may have been a bit of a fluke), Daniel Sedin (has not shown himself to be good enough yet), Zach Parise (may breakthrough this year but hasn't yet) and Niklas Backstrom (41 games behind a top defence is not enough to make the top 50).

"Daniel Sedin (has not shown himself to be good enough yet)"

but Paul Stastny makes the list as a rookie? Obviously 38 goals and 84 points isn't good enough.
Stastny scored 50 points from January 1st to the end of the season. Daniel Sedin scored 46 in that same time period. That is evidence that Stastny may be a better player than Sedin.

Daniel Sedin appears far more dependant upon Henrik as a linemate then Paul Stastny has been upon any particular linemate.
So that also favors Stastny.

However, this argment is a rather minor one. Number 50 versus somebody who was not too far off of the list (who did make the Hockey News list).

I would expect Stastny has a better season than Sedin this year. Thats why I would rather have him on my team right now.
I just want to mention one or two things that I agree and disagree with you on RE: Rangers players.

Gomez: I agree with you that he can't necessarily be included on the Top 50 list because his offensive output has been too jerky. If playing on a line with Jagr or Shanahan this season helps his numbers, then maybe you can include him. But I wouldn't argue that his inclusion on THN's list was because of his Rangers contract, but rather the way he and Gionta picked up the pieces offensively for the Devils when Elias and Co. failed to bury the biscuit.

Drury: Are you kidding me? To say that Chris Drury was only on THN's list because the Rangers paid him well is a sin. If you've followed his NHL career since the beginning, you'll know that most coaches would say he's the player they'd pick to have on the ice in the final 30 seconds of regulation for Game 7. Clutch is his middle name. And this isn't even to speak of the level of play that he requires everyone around him to play at. He's better than Briere because he plays both ends and leads by example.

Lundqvist: I agree with you that Henrik is starting to find his name amongst the NHL goaltending elite, which should include (as you said) Brodeur, Kiprusoff, Turco, Giguere, Luongo, and Vokoun.

Though I'm a Rangers fan and hate the Islanders, I will give DiPietro a lot of credit. What I won't say is that he's a Top 50 only because he lets in too many soft goals. In his place, I'd give a nod to either Alexander Semin, Scott Hartnell, or Milan Hejduk (what, the last four seasons of 70, 58, 75, and 98 points aren't enough?)

Finally, kudos on including Visnovsky and Zubov on your list. They're right along with Lidstrom, Neids, Chara and Pronger as the best in the biz.
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