Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Redoing Franchise Players

Winging It in Motown recently did a list of their top-ten franchise builders for next season (e.g. if you did a fantasy draft in NHL 11, starting a team from scratch, just for 2010-2011, who would you take?). I thought it was overthought as well. Sometimes, there's no need to stray from conventional wisdom because, quite simply, it's almost irrefutable. There's no right or wrong, as it is personal preference (Carolina GM Jim Rutherford for example doesn't use high picks on defensemen, Nashville GM David Poile almost always does), but I find it hard to put Johnathan Toews first, among other things.

Their list. Mine, cost-blind:

  1. Sidney Crosby—he's one of the best two players in the world, easily. He's the one that plays the most important position. End of discussion.

  2. Alex Ovechkin—he's a generational talent at the least important position. Maybe you could but someone else there, but are you really going to pass up the chance to have Alex freakin'-Ovechkin on your team, basically a lock for 50-60 goals and 100+ points? No sir.

  3. Evgeni Malkin—This was the lowest Malkin could have been at the end of last season, but after a relatively poor season Malkin for some people drops lower. I don't mind his inconsistency because he's proven that he can be the guy. That means that his overall production is all that matters, and when you consider that Malkin pretty much had a bad season of over a point per game, and that's the worst he's played his entire career, and that he has potentially 50-goal 120 point upside, then yeah, this is an easy pick.

  4. Nicklas Backstrom—he's getting better each season. He's looking like a future Selke winner with ever-improving a strong defensive game, and his creativity, vision, and skill with the puck in the offensive zone can only be matched by a handful of other forwards. He's calm, hard to knock off the puck, and competitive as well, and consistent too. He's gets a higher slot because of the position he plays.

  5. Duncan Keith—the Norris Trophy winner should get a high spot. Although I thought Green was a little more deserving, Keith gets the highest position from a defenseman because he is a little more versatile, able to eat big minutes on the penalty kill (which Green hasn't proven yet). He could still yet improve as well.

  6. Pavel Datsyuk—if you talk about the best forward in the NHL right now, the only guy that will ever be brought up alongside Crosby, Ovechkin, and Malkin is Datsyuk. Datsyuk, although old relative to the others on this list, is still very very skilled with the puck and thinks quickly. His decision making with the puck and patience is elite, but what really sets him up here despite his poor season in terms of raw numbers in 2009-2010 is his decision making without the puck. Datsyuk won his third straight Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward, and although he wasn't used much on the penalty kill, he's already proven himself capable of playing defensive roles, helping to shut down Sidney Crosby in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009 (and Mike Babcock has several other very good two-way forwards to choose from to play “shutdown” roles).

  7. Mike Green—Two time Norris finalist, two back to back point per game seasons, two 70 point seasons before his 25th birthday. Every other player who satisfies that last requirement let alone all three is in the Hall of Fame or named Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Chelios. Green is a notch above everyone else with the puck in the offensive zone, and defensively vastly underrated (if you pay attention to everything he does, you'll notice that most of the time Green stops the other team's offensive rush by chasing down a puck in the neutral zone itself. That's good defense). Production from the back line and the ability to move the puck up the ice quickly and counterattack is important in today's NHL, and Green excels at those two items. Put him with a defensive defenseman like Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, or someone better, and give him power play time, he will shine.

  8. Drew Doughty—Second youngest Norris finalist ever. Behind Robert Orr. Yes, that guy. Doughty has plenty of room to improve, but most of the time he still makes the right decision, and his offensive creativity and ambition could make him better than Green in that regard in the future. But not yet.

  9. Shea Weber—he's somehow still underrated. Weber is versatile as well and brings good vision and a cannon from the point. His skating and physicality in addition to his smarts make him one of the most complete defensemen in the NHL, and he's just entering his prime.

  10. Mike Richards—Toews originally has this spot, but then I did some thinking. Toews is by no means elite offensively, and Richards is a bit better. Richards is an all-world defensive player at even strength, consistently playing shutdown center for Philadelphia, Team Canada, and any other team and excelling at that job. He's also a Selke finalist, which Toews is not. Is Toews' leadership and room for growth enough to unseat Richards? I say no. Toews I feel gets a massive pass for his under-70 point season because of his Olympic MVP performance on a loaded Canada team—one of his checking-linemate was Richards himself!—and his Conn Smythe playoffs performance, which included a disappearing act in the Stanley Cup Finals and good play against a complete “choke” job, for lack of a better phrase, by San Jose, plus classic playoffically unstable Roberto Luongo going cold.
Just missed out: Johnathan Toews, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin, Mikko Koivu


  1. Pretty good list all in all -- a team would be fortunate to have any of the ones you named.

    IMO ranked too high:
    -Backstrom (not by much though)

    Ranked too low:
    -Zetterberg (didn't even make your HMs?)

    Just my thoughts though, like you said everyone's got their own different styles.

  2. Good point on Zetterberg, Hooks. I missed him and definitely would have had him in there, though I'm not a fan of his durability. I'm not high on Toews and Doughty and I'm not sold on Datsyuk anymore.

    I really think 1D is important and I know Keith and Green can play 1D and play in all situations. I don't know if Doughty can yet. He strikes me more as a top pairing guy, but not outstanding enough in any facet to be higher than Green or Keith.