Archive for the ‘all-decade team’ Category

Decade Watch

May 2, 2009

(After Nicklas Lidstrom dominated (2 goals including the GWG plus an assist) Game 1 of the Wings-Ducks series, it reminded me that … oh yeah, the decade’s not over just yet.

So let’s take a look at the guys who made the All-Decade Team – or could make, after a year and a half of revision, the “real” All-Decade Teams – and try to chart their progress in the 2009 playoffs.)

Centers

(Obviously, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg were not active, so let’s take a look at the OTHER prominent nominee)

Joe Thornton
(6 GP – one goal, 5 assists, -3 rating, 17 SOG, 5 PIM from his shocking fight with Ryan Getzlaf)
A lot of people are going to throw Jumbo Joe under the bus and he certainly didn’t start the series very well. Still, Joe showed flashes of what makes him one of the league’s premier playmakers in the last few games and ended up with a near point-per-game pace. On paper, he looked OK. In the minds of some (especially crazy) fans, he looked like crap. The truth is somewhere in between. If anything, this performance strengthened the argument for Joe Sakic and uh … Peter Forsberg.

Wingers
(Obviously, Jaromir Jagr wasn’t active. Let’s take a look at the progress of Jarome Iginla then.)
Jarome Iginla
(6 GP, three goals and 1 assist with a -4 rating, 18 SOG)

Iginla joins Thornton in the “hurt his case” group. The Flames were something of a mess toward the end of the season and while they made it to 6 games against the Blackhawks, the mess seemed to continue. Many people are beginning to wonder if the good will from the SCF run will wear off for Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Defense

Nicklas Lidstrom
(5 GP, three goals and four assists, 1 GWG, +5, no penalties)
It’s not like Lidstrom really even needed it, but his game 1 against the Ducks made the difference. He also now has more points in the playoffs than Iginla and Thornton in one less game. Yeah, we’d say he probably has a shot at the All-Decade team.

Scott Niedermayer
(7 GP, one goal and four assists, 1 GWG, +4, no penalties)
Niedermayer has been his typically jaw dropping defensive self so far, but he also has a huge GWG from Game 1 against San Jose. He’s managed to play great defense while staying out of the penalty box, something he should teach to his teammates.

Chris Pronger
(7 GP, one goal and five assists, +5, 6 PIM)
Pronger had an amazing series against the Sharks and also managed to keep his elbows from getting himself in trouble. He looked a little bit susceptible against the Red Wings tonight, but this will just be the beginning against Detroit. Will Pronger change any minds that he’s the second best D of the decade over his teammate? Hard to say. They’re both playing great hockey (as usual).

Goalies

Martin Brodeur
(7 GP, 3-4 record, .929 save percentage, 2.39 GAA, 1 SO, 1 smashed stick)
What an absolutely bat shit insane series for the All-Time Wins leader. If you look at it from a context-free perspective, his save percentage was impressive and he managed a shutout. Yet, going by the traditionalist/populist/semi-idiot “he makes the BIG saves” standpoint it was a disaster. Who can forget his spastic snapping after the Canes scored a GWG with .2 seconds left in a game? Perhaps someone who cannot remember since their mind was blown by the Hurricanes going from down 3-2 to winning 4-3 in the shocking span of one minute and twenty seconds.

Did he leave the door open for Roberto Luongo?

Roberto Luongo
(5 GP, 5-0 record, .951 save percentage, 1.50 GAA, 1 SO)
Was it worth it, Lou? All that toiling with the Islanders and Panthers? It’s difficult to deny that Luongo might just be the best goaltender in the world right now. He’s playing so well that Brodeur has to be nervous about his position as Team Canada’s starting goaltender.

Chicago-Vancouver and Anaheim-Detroit are far from over, but we must ask: would there be a better test for Luongo’s mettle than playing against the gold standard Red Wings? We might find out.

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In the rear view; on the horizon

March 7, 2009

What a week. Like a lot of bloggers, it seems like we are still sort of recovering from the trade deadline. And we would argue that we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the big boys when it came to our trade deadline coverage.

Let’s take a step back and look at some of the people who contributed:

  • The Forechecker” one of the hockey blogosphere’s most popular number crunchers.
  • The always entertaining Chief from Abel to Yzerman.
  • Another great contributor from Kuklas Korner, Bethany’s Hockey Rants.
  • We had three posts from the impressively growing Atlanta Thrashers blogosphere and four entries from Pittsburgh Penguins bloggers.
  • The Pacific division post was covered completely by my homies at SBN, including my BoC mates Earl Sleek and Rudy Kelly.
  • There were two great posts from the guys at Bangin’ Panger.

Really, it was an amazing experience as the hockey blogosphere keeps confirming itself as a wonderful community bursting with talent. We were able to cover every NHL team except: the Edmonton Oilers.

We never would have guessed that Oilers blogosphere would be the only side we didn’t hear from. Is Cycle like the Sedins too goofy and rough around the edges for the highfalutin Edmonton bloggers? Did our e-mails just get banished to Junk Mail Damnation? Did the Oil bloggers see our e-mails, roll their eyes and do the “jacking off” hand motion? Perhaps we’ll never know.

(That being said, no hard feelings. The door is wide open for Oilblogospherebloggers in the future. We’re just kind of surprised that the Oilers were the only team not covered.)

There might be one more trade deadline post comparing the predictions/”if they were the GM” posts to what actually happened, but don’t quote us on that.

Right before our massive trade deadline special, we announced the final All-Decade team roster.

We’re going to take one more spin-o-rama around the All-Decade subject and publish a series of posts that debate who will be on the Next decade team. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate it for what it is: a purely speculative, fun debate. The idea is still in its infant stages, so drop me a line if you’d like to be involved.

Next week should include more typical features like the Morning Cycle, Dance Partners, perhaps a Hockey Orphan entry and the usual weekly fare.

Things are going well here at Cycle like the Sedins, but we’re always looking for more great contributors. If you feel like your skills are bigger than just your team related blog or simply want to get in on the fun, drop me a line at jamestobrien@hotmail.com. No promises that you’ll become a regular, but Chris Kontos dropped me a line and now he’s kicking ass with routinely superior postings.

Anyway, stay tuned CLS-ers. Should be another fun week of hockey blogging and rebel rousing.

Cycle like the Sedins presents: The All-Decade Team

March 2, 2009

(It’s been a long, winding road but now we can take a deep breath and unveil the All-Decade Team. To be as fair as possible, we decided to allow reader polls to decide the categories that were tied among the pundits. The next paragraph features links for each author’s post and their blog. If you’d like my take, here it is.

We’d like to take another moment to thank Deirdre, Chris Kontos, Kent from Five Hole Fanatics, the dynamic duo at Puck Huffers, Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, Eric McErlain from NHL Fanhouse/Off Wing Opinion, and Joe Pelletier from Greatest Hockey Legends for their All-Decade team picks. Also, don’t forget Earl Sleek‘s fantastic “Niedermayer vs. Pronger” post as well as the Joe Sakic (Jibblescribbits) and Joe Thornton (Couchtarts) point/counter-point.

Individual pick abbreviations: Deirdre – DS; Chris Kontos – Kontos; Five Hole Fanatics= Kent; Greg W from Puck Daddy = PD; Eric McErlain = Eric; Joe Pelletier = Joe P; Puck Huffers are PH; James O’Brien = me. And for those tie breakers, poll winners = THE PEOPLE.

Feel free to post your own All-Decade team in the comments.)

Center: Peter Forsberg (Kontos, DS, Kent)

Others receiving votes: Joe Sakic (Me, Joe P, THE PEOPLE); Joe Thornton (PD, Eric) Mario Lemieux (PH)

What a stunner! Don’t get me wrong, Peter Forsberg’s a great player but the expectation was that it would be Sakic vs. Thornton. Forsberg came out of nowhere and took three straight All-Decade team picks to steal the Center spot.

(Insert “Foppa would trade this award for a spleen/non-wonky groin/healthy foot joke” here.)

Wings: Jarome Iginla (Me, PD, Kent, Joe P, Eric, THE PEOPLE) and Jaromir Jagr (Me, Joe P, Dre, THE PEOPLE)
Others receiving votes: Alex Ovechkin (PD, Kent); Martin St. Louis (Dre, Kontos); Oldmanahan (Kontos); Cal Clutterbuck (PH); Daniel Alfredsson (Eric) Rick Nash (PH)

The poll for All-Decade wingers shows that the blog’s been growing a bit. Forgot to close the poll from voting and it ends up generating WAY more votes than any other poll on the site. Iginla and Jagr won those categories by far, so it feels about as fair as it’s going to get. Iginla seemed to have a pretty strong majority, while Jagr was quite a polarizing figure (shocking).

Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom (everyone but the Puck Huffers haha) and Scott Niedermayer (Dre, PH, Eric, Kontos, Joe P, THE PEOPLE)

Others receiving votes: Chris Pronger (Me, PD); Zdeno Chara (Kent); Sergei Gonchar (PH)

Picking Lidstrom might be the no-brainer of the decade.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the All-Decade Team process is that people really, really love Scott Niedermayer. And really, really hate Pronger. Niedermayer won by a landslide and definitely won the war on Puck Daddy’s comments.

Goalie: Martin Brodeur (Just about everyone except Kent)
Other receiving vote: Dominik Hasek (Kent) Steve Mason (PH)

Although Martin Brodeur won quite easily, it gives me some relief that Kent voted for Hasek. There is a sentiment among many NHL thinkers that Brodeur might just be a good goalie in an incredibly lucky situation. While I respectfully disagree (though I acknowledge he is in a great situation) it’s not that crazy to question Brodeur’s numbers. Kent was the man to do just that.

Coach: Mike Babcock (Me, PD, Dre, Joe P, Kontos, THE PEOPLE)
Others receiving votes: Jacques Lemaire (Kent); Herb Brooks (PH)

Babcock won by a very healthy margin. But it’s nice to see Lemaire get a little love, although I’m partial to Barry Trotz when it comes to funny-looking coaches who managed to make something out of nothing. To each his own.

Figher: Donald Brashear (Me, THE PEOPLE)
Others receiving votes: Derek Boogard (Joe P), Georges Laraque (PD), Chris Simon (Dre), Tie Domi (PH)

Some strange but amusing choices on Fighter of the Decade. Ultimately, it seems fair enough to defer to the Hockey Fights forums where Brashear was the near-unanimous winner. Seriously, no one else was even close. Laraque was an extremely distant second. Brashear is a scary, scary man with a mile-wide mean streak. BGL is a fearsome man but seems to have an acute understanding of the potential life ruining potential of his punches. That gives DB the edge with the Hockey Fights guys.

Loudmouth: Sean Avery (Me, PD, THE PEOPLE)

Others receiving votes: Jeremy Roenick (Dre, Kent); Don Cherry (Joe P); Matthew Barnaby (PH); Brian Burke (Kontos)

This was a really close one, but Avery’s mouth got the most headlines. Plus, let’s face it folks, Roenick got one-upped by Patrick Roy in a war of words. That, to me, disqualifies you from ever being the All-Decade Loudmouth. Sure, that might have happened around the end of the 90s/early 00s but the stench of defeat lingers.

***

Avery, Iginla, Brashear and Jagr all dominated polls, so the tie breakers seem fair enough to me. Got any complaints? Your own picks? Normally I’d say shove ’em, but my lawyer says “tell them to leave comments.” He’s kind of a pussy.

All Decade Team: Deirdre’s Picks

March 2, 2009

So I should have been the first person to whip these out, because I have to admit, while there is a little room for argument…really most of these are blatantly obvious and have already been picked.  So no earth shattering picks on this one.  The Puck Huffers beat me to the wacky picks (nice post by the way).  Plus, nice arguments by everyone on the already chosen players…so that being said here are my picks and my brief explanations.  

First some ground rules.  I personally think to be on the AD Team, you have to have a few qualifying things:

-a Stanley Cup

-an individual award (i.e. Art Ross, Conn Smythe)

-a couple of playoff appearances

-success at the international level

Center:  Peter Forsberg

Alright, since this is basically a fantasy team.  I want to set up my fantasy.  Forsberg is totally healthy: no ankle/spleen/wrist/flu/african sleeping sickness.  He’s also shirtless and bearing a whip, but I suppose that’s a different fantasy.  

The argument is simple: when he’s healthy, he’s a beast.  Of course in reality Forsberg is the poster boy for injured reserve.  But the bottom-line is that he makes the people he plays with better.  My grandmother could score 50 goals on a line with Forsberg.  Stats, facts and figures have been tossed around a lot, but I leave you with this.  

Whoa dudes, I can’t feel my spleen!”


Two Stanley Cups, Art Ross Trophy, Calder Memorial Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, 7 All-Star selections, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 2 Gold World Championships…all from a guy who is known for being injured.  

Wings: Jaromir Jagr and Martin St. Louis

Really there is not a lot to be said about Jagr.  Yes, he’s had issues with motivation and temperament (as nicely as I can put it).  But he’s a legend in this sport.  I know his glory years were mainly in the early 90’s, but he also was among the best players in this decade too.  I think that’s more reason to put him on this team.  

I don’t feel the need to list all of his accomplishments, but multiple cups, multiple personal awards, multiple NHL records….he’s a no brainer.

St. Louis is a slightly different story.  I almost picked Iggy, but I had to give the nod to St. Louis. Statistically, the two have similar points to game totals, but Marty’s got the cup.  Plain and simple.

The Pearson is taller than St. Louis


He was a standout college player.  He’s got the Hart, the Art Ross and a Lester B. Pearson Award and an Olympic medal.

Defense: Nik Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer

I refuse to even make the case for Lidstrom because if you don’t think he belongs on this team, you are plum crazy.  The only question is will the league rename the Norris trophy the “Lidstrom-wins-this-every-year trophy.”  In fact, Lid is the captain of my AD Team.  He’s also the guy who visits children in the hospital and kisses the babies.

Niedermayer is nearly as much of a no-brainer as Lidstrom.  Pronger is left out in the cold for the same reason as Iginla: hasn’t won the big one yet.

Goalie: Marty Brodeur

Seriously, no competition on this one.  As of this writing, Brody has put in the books his 100th career shutout.

I think that Brody may actually be made of metal


Coach: Mike Babcock

Hasn’t been fired in the decade and won the big prize.  His teams end up in the playoffs.

Fighter: Chris Simon

This is a weird one, but go with me on it.  I am lumping fighter/goon/pest into this and I think for my money it’s Chris Simon.  The man is pure evil.  In fact, he’s anti-Lidstrom.  He’s drop kicking babies and unplugging the IV’s of children in the hospital.  Would I want him on my team: no.  Do I think he could kill Sid the Kid: yes.  This guy has a cup!  Can you believe that?  Iggy’s got nothing.  Proof we live in an imperfect world.  

So why is he winning this category in my mind.  8 Suspensions totaling 65 games missed.  He’s missed nearly a full season in suspensions and to my knowledge all the suspensions have occurred in this decade.  So maybe he doesn’t win the fighter award, but he does win the horrible human being award.

Loudmouth: Jeremy Roenick

I *heart* JR.

So that’s the AD Team.  Hope you enjoy them!

–Dre

All-Decade Team picks: Kent from Five Hole Fanatics

March 1, 2009

Center –

Lots of great potential picks at this position. Sakic. Thornton. Datsyuk. Fedorov.

But I think I have to go with Peter Forsberg:

Dude could do everything in his prime – from pass to score to knock opponents on their ass. Despite being almost constantly injured, Forsberg managed to win two Stanley Cups as well as the Hart, Art Ross and Calder trophies during his career. Not to mention a couple of Olympic gold medals.

Forsberg’s career PPG pace of 1.25 speaks for itself. It’s also a number that would no doubt be higher if he hadn’t played his last couple of seasons on one foot. He’s also one of those rare players with a more than a PPG pace in the play-offs (1.08) meaning Peter brought the pain even when the going got tough.

RW – Jarome Iginla

Yeah, Im a Flames fan.

LW – Alexander Ovechkin

The human highlight reel. While he’s just 23 years old, how do you argue against Alexander the Great? The guy is already setting records and he hasn’t even reached his peak yet. His combination of skill and passion makes him seem like an unstoppable force of nature on the ice. He almost singlehandedly resurrected hockey in Washington and has an infectious, fun-loving attitude to boot. Were I not a Flames fan, I’d be rooting for Washington. And that has almost everything to do with Ovechkin.

Defense – Niklas Lidstrom

Easily the greatest blueliner of our age. Six Norris trophies, four Stanley cups, first European to captain a team to an NHL championship. I think there’s a Conn Smythe in there too. His cumulative career plus minus rating is +378 and he’s 28 points away from breaching the 1000 point plateau. Part of me suspects he’s some kind of freaky, futuristic cyborg sent back from the future to teach our coarse, savage civilization what playing hockey is really all about.

Defense – Zdeno Chara

Yeah, I’m going a bit off the map with this pick. There’s lots of other great potential choices here (Pronger, Niedermayer, Ed Jovonovs…just kidding) but it’s hard to get around Zdeno. Literally…it’s hard to get around him. He’s the biggest player the NHL has ever seen and he’s also one of the best defensemen in recent memory. Chara has the hardest slapshot in the league, has scored 10+ goals in five straight seasons and routinely plays against the best the opposition has to offer. He is also regularly amongst the top five in terms of ice time in the league, despite having what I would call a “high potential for injury” given his large, lanky frame.

Oh yeah, having Chara also means you don’t have to employ a goon because – guess what? Chara will effing rag-doll players that get on his bad side:

Smart. Durable. Cannon shot. Physically imposing. Does it get much better?

Goaltender – Dominik Hasek

Forget the weird accent, the eccentricities and the unorthodox fish-flopping style: Hasek was perhaps the best goalie of the modern era. There’s all sort of reasons why this is true, but I think I’ll leave it to the Contrarian Goaltender to make my arguments for me:

From 1993-94 until 2001-02, Dominik Hasek faced 1,060 more shots than Martin Brodeur, and gave up 135 fewer goals.

I had to check those numbers again because I thought I had made a mistake at first. It is sometimes easy to shrug off save percentages, since there doesn’t look like that much of a difference between Hasek’s .926 and Brodeur’s .911, but the difference shows itself in the totals. To try to quantify the gap between Hasek and Brodeur, I looked for a goalie that faced about 1,000 fewer shots than Brodeur and gave up 130 more goals in the same time period. There wasn’t one, because no goalie that bad would get enough playing time to qualify. The two closest were Arturs Irbe (1870 fewer shots, 62 fewer goals against) and Jocelyn Thibault (1948 fewer shots, 77 fewer goals). Brodeur was much closer to guys like Irbe or Thibault than he was to Hasek in the 1990s. The Dominator was just on a completely different level.

Coach – Jacques Lemaire

I know, I know – everyone hates Lemaire for employing the trap and sucking the life out of hockey.

It’s hard to argue against the guy as a top notch coach, however. He consistently gets better than average results out of teams that often have no business winning games at all. His clubs are always disciplined and always have double plus good special teams, no matter the personnel. He’s also won the Stanley Cup a combined 11 times as a player/GM/coach. Eleven. Times. Plus there’s those two jack Adams awards…

Loudmouth – Jeremy Roenick.

Not only can JR talk, but he can (or could) play hockey. He’s also relatively entertaining in his “loudmouth-ness” in contrast to douchebags like Sean Avery.

Throwing caution to the wind: Puck Huffers give their controversial All-Decade Picks

February 28, 2009

(Big thanks to the great duo of Zoë and Kim from Puck Huffers for this great group of picks. We’d say they have balls but … uh … they don’t. Make sure that you follow their hysterical coverage of the Pittsburgh Penguins.)

We thought about this from many different angles. In the end, however, we decided to create the team that we, as human beings, would draft for fun, i.e. in order to piss everyone off. We have strange fixations and obsessions in the world of hockey that not even we understand, and an opportunity like this to indulge them is too great to pass up. If you want us to seriously apply our honed judgments of the league and talent as hockey fans, you’re out of luck. We have decided instead to have the times of our lives.

First, our all-decade forward line.

It would be centered by Mario Lemieux, because he is obviously still in the best shape of his life.
His wingers would clearly have to be people of amazing talent, skill, and virtue. Not many people deserve to play with 66.
We have, in an unprecedented decision, chosen Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild.

Rick Nash is pretty much the guy on your floor at college that didn’t do anything except drink beer and watch sports obsessively, saying things like “fucking Madrid FC” regarding games that no one watched except for him. We think he would be tons of fun to hang out with.
He also has great hands and great skill and could probably take some sick passes from Mario. He makes plays that no one on his team even thinks of because, let’s face it, while CBJ may be the hardest working team in hockey (and we’ll take that assertion with us to our deaths) they’re not the most talented by any means. Seeing Nash with Lemieux would just make us happy. Even if it really doesn’t make any sense.

Clutterbuck is pretty much a thug. He currently leads the NHL in hits, surpassing the glory of Brooks Orpik, which we don’t approve of at all. But. . .if anyone deserves it. . .it’s Cal. The boy is a 20-year-old wrecking machine, but he knows how to cash in on his goals as well. Really, we’re just kind of amused by him. We’d like to see him plow into some fuckers and basically decapitate them, then take a sweet pass from Nash and sneak it in off the post. This also makes no sense, but we are satisfied with our choices. His name is also amazing.



For our defense, we pick Sergei Gonchar because he’s amazing and we’re homers, and we also pick Scott Niedermayer because he’s sick and denying it would be stupid on our part. They’re both consummate defensemen–potentially lethal offensively, and also quite responsible in their own ends. They’re also veterans, clearly. On our team, Gonchar would wear the C. He is a fucking warrior. Sorry Scott, you are too. . .just not in the same way that is close to our hearts.

If you read our blog, you know that we have invented our own little universe in which John Curry of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins is God. We worship goaltenders. If John Curry is God then Steve Mason is Jesus Christ. We’re still reeling from the photo shown above, in which he stones Henrik Zetterberg like an honest-to-god PIMP. No goaltender in the league has a more promising future, and no goaltender has come along in a looooooooong time with that amount of raw talent, skill, intelligence, and athleticism. Plus, we have an ongoing love affair with everyone who wears a Blue Jackets uniform. (Even R.J. Umberger a little bit, the slimy bastard.) Mason is glorious. Better than any of your false idols. It’s called blasphemy, everyone. BLASPHEMY.

Okay, so, we’re cheating a little bit here. Herb Brooks coached the 1999-2000 Pittsburgh Penguins and that was the last NHL team he coached before his death in 2003. It was a weird year. No one hit 100 points, but Jagr took home the Art Ross. Pittsburgh made the playoffs and lost in six games to the Flyers in the Semifinals. . .gross. Luckily, thanks to Philly’s long tradition of choking in the playoffs, it couldn’t get any weirder when they played eventual Cup champs New Jersey. But anyway. If you don’t want Herb Brooks coaching your team, we question your sanity. Honestly, the Penguins could probably have used him this season. Michel Therrien or Dan Bylsma he is not. He’s scarier. He knows what the hell is going on. Even in death.

Oh, Matthew Barnaby. . .your name warms our hearts verily. You can be our all-decade loudmouth/pest/badass.
We’re pretty sure by this point a love of Matthew Barnaby in Pittsburgh is genetic.
A person from southwestern Pennsylvania who doesn’t like Barnaby is not to be trusted.
We have to pick him for this.
Our genetic makeup won’t let us do otherwise.

Tie Domi fought you and he didn’t give a shit how big you were. He was 5’10” and he was going to murder you.
Or at least show you what he was made of.
Courage like that is necessary on a team.
Put him on the ice with either Cal or Barnaby. Instant line brawl.
We don’t support in any way the idea that the NHL needs to turn into a circus, but line brawls clearly don’t happen enough anymore.
He could teach Steve Mason how to throw ’em down and then we’d really be in business.

We can’t imagine a better, more lovely team than this.
We’re sorry we cheated, made irrational decisions, and picked guys whose careers’ golden ages had long passed by the turn of the century.
But man. . .we had fun doing it.

All-Decade Team: Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski shares his picks

February 24, 2009

(Cycle like the Sedins is excited to welcome our next guest poster, Greg Wyshynski. You might know his previous work with Deadspin and NHL Fanhouse, but he’s best known as the editor of perhaps the best hockey blog on the planet, Puck Daddy. If somehow you’ve made it here without ever checking Puck Daddy [hi mom!], definitely make it part of your rotation. It’s a must-read for any discerning hockey fan.)

Goaltender

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Here’s a handy litmus test to decide who the goalie of the decade was: Did the NHL invent a rule to subvert one of the vital facets of that goalie’s game because he was just too damn good at it?

No, they didn’t ban the five-hole because of Dan Cloutier; but the NHL did put a geometric shape in back of the goal because Marty Brodeur had reinvented the wheel as a puck-moving “third defenseman” in a defensive system.

And all Marty did was win a couple of Vezina’s after they did it.

He’s gotten better with age even if he’s faltered at times in the postseason. The argument could be made that he deserved the Conn Smythe in 2003, but we really don’t have the time or the necessary amount of scotch to really open that old wound.

Honestly, and I say this as a complete and total Devils homer, a case could be made for Roberto Luongo if it hadn’t been for the fact that the entirety of his Stanley Cup playoffs experience is 12 games. But Brodeur is the best goalie since Patrick Roy, and the last decade was when he affirmed that legend.

Defense

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.

When you’ve won so many Norris Trophies than you can play a game of Jenga with them, I’d say that warrants inclusion on this list.

Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues/Edmonton Oilers/Anaheim Ducks

Yes, he’s a human suspension machine that somehow has thus avoided mandatory anger management. Yes, his egotistical (or cuckolded, depending on what you believe) departure from Edmonton was insulting. Yes, he looks like a goon for a Swedish Bond villain.

But he’s also one of the most physically gifted players in the NHL; a rare combination of physical play, solid skating and offensive flourish. He’s also a workhorse, averaging over 27 minutes per night in most of his seasons this decade.

This slot on the team comes down to Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. Nieds is a better offensive player, a better technical defenseman and has better intangibles. But you have to admit that, love him or hate him, Pronger put that Oilers team that made the Cup finals on his back in a way few defensemen have in the last 20 years. That was astonishing, and probably Conn-worthy even in defeat.

Center –

Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins/San Jose Sharks

I really wanted to justify putting Vincent Leavalier here, because I believe he’s the more talented of the two. But Thornton’s numbers can’t be denied: Three seasons with over 100 points, compared to one for Vinny and two for Joe Sakic. His passing ability is incredible, and his goal scoring in the regular season is underrated.

And enough with the playoff choker malarkey. He’s got 30 points in his last 35 playoff games. Even if he’s not a center that can carry his team to a Cup, he’s not someone that will cost them one, either.

Wings –

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

The consummate professional, a fantastic leader and a player who hasn’t dipped below 30 goals in a season during the decade. The only knock on Jarome is that he played the last decade in Calgary, forcing the mainstream media to laud him at arm’s length rather than deifying him as a megastar.

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Not enough of a sample? Please.

Sure, this pick would look better if he added an Art Ross and a Hart to his collection this season. But no other winger has had the offensive impact Ovechkin has for the Capitals. No other winger is as physically gifted. Ovechkin has improved on defense and his passing, though sometimes forced, is underrated. He’s a game-changer, a leader and the embodiment of an MVP. In four seasons, he’s become the best winger, potentially the best player, in hockey.

Dude’s a force of nature the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jagr in his prime. Speaking of which …

Jagr’s decade included some really off years with the Capitals and a dud of a final season in New York. He’s the closest competition here, but I’d give the edge to Ovechkin.

Fighter

Georges Laraque

You can successfully argue that his skills are in decline as a fighter, but he took on all comers and usually came out on top during the decade. Didn’t embarrass himself on the ice, either.

Coach

Mike Babcock, Anaheim Ducks/Detroit Red Wings
From psychology to the system, Babcock has been great for teams that needed to gut out wins and with teams loaded with all-star talent.

Loudmouth

I think Sean Avery wrapped this one up in the last 365 days, don’t you?

All-Decade Team: Eric McErlain’s picks

February 22, 2009

(One of the most well-respected and well-known figures in the hockey blogosphere, you are probably already familiar with Eric McErlain‘s work at Off Wing Opinion and NHL Fanhouse. If not, shame on you. Shame. on. you. McErlain provided his all-decade picks below.)

All-Decade Center:

Though Joe Thornton dominates this category in terms of points, his decided lack of playoff success in Boston and San Jose weighs heavily on my mind. Still, the gap between him and the rest of the nominees in the category is so wide, that even Vincent Lecavalier’s one Cup with Tampa Bay can’t convince me that this pick should be anybody but Thornton.

2 All-Decade Wings: I’m going with Daniel Alfredsson and Jarome Iginla. It’s hard to believe that Jagr piled up all of those points during the seasons that constituted the end of his NHL career, but there’s no way I’ll give him the nod here, as I got to see him nearly destroy a franchise here in Washington. Alfredsson and Iginla have the numbers and they’re nothing but class acts on and off the ice.

2 All-Decade Defensemen: Way too easy. It’s all about the Cups, and these guys account for five of the last ten. If you could wind the clock back and rebuild a team from scratch, you’d be hard pressed to do better than to build around a young Lidstrom or Niedermayer. Also — it’s impossible not to notice that Niedermayer’s numbers increased once he escaped from New Jersey.
Scott Niedermayer (3 Cups)
Nick Lidstrom (2 Cups)

1 All-Decade Goalie:
Martin Brodeur (2 Cups, 3 appearances) — Don’t even talk to me about anybody else.

1 All-Decade Loudmouth: No vote.

1 All-Decade Fighter: No vote.
All-Decade Coach: No winner. Over this stretch of time there’s been no single coach who dominated enough in the category that matters — Stanley Cups — to earn the nod.

All-Decade Team: James O’Brien’s picks

February 21, 2009

(That headline might be a sign of speaks-in-third-person disease, but with contributors on board calling these “my” picks would be messy.)

All-Decade Center: Joe …

Here are a few things that, for me, took very little thought. My choice for center of the decade:

  • Is named Joe
  • Wears #19
  • At some point wore the “C” on his jersey
  • Won a Hart trophy
  • Scored a fuckton of points

Yup, those were the easy parts. Thornton or Joe? Big Bird or Burnaby? For a lot of people, that decision was pretty easy but for me there were a lot of conflicting thoughts.

Sure, Sakic raised a Cup and claimed Olympic gold. But at the same time, the guy didn’t exactly play with Adam Anonymous and Joe Schmo. Those Avalanche squads were loaded with All-Stars (including another All-Decade candidate in Peter Forsberg) and Team Canada? Yeah, those guys are OK.

Look at all the fire hydrants Jumbo Joe Thornton transformed into multi-millionaires. There’s no “chicken or the egg?” argument for Cheechoo and Sergei Samsonov: those guys and quite a few other were baby-birded goals by the man John Buccigross called “a big Adam Oates.”

For a guy who’s been derided for playoff performance, Thornton’s per-game pace isn’t that far off of Quoteless Joe (although Sakic just about doubles Big Bird’s total) and Jumbo Joe scored more points in less regular season games. So there are definitely some talking points in the pro-Thornton argument.

All that being said, my vote is for Sakic. Injuries plagued his last two seasons, slightly hurting his case from a quantity standpoint. Although it was pointed out that Sakic benefited from superior teammates, Thornton’s never sniffed the Conference finals while Sakic won a Cup and made other deep playoff runs. As Joe Pelletier pointed out, Sakic won an Olympic tournament MVP while Thornton suffered through Team Canada’s shockingly awful, medal-free 2006 Olympic campaign.

Sometimes, you break things down to a simple question of “If this was a pickup game, which guy would I choose?” and Sakic bests Thornton in their prime years.

(Still, it’s necessary to admit that Thornton was pretty close … and might close that gap before the decade is over.)

Wingers: Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla

Jagr is one of three “no-brainers” for me. His numbers are staggering and he achieved those totals largely on his own (the exception being the fleeting time in this decade alongside Mario Lemieux). Jagr, at this moment in time, is the greatest European-born forward in NHL history.

Jarome Iginla stood out in this group of wingers, too. His point totals are up there in the “everyone but Jagr” ranks and as anyone who witnessed the Calgary Flames’ unexpected run to the SCF would testify, Iginla brings a diverse combination of skills to the table. Along with having a knack for scoring game-changing goals, Iginla provides great leadership and a willingness to drop the gloves that is rarely seen in forwards of his talent level.

There’s a reason he was named the league’s best captain in an ESPN NHL player’s survey.

Defense: Niklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger

It seems like Scott Niedermayer gained a slight majority in this debate, but Pronger gains my vote for a few reasons.

For one thing, although from a defensive pairing standpoint Niedermayer’s played with some weak partners, he’s also rarely been “The Man” for his team. Can we – honestly – say that he’s consistently even been the best D-man on his team? Maybe for his first year with the Ducks, but look at the headhunting monsters he’s teamed with otherwise: Pronger and Scott “Human Concussion Generator” Stevens.

So, for me, that weakens the “but he won more Cups” argument. Besides, Pronger managed to take a scrappy but talent-poor Edmonton Oilers team within a game of a Cup because of his superlative efforts. Remember when Pronger imposed his will on a heavily favored Detroit team? This is something that I cannot recall Niedermayer doing.

Niedermayer might have a Conn Smythe, but Sleek was right: Pronger probably deserved back-to-back Smythes. One distinction that sets Pronger apart from any D-guy in ages – Niedermayer AND Lidstrom included – is that Stompy earned a Hart trophy as league MVP.

Here’s the list of D-men who’ve won a Hart trophy since the World War II era:

Bobby Orr and Pronger.

Pronger even outclasses Niedermayer in regular season and playoff point totals (heck, Brian Rafalski out-scored Niedermayer too). There are a bunch of Niedermayer/Pronger stats linked below, but Sleek also pointed out over the years that Pronger seems better at doing the most important thing a D-man can do: stopping opponents from scoring when he’s on the ice.

[The last link listed in the list-o-links features the best stat to illustrate this point, even if it’s out-dated. At one point in the 2006-07 season, Pronger was on the ice for 52 goals for and 32 goals against while SN was on for 39 goals for and 26 goals against. Pretty demonstrative in my opinion.]

But more than all that, the thing that makes Pronger better is his sheer ability to intimidate. If you’re a forward, would you rather be smothered by Niedermayer’s speed or concussed by Pronger’s elbow?

Even though my Pronger stance is quite “staunch” it must be noted that Niedermayer is still one of the best D in the league. Still, if forced to choose, Pronger’s the man.

Niedermayer/Pronger links from the old BoC Web site since it’s easier for me to search … sorry SBN: (Niedermayer before/after, full article, the Prongermayer record, another SN before/after, “how to replace Niedermayer“, a very helpful post showing some Pronger > Niedermayer numbers and finally Pronger: 52 team GF – 22 team GA = +30; Niedermayer: 39 team GF – 26 team GA = +13 )

Goalie: Martin Brodeur

Pelletier put it best: other goalies produced better “peak” years but Brodeur was great all decade. He’s an easy choice.

Coach: Mike Babcock

A coach cannot succeed much more than Babcock has in his first five years. My honorable mention would probably be Barry Trotz, who managed to make lemonade out of some really sour lemons.

Fighter: Donald Brashear

Brashear ended up being the resounding winner at Hockeyfights.com’s forums, so it seems pretty reasonable to defer to their opinion. While George Laraque received the second most votes, most commenters pointed out Brashear’s combination of fearful fighting ability, longevity and superior mean streak.

Loudmouth: Sean Avery

For my money, no one can top Avery’s top 10 loudmouth moments. Sure, Brian Burke is the biggest loudmouth among GMs and Don Cherry is the greatest source of angry hot air among hockey media.

But Avery’s obnoxious comments accomplished something none of the other contestants did: they went beyond the NHL universe into national attention. Even before “Sloppy Secondsgate,” Avery might be the biggest loudmouth of the last ten years, but his comments regarding vaginal leftovers cement his legacy as the douche of the decade.

All-Decade Team: Chris Kontos’ choices

February 20, 2009

Chris Kontos here from The Royal Half sharing my thoughts on James’ Bridgestone Tires All-Decade Team. For me, the All-Decade Center was the easiest choice. In back to back years, I watched the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche battle it out in a 7 game playoff series (including being in the crowd at Game 6 of the 2002 series… the last time the Kings would skate on playoff ice… sigh). And the only piece of hardware the Kings got out of both series?

Peter Forsberg’s spleen!

Sure Forsberg may of only had 445 points during the decade, but consider that he did that in 362 games. Forsberg is 8th all time in Points-Per-Game and 4th in Assists-Per-Game. In fact, the only stretch where he didn’t score at a point a game pace was during his 17 game regular season run as a Predator. He only had 15 points in those 17 games.

I call this the awkward years.

Although the Kings knocked him out of the playoffs for the Avs’ 2001 Cup run, there’s no way they would have been in the position to win the Cup without Forsberg. And don’t forget, he also won an Olympic Gold medal in 2006. But most of all… he was a nasty player. He was a power forward AND a playmaking center. Yes, he was injured for a majority of the decade (including taking the entire 2001-2002 regular season off after the Kings destroyed his spleen) but there is a reason that NHL GM’s continue to keep an eye on Forsberg’s progress with the foot problem that has probably ended his career… because they’d sign him to their team in a heartbeat if he got healthy. If your team is down by a goal with 5 minutes left in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals… Peter Forsberg is the player on this All-Decade list that you want out there. And I’d put Captain Clutch Chris Drury on his line as a winger.


Give me back my spleen!

Speaking of wingers, my first vote is a sentimental one. In 1996, during Thanksgiving break, I went with my college roommate to his home state of Vermont and we went to see the University of Vermont Catamounts play. The whole stadium was buzzing over a tiny little guy named Martin St. Louis. He was one of the most amazing players I had ever seen in person as he and his linemate Eric Perrin dominated what ever team they happened to be playing that night. There was also some goalie named Tim Thomas on that team. Wonder what ever happened to him?


I can only imagine the run of UVM girls this guy must of had.

Undrafted by the NHL despite his college accolades, St. Louis eventually joined the Calgary Flames and then was cast aside much like Brett Hull and Marc Savard as he made his way to Tampa Bay. With the Lightning, he found a system that worked for his size and in 2003-2004 he had a breakout year that culminated with the Stanley Cup. And that’s why he’s on my list of All-Decade Wingers… because only he and Brendan Shanahan (my other winger pick) won Cups during this decade. I don’t play in a weekly adult hockey league because I enjoy bonding with my teammates or I love getting a stick swung at me by some guy who can barely stand on the ice… no I play because I want to win. And you can say what ever you want about the great decades that Jagr or Alfredsson or Sundin had… but none of them brought home the hardware this past decade. And for me… that’s what makes a player the greatest.

Suck it, Jagr!

The same goes for All-Decade Defenseman. 3 Stanley Cups in 7 seasons. Scott Neidermayer is dominating and slick all in one shift. Sure Chris Pronger is a total beast on the ice but no one plays defense as well and as consistent as Neidermayer has this past decade. And like Earl Sleek said, he’s done it playing with inexperienced partners. Look what Neidermayer has done to the value of Francois Beauchemin. This is a really tough pick for me, because as a life-long suffering Kings fan, I can’t even put into words what it felt like to watch the Ducks win the Cup before the Kings. Plus, let’s be honest here. The man has the most amazing salt and pepper beard ever.


Hi, I’m Keith Hernandez for Just For Men.

Brodeur is a no brainer for All-Decade Goalie. And for coach… well I believe this says it all.

Mike Babcock’s greatest achievement this decade has been continuing AND increasing the culture surrounding the Detroit Red Wings. Players are signing with this franchise at a discount because it is class from top to bottom. I mean chrissake, last week, the franchise sent rings to every living Wings’ player that won a cup in Detroit prior to 1997. You can’t buy that kind of class. Even if you bought 8 chandeliers.


You gotta get a chandelier!

As far as the Decade’s Greatest Loudmouth… I’d like to present a new contender. I watched Sean Avery annoy everyone around him as a King for much too long. But being a pest and an idiot doesn’t make you a great Loudmouth. Same goes for Roenick. No, what makes you a great Loudmouth is the ability to be a little complaining bitch and make people laugh in the same breath. So who do I nominate as the NHL’s greatest Loudmouth of the past Decade? Well, it would be the same guy I’d nominate as the NHL’s greatest GM of the last 10 years…

And Exhibit B:

Brian Burke is a Loudmouth Savant. He’s the only NHL executive who seemed to get his Harvard Education on the streets. He stands up for his players and his organization and I think the NHL should mandate that he and Ron Wilson have joint press conferences in Toronto.