Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Greatest Hockey Player Ever Created

Have you ever wondered what your favourite hockey player would look like if they just had some aspect from someone else’s game? Sure, Jarome Iginla is great, but what if he was as fast as Michael Grabner.

Well, what if we combined the best talents from a group of current players to create a super player – an unstoppable force of hockey juggernaut?

What would the ultimate hockey player look like? If we could take the best aspects of current players in the NHL whose talents would we plunder?

I'm solely looking at current players because it wouldn't be fun to just take Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe and be done with it.

Some notable players don’t show up here and that’s not a knock against them. Some of the league’s best players are supremely good in a lot of important areas of the game, but aren’t the best in any one particular area.

I proudly present The 600 Million Dollar Hockey Player (because that’s the type of contract the New York Rangers would throw at this man, except probably over 100 years to keep the cap hit low).

Zdeno Chara’s Size

Standing in at an unparalleled 6’9, Chara is the league’s biggest player. Sure, there are other big men in the league, notably Tyler Myers, but Chara can use his size better than anyone else. His reach is unbelievable and can knock the puck away from opposing forwards even after they think they’ve beat him.

Chris Pronger’s Nastiness

One knock about Chara is that he doesn’t use his size nearly as often as he should. He’s an unrivalled physical specimen on the ice, but doesn’t use that size to punish his opponents as much as he could. I’m pretty sure he’s afraid he might kill someone (justifiably so). That won’t be a problem with Pronger’s nastiness. Better get a good law firm on hand just in case.

Cal Clutterbuck’s Physicality

Clutterbuck once again leads the NHL in hits this year, just as he’s done each of the last three seasons. He owns the record for most hits in a season with 356 and throws his body around with reckless abandon. Amazingly, despite his physicality, Clutterbuck has never been suspended in the NHL, so he’s physical, but he’s clean.

Dion Phaneuf’s Taste for Blood

No one can smell out a big hit better than Phaneuf. It’s as if he has an extra sense for stupid forwards who like to keep their head down in the middle of the ice. He nearly ended the life of Stephane Da Costa and sent Michael Sauer’s head flying into the stratosphere earlier this season, both of which were squeaky clean, but deadly.

Niklas Lidstrom’s Positioning

One of the downfalls to Phaneuf’s big hits is that he can sometimes chase them, much to the detriment of his overall defensive positioning. Lidstrom is one of the least physical defenceman in the league, yet he’s one of the hardest to play against. Why? Because he is so good positionally. It’s almost impossible to do anything on the ice against him.

Duncan Keith’s Skating

No one skates as smoothly as Keith. He’s like a young Scott Niedermayer. He glides effortlessly all over the ice and looks calm and collected at all times, even under relentless forechecking.

Phil Kessel’s Speed

Watching Kessel rev up is a thing of beauty. As he quickly builds acceleration and flies across the ice, people stand up in their seats and hold their breath. He can beat the defenceman wide with his speed (provided that defenceman isn’t Zdeno Chara) and on the occasions when there’s a little left in the tank and everyone is tired after a long shift, you better hope you don’t cough if up near the blueline, because he’s gone.

Sidney Crosby’s Work Ethic

The game’s most talented player is also the game’s hardest worker. He’s essentially a third line grinder trapped in a superstar’s body. Not very good at face-offs? No problem, Sid spends a whole summer turning into one of the league’s best. Too predictable on the ice? Crosby will just work on his shot, transforming himself from a playmaker to a sniper. If there’s a detail about his game that needs work, undoubtedly Crosby already knows it and is taking the necessary, obsessive steps to correcting it.

The Sedins’ Hockey Sense/ESP

The Sedins have a creepy way of knowing where each other is on the ice at all times. That ESP extends to linemate Alex Burrows as well, and he gets to cash in on free points every season. The amount of no-look, behind-the-back passes these two make is incredible. You would almost assume they share one brain and two sets of eyes. They are always at least two or three plays ahead of the puck and they pull off passes nobody else even dreams of making.

Shea Weber’s Slap Shot

Zdeno Chara might have a harder slap shot, but Weber has the mindset that he’s going to blast it through people if they step in front of it. That’s a scary proposition. Plus, it’s already busted through a few nets.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s Wrist Shot

For all the talent Kovalchuk has, you really wished he scored more often than he does lately. But any time you start to get frustrated with his play he unleashes that fury of a wrist shot and for a second you think you’ve just become closer to God. This thing goes top shelf faster than a pre-diabetic sugar junkie craving Mom’s cookies.

Pavel Datsyuk’s Hands

If you need proof that the magic world of Harry Potter exists, look no further than Pavel Datsyuk, who is nothing less than a wizard with the puck. His hands have more tricks in them than the Magic School Bus. I’m pretty sure the word dangle is just the English translation of Datsyuk.

Joe Thornton’s Passing

Since the lockout, no player has amassed more assists than Joe Thornton. He has 456 in 517 games, 18 more than Henrik Sedin and 89 more than Sidney Crosby. He was a point-a-game player throughout the Dead Puck Era, largely on the strength of his precision passing. He has also elevated his teammates to lofty heights, notably Jonathan Cheecho who won a Rocket Richard Trophy with a miraculous 56 goals in Thornton’s first season in San Jose. I think the trophy bears an asterisk next to Cheecho’s name stating “this award was made possible by the generous donations of Joe Thornton”.

Claude Giroux’s Versatility

Giroux is adept at playing both centre and right wing, he spends time on the penalty kill and the powerplay and is relied upon heavily by the Flyers to play in the defensive zone, often match up against the opposition’s best forwards. Put Giroux in any situation and he’ll excel.

Alex Ovechkin’s Intimidation

Ovechkin is having a down season and is taking a beating in the media, but when he’s one his game there is no player scarier barreling down the wing towards the goal. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s fast. He’s just as likely to run over the defence on the way to the net as he is to deke them out of their jock or fire a laser through their legs.

Tomas Holmstrom's Net Presence

Nobody in the history of the NHL has made his living in front of the opposition's net better than Holmstrom. The big Swede has a maddening ability to adsorb relentless punishment from defenceman and goalies in front of the net, all while fearlessly standing in front of 100 mph slap shots. His cavalier attitude towards his own safety has contributed to over 200 goals and countless more that he will never be credited for, but certainly caused.

Jay Bouwmeester's' Durability

The Calgary defenceman has the league's longest current Iron Man streak at 533 consecutive games played. The last time Bouwmeester missed game action was in 2004, when he fractured his foot and was forced to miss 18 games. That's it. In seven other NHL seasons he has played in all 82 games.

Jonathan Toews’ Leadership

You don’t get a nickname like Captain Serious for nothing. Toews is currently the youngest captain in the NHL, and upon his appointment in 2008, was the third youngest of all-time. He’s been a leader at every level of hockey and has pretty much won everything there is to win, including a Stanley Cup, an Olympic Gold medal, two World Junior Gold Medals, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a player alive who would have trouble following Toews into battle.

Ryan Kesler’s Commitment to Defence

Sure, there might be better defensive forwards, namely Manny Malhotra, but a player like Malhotra has to be committed to defence, or else he won’t be in the league much longer. The fact that Kesler can score over 40 goals and 70 points, all while being one of the league’s best defensive forwards is a testament to how solid of a player he really is.

Jordan Eberle’s Clutchness

Regardless of what Eberle does at the NHL level, he will always be remembered for the huge goals he scored in the World Junior Hockey Championship. In the now classic 2009 Semi-final against Russia, Eberle scored two goals, one with just 5.4 seconds remaining to force overtime, and added the shootout winner. In the following year’s Gold Medal matchup against the US, Eberle scored twice in the latter stages of the third period, overcoming a 5-3 deficit and forcing overtime, although Canada eventually lost that game in overtime.

Carey Price’s Presence Under Pressure

You could excuse the casual fan for thinking Price’s name was ‘boo’ during the two seasons following his stand-out rookie campaign. That’s because the Bell Centre faithful turned on Price during a rough stretch and threw their full support behind Jaroslav Halak, jeering Price mercilessly at every opportunity. After the Habs traded Halak, Price had the pressure of replacing the departed playoff hero, all while recovering his game in one of the most fanatical, intense hockey markets in the world that already pretty much hated him. Combine the fact that the Canadiens defence was decimated with injuries, and Price’s Vezina calibre season that followed is the stuff of legends.

Ryan Clowe’s Willingness to Fight

It isn’t often that you get a legitimate hockey player willing to fight as much as Clowe. He had 12 fights last season and 11 the season before. He doesn’t really pick his spots either, fighting players like Paul Bissionette (AKA BizNasty), Jared Boll (who had 23 fights last year), and George Parros. According to the readers at Hockey Fights, he’s pretty good too, amassing an 18-3-8 record in his last 27 fights.

Brent Seabrook’s Ability to take a Hit

I’m pretty sure no NHLer has taken more huge hits over the past few seasons than Seabrook, yet somehow, someway, he keeps coming back after each one. He’s missed only 11 games since the lockout, including playoffs, which is remarkable after watching this and this and this. His head might be made of concrete.

Brandon Sutter’s Hockey Blood

The son of coach Brent Sutter of the famous Sutter family bloodline has hockey coursing through his veins. Brent, along with Brandon’s five uncles (Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich, and Ron), made the NHL in the 1970s and 80s, and four of them went on to become NHL coaches. The Sutter brothers played over 5000 games and won six Stanley Cups. Blake Geoffrion might have a more storied hockey past (his grandfather is Boom Boom Geoffrion and his great-grandfather is Howie Morenz), but there’s something about a group of rough and tough Western boys making it to the NHL that just screams hockey.

Teemu Selanne’s Agelessness

Amazingly, there were two ageless wonders to pick from, considering Niklas Lidstrom is playing at the same high-level he has for pretty much his entire career, but Selanne beats out Lidstrom for his astonishing 80 points at age 40. Only two players have scored more points at that age: John Bucyk with 83 and Gordie Howe with 103. Selanne is on pace for 86 points this season, which would demolish Gordie Howe’s record of 71 points as a 41-year-old.

Tim Thomas’ Dedication

No one has taken a more circuitous route to the NHL and managed to become a star. It’s truly remarkable how Thomas bounced around for more than a decade in hockey, without ever giving up on his dream, before finally getting a legitimate shot in the NHL. Thomas played four seasons at the University of Vermont before heading to the ECHL, then Finland, then the AHL, then back to Finland, then the IHL, then Sweden, then back to the AHL, then back to Finland during the lockout, before finally getting a real chance in net for the Bruins in 2005. His resume reads like a geography test, yet he stuck with it and was eventually rewarded.

Henrik Zetterberg’s Beard

Zetterberg’s beard makes Chuck Norris’ look like your thirteen year old cousin’s dirt stache. The playoff beard is hockey’s ultimate visual testament to winning: the bigger and better the beard, the longer a player has survived through the torturous warfare known as playoff hockey. Zetterberg’s playoff beard has taken permanent residence on his face, indicating that Zetterberg plays every game like it is game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Henrik Lundqvist’s Good Looks

If we’re creating the perfect hockey player he may as well be supremely good-looking too. Thankfully Lundqvist became a goalie, because if he was anywhere else on the ice his startling good looks would be eroded over the years by errant sticks and jealous pugilists.

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