Last night I was watching a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche in which, get this, the Blackhawks pulled out a victory. Along the way, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much the way Matt Duchene handles the puck reminds me of the way Pat “The Professor” Kane handles it. (I’m going to keep pushing that nickname until it sticks.)
And in the past, I’ve mentally linked the way Rick Nash plays to the way Marian Hossa plays to the way Evgeni Malkin plays, so I figured it might be fun to see what type of star-labels I could come up with for forwards, and then figure out who would fit where.
I’ve narrowed it down to six groups, with a handful of guys falling under the “hybrid” label. Also, I used the expression “star” lightly, given that I’ve categorized like, 60 players.
Those “star” classes are as follows:
Long Bodies, Wizard Wands, Bombers, Big Boys and Lurkers, with “Workers” as the sort-of-dicey label for the last group.
Shall we dive in? I think we shall.
Description: Tall, rangy forwards that basketball analysts would describe as “long,” I think because they have big wingspans, or something. Whatever it is, they have great body control, and seem like they’d be impossible to contain, like playing a highly-motivated pterodactyl with excellent dexterity.
In this class:
* Rick Nash
* Evgeni Malkin
* Jason Spezza
* Corey Perry
* Jamie Benn (potential Big Boy, semi-Bomber)
* Jeff Carter (with a nod to the Worker class)
* Bobby Ryan
* James van Riemsdyk
* Joe Thornton (multi-hybrid crossover with our “Big Boys” and “Lurker” categories)
* Taylor Hall (future, as in, maybe-not-quite-worthy of NHL star status yet, but you can see it there)
* Jonathan Huberdeau (future)
The Wizard Wand group is obviously a bunch of dudes with #sickmitts, but it’s more than that. It’s the way they wield “the wand.” (Not a masturbation euphemism, some how.) It seems like they use short sticks – no idea if that’s the case or not – because it seems like they constantly have the puck on a string. They’re the guys who can stickhandle in a phone booth, they’re the guys who make you want to do the And1 towel spin, and they have the real potential to embarrass d-men. Also, they can usually skate pretty damn well. Those guys are…
* Matt Duchene
* Sidney Crosby (hybrid with our “Worker” class)
* Claude Giroux
* John Tavares (also a pretty decent Lurker)
* Jeff Skinner
* Jordan Eberle
* Nazem Kadri (too soon?)
Bombers is pretty easy to explain: these are the guys you don’t want cocked and loaded at the top of the face-off circle calling for a pass when there’s nobody around to defend them. Hockey is a bit of a nuanced game, but in the end, if you don’t have a gun to fire, you’re not gonna win many wars. These trigger men are:
* Alexander Ovechkin
* James Neal
* Ilya Kovalchuk
* Patrick Marleau
* Patrick Sharp
* Jarome Iginla
* Marian Gaborik (not a true “bomber,” more of a trigger)
* Dany Heatley
* Alexander Semin (not a true “bomber” either, but like Gaborik, certainly carries a gun)
They say “you can’t teach size,” and they’re right. Because, y’know, you can’t teach size. These are the guys who figured out how to best use the gifts they were given, and they cash in largely by just being bigger men than their opponents and leaning on them. They’re talented too, of course, but you get the point.
* Ryan Getzlaf
* Johan Franzen
* Vincent Lecavalier (possibly a Bomber, possibly a Worker as well)
* Jordan Staal
* David Backes
* Milan Lucic
I love this group. These are the guys that you’re not sure that they played until you check the stat sheet and see they had one and two for a three point night. “Oh.” They just keep doing it, finding soft spots, reading a few steps ahead of the play, anticipating better than the mindless puck-chasing morons of the league. Their able to play for a lot of years because of this. They tend to be more dish-happy, because they’re more thoughtful, and tend to read the play so well.
* Thomas Vanek (almost a Long Body hybrid)
* Patrick Elias (guy just keeps. on. doin’ it)
* Daniel Sedin
* Henrik Sedin (the twins have some Wizard Wand/Long Body crossover potential)
* Pavel Datsyuk (of course, he’s a Wizard Wand hybrid)
* Nicklas Backstrom
* Paul Stastny
* Brad Richards
* Phil Kessel (the rare Lurker/Bomber hybrid)
* Martin St. Louis (the even-more-rare Lurker/Bomber/Worker hybrid)
* Danny Briere
* Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (future)
These are your guys who are tough to put in a box, because they’re good, but they’re too good at everything to plainly classify. They cause turnovers, they bang at rebounds, they create chances, they might even finish the odd check, but they’re far too good to label as grinders. It’s not an insult to be in this group, it’s a compliment. This category includes:
* Henrik Zetterberg
* Zach Parise (his Getty Images account is essentially just hundreds of pictures of him in constant battle with an opponent)
* Jonathan Toews (bit of a Long Body, bit of a Lurker)
* Tyler Seguin
* Daniel Alfredsson (semi-Lurker as well)
* David Clarkson
* Anze Kopitar (Long Body/Lurker potential here too)
* Evander Kane
* Scott Hartnell
* Patrice Bergeron
So there you have it, 60 great forwards neatly filed in six little boxes.
Let me know what you think I’m missing here. A player? Several? A whole new category? Whatever it is, I’ll be happy to make adjustments to the lists until we get ‘em right.