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It’s part of being a sports fan – certain narratives are built around certain guys, and that label becomes who that player is perceived to be for the rest of their career. It happens.

Most of the time we don’t bother changing the narrative despite being presented with new evidence. People can change the way they play, and often do, but we tend to get stuck thinking about players in a certain way.

I thought I’d use today to highlight five guys that I believe get talked about the wrong way. Feel free to add your opinions in the comments below.

Phil Kessel

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What you think he is: Small, speedy goal-scorer

What he actually is: A goal-scorer, yes, but he’s a great set-up guy too. (Also, he’s a bit of a tank)

Just because Kessel has a great shot people have painted him as some guy who always takes the shot and doesn’t think pass. Kessel is near the top-10 in assists in the League this season (one off the 40 apple plateau), he finished in the top-15 in assists last year, and was in the top-20 the season before that. You get a few assists via rebounds, but you’ve gotta be a pretty elite playmaker to be in company like that.

As for the tank thing, just read this. That “small” guy is uncannily strong.

Anze Kopitar

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What you think he is: Slick European offensive dynamo

What he actually is: Maybe the best defensive forward in hockey

It’s not that Kopitar isn’t the first thing necessarily, it’s that for some reason it’s completely lost on people just how great Kopitar is defensively.

Check out this chart on Selke candidates from Robert P. of Jewels From The Crown:

Selke contenders

Kopitar stacks up nicely with the best defensive forwards in hockey. If numbers aren’t your thing: he’s playing crazy tough competition, killing mad penalties, drawing penalties while not taking them and his team tends to have the puck and get shots when he’s on the ice despite how good his opponents are.

That’s a pretty impressive list of things that keep the puck out of your net.

You can read more on Kopitar’s defensive prowess here.

Jack Johnson

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What you think he is: Top pairing D-man, one of Columbus’s best players

What he actually is: Nope

This isn’t news to any of the advanced stat crowd who’ve long decried Johnson being discussed as one of the NHL’s elite defenders, but he’s probably more of a second pair guy, and might actually be below average when compared to those guys. That’s about as nicely as I can put it.

His advanced stats have been an abomination for years – he makes teammates worse, and more often than not, when he’s on the ice, the puck is going the wrong way. He started his career with everyone believing he was this amazing player, but turns out being paired with Drew Doughty is a pretty great way to make a good impression. He was then labelled Captain America or something, but this year the US team didn’t bring him to Sochi, and there d-corps was pretty close to terrible.

I don’t think he’s as awful as the fancy-stat crowd, but it’s definitely time for people to rein in their belief of what this guy is.

Taylor Hall

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What you think he is: 100 mile-an-hour goal-getter

What he actually is: One of hockey’s best set-up guys

We had a similar conversation about Kessel, but I really don’t think people have any idea how good Taylor Hall is at setting up teammates. He’s currently 10th in the NHL with 40 assists after finishing 8th in the league during the lockout shortened season. And remember, he’s only 22.

Outside Edmonton I get the impression that Hall is supposed to be this goal scoring dynamo – he’s big and fast and controls the puck so well – but he’s not on the first page of the goal-scoring leaders this year, and he wasn’t last year either. Turns out that whilst skating around like a maniac he has a pretty good idea where his teammates are.

Marc-Andre Fleury


What you think he is: He’s either unbelievable or awful, depending on your team allegiance

What he actually is: Average

It’s bizarre that the most polarizing opinion you can have on a goalie is to call him average, but here we are.

What we know:

* He’s athletic, flexible, and makes some great saves.

* He’s won a Stanley Cup.

* He’s been an absolute trainwreck in playoffs the past few years.

* His numbers are decidedly average.

His career numbers are somewhere around average for an NHL goalie – some years a little up, some a little down. He’s had some terrible luck in playoffs that have blinded people to his true talent. In all honesty, he’s just…fine.

He’s not a joke, he’s not a stud, he’s going to provide you with league average goaltending. It’s okay to admit he’s somewhere in the middle.