Yesterday I wrote a post titled “From Prospect to Project: The thin line, and why some guys make the show and others don’t.” It looked at the reasons some junior and college hockey studs fall short despite gigantic pre-NHL numbers, and even larger expectations.
One of the things I briefly touched on was the concept of top six/bottom six forwards (top nine/bottom three on some teams), and how some forwards in the AHL are far more talented than those “bottom” line guys, but coaches and GMs prefer to have low-maintenance skaters who work hard, preserve the status quo and keep it simple. It can be frustrating for some, but most have accepted that it’s a reality that as skilled AHL forwards they aren’t trying to crack the big club’s top-12, they’re after the top-six. Really, it can be top-two at your position, if you’re adamant about playing one specifically. (If I can play Don Cherry for a sec, “KIDS, LISTEN UP — Do not pigeon-hole yourself to a particular wing, and learn to play center. You need to be a ‘forward.’”).
Kent Wilson of NHL Numbers (great site) and Flames Nation, like myself, studied psychology in University, and has a theory about how we’ve ended up where we’re at, with every team selecting a few lesser talented forwards for “intangible” reasons, or just straight physical play in lieu of skill. It really is incredible some team hasn’t tried to take a different course (top-12, all-skill), given Team Canada’s increased success after throwing away the idea of carrying a true “grind line” (reminder: Rob Zamuner was once on the Canadian Olympic team.)