Friday, January 9, 2009

Power Forwards

This is really a reply to Monsieur Catalogues' post below about the great Dale Hunter, so please scroll down and read his post first. I would have just left this in the comments section, but the post got away from me and became its own entry. If there was a way I could post it below Frenchy's post I would, but that's just not the way blogs work unfortunately.

Anyway, where was I?

Turgeon had it coming. Everyone named Pierre has it coming.

Alas, Frenchy, I have to correct you here. Dale Hunter, as much as I admire him, was not a power forward. He was a goon. And I do not mean that in any derogatory way. But during most of Dale Hunter's career, it was very possible for a goon to accumulate 70+ points in a season. During Hunter's heyday, a rookie Selanne scored over 70 goals in one season.

Neely was the first one to be considered a power forward, but he was certainly not the first to actually be one. The fact that he got the name first is a reflection of the fact that the game had changed. Gordie Howe was certainly a power forward, but they didn't coin the phrase for him because although he was better than his peers, the fact that he could hit, fight, pass, and score all in the same game wasn't all that unique in his day.

Power forwards are a mainstay of the North American game. Historically on the international stage, it has been the American and Canadian teams filled with tough guys who could bruise their way to the goal on our smaller rinks against the smaller, faster guys who just wanted to put on pretty displays of stickhandling while wearing their visors on a scating surface that is so big it would take a week for a defender to cross the ice to hit you.

Though I disagree with calling Dale Hunter a power forward (yes, he could put the biscuit in the basket in his day, but in today's game as a young man DH would pot maybe 12-17 per season) but I certainly agree he deserves to be in the HoF someday. It just takes time. Not everybody is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

While it is true that in the long run we gave up too much to get Keith Tkachuk for our one and only playoff run, anyone who watched the Thrashers play from that infamous (more than famous) trade deadline up until game 82 could see that having a legit power forward on the team made a huge difference. John Buccigross said that Keith Tkachuk would have no impact whatsoever on the team. Dead wrong. Leadership. Inspiration for the Czar. Someone to batter his way through the other team, intimidate everyone on the ice, dig out the puck from the corner and put it on Kovy's tape. That's exactly what this team needs. At this point, we need 12 of them.

This is what Armstrong was supposed to be. From everything we hear, he's a great locker room presence. He will drop the gloves, he will throw a big hit, he can energize the team. Lately he's even been scoring a few goals. But he's got to elevate the offensive side of his game if he's going to deliver what we need on the ice.

I am sick with jelousy over Lucic, but no team deserves to have him more than Cam Neely's Bruins. The B's have been struck by bad luck over the years, having Orr and Neely retire early from injuries, then having Mike Milbury as a coach. Atlanta will be absolutely blessed if Ilya Kovalchuck gives the Thrashers the same 21 years that Ray Borque gave Boston before finally giving up and leaving town to win a Cup with another franchise.

Waddell did a great job in the first few years of the franchise building a team from the expansion draft and putting together a roster of guys who would work hard and would be fan friendly. That is exactly what was needed to grow hockey in Georgia. There was no way he was going to make a Cup contender out of the expansion draft that year, but he could have put together a team that would have got 10 more wins while shunning fans at the open practices. That wouldn't have helped to build a fan base.

However, over the years, it became clear that this product of USA Hockey had an affinity for flashy but scrawny European players who lacked backbone. As has been pointed out by many, Heatley and Kovy were no brainers in the draft. But Waddell's strategy other than those slam dunks was to bring in huge, slow defensemen and scrawny forwards with funny accents.

Can anybody tell me where Tomi Kallio is playing hockey today? Patrik Stefan had to retire last year after being laughed out of the NHL. Hnat Dominicheli? Kamil Piros? Lubos Bartcko?

Bring us somebody who grew up eating steak and ribs rather than escargot and brie.
Bring us somebody who can hit the other team's players as hard as he hits the puck.
Bring us somebody who doesn't like piling up L's in the standings.
Bring us our own Lucic/Neely/Tkachuk.
Bring us hope that the Czar might still be wearing a Thrasher jersey when he lifts the Cup.


jamestobrien said...

Actually, you could change the post options to before the Hunter post was published - that would fool blogger into listing yours after it.

Did that make sense?

FrenchCatalogues said...

Hey, there's nothing wrong with some brie. I didn't know swedes and russians ate brie and escargot. Maybe Cristobal Huet did though.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've been waiting for Armstrong to be paired with Kovy for a long time. I think its just what the doctor ordered for his line.