Monday, January 10, 2011

Prof. Puck's All-Overrated Team

The trend seems to be Ern blasting out insightful recaps while I spew either statistics or opinions about something. This post leans more to the latter.
Its nearly All-Star time people...and of course there will be obvious votes and snubs as always. Normally I am not a negative person, but sometimes we just need to reflect on those not "pulling the rope". Plus, at the halfway point, we have so many mid-point awards...why not an all-overrated team? So, without further ado...
Here are the guidelines:
- Player must be a legit, current NHLer. Mismanaged cap casualties get a break here (they get enough crap) as do great players simply at the end of the line (e.g., Martin Brodeur).
- I am going to try my best to make one legit team of overrated-ness. It will include both scorers and grinders. It will try to maintain real line formats (centers and wingers).
- This is based on both gut feelings and may not always be based on stats. Think of asking yourself what you're feeling would be if this player jumped over the boards in a key situation where stats or rep don't really matter.
- People, for the most part, have to perceive this player is "good" in their specific role...and thus overrated in my opinion (because they really aren't)
- Young guys that may still "turn the corner" generally get the benefit of the doubt.

Forward line 1 (LW-C-RW)
M. Michalek (OTT) - S. Weiss (FLA) - A. Semin (WAS)
Rationale: "the other" Michalek, first in San Jose and now in Ottawa is considered a top-six player. Of course the potential exists for that. If his stats impress you, consider his generally impressive linemates in both stops. Steven Weiss and Alex Semin have both crossed the threshold from "young guy with potential" to underachieving early-prime guys. Sure, the numbers look shiny, but Semin benefits from the loaded PP unit for the Caps and going against second-rate defense pairs. Weiss is the Panthers legit #1 center, but I feel his stats are mostly due to his ice time (someone has to score, right?). Again, consider the litmus test, do you foresee him scoring a giant, clutch playoff goal or dropping to block a slapper in a tie game? I don't.

Forward line 2 (LW-C-RW)
M. Lucic (BOS) - T. Connolly (BUF) - L. Stempniak (PHX)
Rationale: For both wingers on this line, there has been this belief that they are top-six wingers. In Lucic's case, people point to his great first couple seasons to a few timeless checks, like the one where he put some chump from Toronto into the front row. Hey, I'd love him on my a checking line winger. Is he a true "power forward" in the sense that he can consistently light the lamp? I haven't seen it. It's like heavyweight boxers, everyone is looking for the next Tyson/Holyfield/Lewis and is too quick to anoint a new one. This, combined with a boner for everything Cam Neely (not a legit HOF player)from a big-market O-6 franchise has created the illusion that Lucic is some Neely spin off...hardly. Stempniak is a servicable veteran addition (see PHX a few deadlines ago). However, a 27-goal season on an awful Leafs team and "new car smell" goal explosion on his arrival to the desert just doesn't convince me. Additionally, he doesn't seem incredibly fast or tough on the puck. If I could describe Tim Connolly in a phrase, it would be the Ryan Whitney of forwards (except trade in the butt-chin for a receding hairline). Large, very handsy player that has potential to be a really solid 2nd line center. While he has had his share of injury troubles, he has been relatively healthy in recent years and has demonstrated a battle level that would make Petr Sykora seem rough and tumble. An incredibly frustrating enigma for the Sabres; the kind of player that could kill you in the playoffs.

Forward Line 3
Eric Cole (CAR) - Max Talbot (PIT) - Adam Burish (DAL)
No doubt, all three of these dudes got a cup ring, that can never be taken away. Cole, for some reason, has seemingly been viewed as a key component of good Carolina teams in recent history. There also seems to be a belief that his injury at the hands of Brooks Orpik derailed some unreal career. First, he turned into the hit, sorry. Second, his stats do not indicate the injury derailed his career. Instead, he seems to be a decent 15-20 goal player aside from a two-year prime that maxed out at 30 goals. I hate to do it, I really do. Max is beloved, and overrated. He is beloved by Pens fans for Game 7 and his two goals (I am there too). But lets be honest, when the 2010-11 Pens are healthy, Talbot is a 4th line center. Is he better than that? Certainly. But if you got mind-erased like in Men in Black during a few select games of the 2009 cup run, you'd be looking for Talbot's head right now; think about it. He can't live forever on that moment of glory, ask Feodotenko (who did the identical thing in 2004). Adam Burish is kinda like a look into the crystal ball when someone looks at Talbot this summer and says "he won a cup with 2 goals and is in his prime, lets pay him bank". Burish was a Max Talbot-like character that was the beloved, camera-friendly plugger to go along with the Hawks stars. At any rate, he has gone to Dallas and proceeded to do a whole bunch of nothing there. No points, no fights, no shutdown ability. The Hawks can, and will find someone to play his energy role. The Pens will have to replace Talbot, and can.

Forward Line 4
Derek Boogaard (NYR) - Samuel Pahlsson (CLB) - Darcy Hordichuk (FLA)
The wingers don't need lots of explanation. Derek Boogaard has nothing to offer, although people consider him the best enforcer in the league. To me, great enforcers can play and actually, you know, get ice time to do their work. Hey, its fun to watch this gigantor smash people's faces, but he was a flash in the pan that the NYR are paying for now (not that I especially mind). Darcy Hordichuk was a great pest/enforcer when...oh wait, hes always sucked. People consider him a legit enforcer because he used to be hyper-aggressive. Hes a few years away from Kelly Buchberger circa 2003 for the Pens, getting his face smashed in to collect a check. The last one is tough. Checking centers are one breed of player that are rarely overrated it seems. However, I have certainly found one. Pahlsson was viewed as a key shutdown guy for the Ducks when they won a few years back. However, stop and think for a minute about the Ducks top 4 on D that year...yikes, thats why he shut people down. Upon signing a big free-agent deal in his prime, he has been exposed as a marginal NHLer. He is S-L-O-W and simply can't keep the pace with elite centers in today's NHL.

Defense Pair 1 (offensive style matched with defense oriented d-man to be fair)
Kimmo Timonen (PHI)/Scott Hannan (WAS)
Kimmo Timonen is a real good NHL defensemen, he is just not THAT good. He benefited from the great structure that Barry Trotz provided in Nashville and recently he has benefited from being paired up with top-end defensive d-men like Pronger and Coburn that allow him a LOT of latitude. Think about the last time you've seen him blow away a goalie or made you say "wow!" (aside from being smoked by Kunitz). I thought that no one viewed Scott Hannan as good anymore, but I was wrong, as the Caps see him as a band-aid for their pedestrian D-corps. He seemed to peak early in his career and go downward...kind of about the same time he stopped playing with other elite defensemen in Colorado.

Defense Pair 2
Marek Zidlicky (NAS)/Rostislav Klesla (CLB)
Much like Timonen, Zidlicky seems to have lost his way after being taken out of the Preds' scheme. He had an unreal start to his career, but has managed to keep a reputation as being an elite offensive talent without production for years now (just ask Wild fans). Also, he sure won't beat you with his physical play. Klesla, I believe is the Blue Jackets first overall pick and perhaps an original Jacket from inaugural season? Big things were expected of him, and clearly, learning the game at the NHL level takes up to 5 years (see Pronger, Chris; Letang, Kris). Unfortunately for Jackets fans, Klesla has emerged as a serviceable 4th-5th D-man. Certainly not offensively dominant, nor defensively dominant. He's...alright...and overrated. You could say he is much like Chris Phillips, but only Phillips can shut folks down when he is motivated.

Defense Pair 3
Joe Corvo (CAR)/Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (SJ)
Corvo has been viewed as a prized deadline day pickup and as a free agent pickup, as he is supposed to add offense from the back end. Of course, he can do that moderately well; not exceptional by any means. He is no defensive stalwart. Vlasic is a tough call, seeing as I just noted you need patience with defenseman. However, unlike Letang, Vlasic seems to be regressing without Rob Blake (maybe like Hannan but later?). You couldn't ask for a better tutor, and hes been around long enough now. Hes a solid NHL d-man, just like Klesla, but his name often comes up in discussions of "up and coming" defenseman. I disagree, and so does Todd McLellan, as I haven't seen him anywhere near the top pairing.

Brian Elliott (OTT)/Dan Ellis (TB)
Much like checking centers, hard to find them as overrated, as its such a high profile spot with so much pressure. Checking centers are just seen as more replaceable (remember how unreal Zigomanis was for the Pens for a spell a few yrs ago?). Still, a careful look unveils a few imitators to me. First, Brian Elliott has a starting gig in Ottawa (for how long, who knows). While that franchise is falling apart at the seams, its hard to realize they actually have a pretty solid D in front of him (in SPITE of Gonchar's awful season). Phillips, Karlsson, Kuba...these guys can play. Not to mention some of the guys who recently left town (Volchenkov, Meszaros). This is fairly similar to the D that made Razor Ray a SCF goalie...chew on that a second. Next, Dan "I am broke" Ellis is a benefactor of the Nashville defensive orientation. He was brought into start for a good Tampa team, where he has shat the bed. So much so that a 40-plus year old has been brought up to solidify things. Hes not good.

There it is. This took a lot longer than I thought. I am sure I overlooked a few, and I hated to call out Superstar Talbot, but gotta call a spade a spade.

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