Pragmatism

Reasoner

A physical game is not a prerequisite for a bottom six forward. There are those who would argue that is, but I really don’t see it as a defensible argument. Consider the following list of forwards:

  • Kris Draper – more than 1000 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Todd Marchant – more than 1000 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Radek Dvorak – more than 900 NHL games, hasn’t been a top-6 player in four years
  • Jay Pandolfo – more than 700 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Sergei Brylin – more than 700 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Matt Cullen – more than 700 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • John Madden – more than 600 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Richard Park – more than 500 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Ryan Johnson – more than 500 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Marty Reasoner – more than 500 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Pascal Dupuis – more than 400 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Matt Pettinger – 400 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Fernando Pisani – more than 300 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Brooks Laich – more than 300 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Erik Christensen – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a third line forward
  • Dominic Moore – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Vernon Fiddler – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Andy Hilbert – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Jay McClement – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward
  • Toby Petersen – more than 200 NHL games, mostly as a fourth line forward

I didn’t include any players with less than 2-1/2 seasons at the NHL level (200 games), and I didn’t include any retired players. I also didn’t include any players who have the reputation of having an above-average physical game. Certainly there’s some grit there – Matt Pettinger and Andy Hilbert, for example, have some decent size and definitely some grit, but they aren’t physically dominant players. The players on that list, and especially at the top of it, have made a career of either shutting down top opponents with speed and positioning, or doing something very simple: scoring more goals than their opponents.

Teams need a balance; a team without physical players is going to get pushed around, and obviously there should be some grit in a team’s bottom-six. But to argue, for example, that Marc Pouliot won’t have a career as a third line forward because he doesn’t have a dominant physical game is to ignore a host of very good players who have proved exactly the opposite.

It’s been that way all down through history – players like Rick Meagher and Bob Gainey forged reputations as defensive stalwarts, despite not being physically dominant. More recently, a player like Marty Reasoner has forged an NHL career despite a) no real physical game b) suspect skating and c) minimal offensive production.

The reason these guys have careers is because despite what people will tell you, toughness, speed and even goal-scoring aren’t the most valuable assets to a team that a player can possess. The most valuable asset is actually rather elementary – scoring more goals than the opposition. It’s how teams win games, and it’s glossed over far too often in favour of big hits and flashy but one-dimensional play.

  • Hippy

    @ rogue:

    This team, to my eye, has been far more likely to miss coverage in the slot or hand over an ugly giveaway than they are to lose a puck battle.

    Besides "soft" and "winning battles" aren't opposites – Horcoff's frequently described as "soft", but he's harder on the puck than virtually any other forward on the team.

  • Hippy

    @ Dennis:
    A while back, Gretz wrote an article making the point that bloggers on this site spend countless hours coming up with different ways of saying fire MacTavish… So to save time he suggested simply signing off as FMNF, or Fire MacTavish Now F*ckers.