Size and the Stanley Cup Finals

We’ve all heard the story: that collection of skilled midgets the Edmonton Oilers run in their top-six might be fine in the regular season, but in the Stanley Cup playoffs they’re going to be run over by teams that are bigger, stronger and meaner than they are.

Does the myth of size succeeding in the postseason match the reality of recent playoffs?

The Stanley Cup Finalists

The chart above shows the players who played top-four even-strength minutes on the wing or top-two even-strength minutes at centre on Stanley Cup finalists over the last five seasons. Players weighing less than 200 pounds are bolded and highlighted.

(Note: Weights come from NHL.com, and naturally should be seen as approximations. This is particularly true for players going back a few years – as one example, contemporary publications commonly listed Patrick Kane at 165 or 170 pounds.)

Is there a trend? I think so. While the Kings and Devils last year were hulking teams on their top two lines, they were the exception rather than the rule.

Boston, typically portrayed as the “big bad Bruins” had two monsters in Lucic and Horton, but half of their top-six wingers weren’t particularly big and neither of their centres were. Chicago didn’t win with size – Kane, Versteeg and Bolland were all lightweights. Malkin’s tall, but plays lean, and Crosby isn’t big. Still, three of the Penguins top-four wingers (including Kunitz) were fair-sized players. Fully half of the Detroit Red Wings miss our threshold – the Datsyuk/Zetterberg centre combination isn’t all that big, and Valtteri Filppula doesn’t meet that description either. Detroit’s one of those teams that ‘you must have size down the middle’ types prefer to ignore.

The Edmonton Oilers

Again: all sizes come from NHL.com and are best seen as approximations.

This is a small group, but they’re also awfully young. Hall and (somewhat surprisingly) Gagner are within a whisker of 200 pounds, and there’s very little doubt in my mind that both Yakupov will play heavier than the mid-180’s (possibly Nugent-Hopkins as well, though that’s more arguable).

I do think it’s a group that could stand more size, but I think that comes. It seems unlikely to me that the trio of Eberle, Yakupov and Hemsky all play together on this team for the long haul; the most likely scenario being the departure of Hemsky – a little older and a lot more injury-prone than the others – though of course a blockbuster trade for, say, a high-end defenceman might feature Eberle or Yakupov as a centerpiece.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario: the Oilers keep Eberle and Yakupov on the right, with Eberle sticking around 185 and Yakupov playing at 190. The keep Nugent-Hopkins (playing at roughly 190) and Gagner (playing at 200) at centre. Hall (playing at 200) and a free agent – say Nathan Horton (listed at 229 pounds) or Ryane Clowe (225 pounds) or even Dustin Penner (245 pounds) gets added in the other winger slot. How does that team match, size-wise, with the other teams on this list?

Realistically, one big winger and a little internal growth and the Oilers wouldn’t stand out much at all from the list above.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Great idea for an article. Glad to see that size is not nearly as important as some people may believe. It’s grit and work ethic that really matter. Lucic is great and all, but Yak and Hall can still develop a physical side without being 230+lbs

  • A-Mc

    Size matters if you are making the big chase. Size is used to wear team down, critical in “must win 16 games” to get to the cup, also in a short period of time.

    You can have some smaller guys, but they better bet tough, athletic and agile around the big guys.

    Oilers big[er] guys, play soft hockey, Hartikinen, Petrel, Paajarvi, Smid, Petry,.
    Eager is the only guy that hits , not enough though.
    The rest of bottom six…. Smyth, Horcoff, Belanger are also soft…

    And, there is not much on the Old Stu MacGregors farm.

    Hows the rebuild sofar?

    The draft players get thrown on Tambi’s lap, and he pounts his chest on the rebuild.
    If you’r not No.1, your not good enough for us.
    How’s Galenyuk looking these days Vs Yakapov.
    [They were taking Murray, utill Katz jumped in with his pick of the day ]Dont get me wrong, Yak will be a player, but a center was much needed.

    • Copperblueandwhite

      YAK was the consensus BPA….are you saying you don’t want them to draft BPA in rounds one and two but rather draft based on need?

      Last year they got raked on this site for taking Moroz in round 2.

      • Bank Shot

        ORG; When you have the annual reserved seat on the lotto podium, there is the option to pass on the BPA, and draft for need.

        They took RNH on the BPA ticket, no argument, even when need players like Landesgog, and Hamilton were available.

        Last year their need was a center man and defense man.. they took the BPA. Even if they would have taken Murray, it was still a need move.

  • DieHard

    What would it take to get Chris Stewart out of St Louis? I mean they already have Oshie, Steen, Backes and Berglund. Im sure they could spare us at least one of those huge guys.

    The reason I pick Stewart is cause he was in the dog house last year with Hitchcock. His stats this year are fairly good but I wonder if a MPS and a player like Hamilton or another secondary prospect would do it? Probably not considering he was the main part of that trade for Johnson last year. An organization probably wouldnt trade a player like that with that kind of attachment to the organization for unproven prospects.

    Lets trade for Crosby F–k it.