The Chicago Blackhawks and the Myths of Winning in the West

Stan Bowman2

Build down the middle. Up front, this means having good
centres. Talented wingers are a nice luxury, but a 1-2 punch at the middle of
the ice is vital to victory.

Size matters. It’s important to have a big team overall, but
even more important to have big centres and big defencemen, so as to combat the
bruising cycle game of the Kings and Ducks and Blues.

And please, just ignore those Chicago Blackhawks.

These kinds of comments are commonplace. Scroll down to the
comments section and in due time there will be plenty of posters arguing that
good centres and lots of size are vital ingredients to a winning hockey team in
the Western Conference, and they’ll have all kinds of reasons why the
Blackhawks are able to win with one centre and a collection of smurfs.

There’s a reason these arguments retain their life. For one,
there’s some validity to them: All else being equal, bigger is better. Having
good centres is vastly preferable to not having good centres.

They also tend to be self-perpetuating. In a league that has
always valued size and in which the ‘build down the middle’ philosophy is
conventional wisdom, good teams and bad teams alike tend to follow those maxims.
The teams that perform well (Los Angeles was the
biggest club in the league
entering the season) get held up as examples of
the necessity of following this path; those that don’t (Winnipeg, Arizona,
Colorado and Buffalo rounded out the top-five teams by weight) get conveniently
forgotten.

The conventional wisdom about what matters in hockey has
been increasingly scrutinized in recent years, as the community around the
sport starts looking at evidence of what works and what doesn’t rather than
simply repeating the mantras of its elders.

For the Edmonton Oilers, and for the league’s other 29 teams,
exploiting inefficiencies is key to success now and for the foreseeable future.
For example: If size, skating and hockey sense are all equally important but
the rest of the league overvalues one, it becomes important to stock up on the
other two.

That’s why it’s so interesting that the Blackhawks have been
the league’s most successful team in recent years despite ignoring the
conventional wisdom cited above. Their success rather strongly suggests that
the league as a whole places too much emphasis on areas like size and strength
down the middle.

The 2015 Blackhawks

The smallest team in
the league can win the Stanley Cup.
According to James Mirtle, the Blackhawks
entered last season as the 29th-heaviest team in the NHL, ahead of only the
Calgary Flames. They entered this season the 27th-heaviest. The fact that they
weren’t merely average, but rather at the far end of the NHL’s size curve (both
editions of the team were more than 10 pounds lighter, per player, than the
Kings) make it clear that a team can be undersized and still win hockey games.
Even in the West.

Pick a position;
those guys can be small.
Chicago’s centres were tiny. Jonathan Toews was
listed at the heaviest weight (201 pounds) and was the only guy over 200 pounds,
while players like Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger were under 190 pounds. Three
of the team’s top four defencemen in 2015 were listed at less than 200 pounds;
seven of the nine blue-liners overall came in under that weight. Of the team’s
top-seven scoring forwards none weighed more than 210 pounds, with Marian Hossa
(207 pounds), Brandon Saad (202 pounds) and Toews leading the way. the centres
were small, the defence was small, and the top forwards overall were small. Not
only can the players in one area be small; the players in every position can be
small and the team can still succeed.

A line can be built
around a winger.
Chicago has run two primary lines forever. Toews is an
elite centre and along with Hossa has formed what is perhaps the single-best
two-way line in hockey. The primary offensive line has featured a revolving
door of centres, though, and been built primarily on the wizardry of right wing
Patrick Kane (177 pounds, if you were wondering). The Blackhawks may finally
have nailed down the No. 2 centre job with the addition of middle-sixer Artem
Anisimov, but they were fine with whatever random fill-in player they iced at
that position as long as Kane was on the wing to carry the load.

Applying this to the Oilers

4-Hall-23

Edmonton has bulked up significantly under general manager
Peter Chiarelli, but mostly those moves have been intelligent ones. I’ve written about this before, but players like Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian and
Eric Gryba were all extremely reasonable bets in terms of both acquisition cost
and cap hit. Size is a good thing, and as long as the Oilers avoid paying a
premium for it they certainly should add it.

The trap to avoid is overpaying for size, something Edmonton
has had trouble with in the past. Drafting Mitch Moroz or trying to sign David Clarkson are two pretty great examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about.

Additionally, this means that if the trade return justifies
it, it’s possible to move out big players. I wouldn’t be particularly keen to
deal Leon Draisaitl or Darnell Nurse, but they shouldn’t be seen as
untouchable. There’s some reason to think that the return on a player like
Draisaitl would exceed that of a Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and if on
balance the return for a Draisaitl or Nurse were rich enough to warrant making
a trade then Edmonton should take the deal.

Finally, the Oilers are blessed with centre depth for the
first time in ages, and that is undeniably a good thing and a position that
should be maintained if at all possible. However, it would be a mistake to sell
Hall short just because he happens to be a left wing. After Connor McDavid,
Hall is the Oilers’ best scorer and best puck-possession player at 5-on-5. That
doesn’t make him absolutely untouchable, but it does suggest to me that he
should be regarded as the linchpin of Edmonton’s second line.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • sportsjunkie007

    Well put, although you didn’t touch on what Chiarelli calls “heavy hockey”. Not actual physical weight, but aggressive and tough play by players. Players like Byfuglien and Lucic play that style with the added benefit of being large-bodied, but average to smaller sized players can do more for their teams using this style of play. THOSE are the players that our GM is certain to be hunting for at every opportunity.

    • Kr55

      Agreed. Heavy hockey is not just size, you also need the mindset to always be willing to battle out on the ice. Chicago has guys that do that. Keith and Toews are relentless out on the ice, they will never stop coming at you and their fitness is at such a level that even though they are 200 lbs and under, they can push back against almost anyone.

      An unwavering commitment to the game and the will to compete and engage physically no matter the odds. That’s what Chicago has all over their lineup, and that’s what we need more of in ours.

  • Kr55

    The will to compete is more important than size, and Chicago has been full of players that will dog you to no end to get the puck. Kane is also a unique talent, he battles his own way by being extremely elusive and hard to take off the puck. They’re well coached and have had 2 #1 quality D for a long time as well, maybe less so now as Seabrook has started to slow down a bit.

  • RT26

    We just need to stay healthy and fix the defense.

    Play three lines 17 to 18 mins a game:

    Maroon – McDavid – Eberle
    Hall – Draisaitl – Kassian
    Pouliot – Nuge – Letestu

    Then go for a cheap 4th line of Khaira/ Hendricks – Lander – Pak

    Trade Yakupov to NJ for Severson as others have suggested for 3rd pair D. Run Sekera with Fayne as a second pair.

    Fine Klefbom a good RHD for top pair this offseason and hope for better health and referreing

    • McRaj

      And how will we acquire this Good Top Pairing RHD without giving up any of those precious forwards? I won’t even comment on having Kassian and Letestu on the second and third lines or how never before has there been nine forwards on a team averaging over 17 or 18 minutes a night. I’m just intrigued on how you plan to get this top pairing D.

    • Mmmm no.

      Maroon is not a top-6 forward on a contender
      Kassian is definitely not a top-6 forward on a contender.

      If Kassian were on my 4th line and Maroon on my 3rd I’d be feeling pretty good about that.

      Poo/Lucic – McDavid – Eberle/Okposo/Eriksson/Stamkos (ha)
      Hall – Nuge/Backes/Nielsen – Draisaitl
      Maroon – 3rd line C – Brouwer
      Kass – Lestestu – Pakarinen

      Klef – Faulk/Shattenkirk
      Sekera – Demers/Vatanen/Barrie
      Davidson/Nurse – Fayne

      I’d attempt to trade Pou and Yak for a 2nd pairing RH D.
      Lose one or two of Eberle/Nuge/4th overall for top RH D.
      Sign UFAs to fill the pieces – Lucic, Backes, Brouwer

    • Kr55

      Yeah, that gust of air that they feel as Ebs does a flyby probably feels like being hit by a ton of bricks. 🙂

      To be fair though, there is a place on teams for some of the pure skill guys. Look at Kessel in the playoffs this year. You can’t be overloaded with players like that though.

      • Slats 101

        It’s true you need some skill to be in the top six, but you need a different mix of players that can be heavy in different ways both RNH and Ebs are easy to play against. RNH is skilled but easy to play against. Draisaitl is skilled, large and will be much hard to play against. Draisaitl will be a good compliment to McDavid as the #2 centre

  • camdog

    “Finally, the Oilers are blessed with centre depth for the first time in ages…”

    When compared with other teams in the league the Oilers are not blessed with centre depth. If we are comparing this Oiler team to previous Oiler teams over the past 10 years, well yes then they are blessed, but it’s time to stop comparing the Oilers teams to past Oiler teams and start looking at what the winning teams are doing.

    The Oilers have 3 centres that are incredibly skilled and a fourth line centre that can play fourth line minutes. Take one of the skilled centres away and the Oilers are in an incredibly bad spot. Even if the Oilers keep the 4 centres they have on the roster they still need to acquire another NHL quality centre.

  • camdog

    In PC’s last season in Boston the Bruins were 20th in weight. It’s sort of an urban myth that PC had monster teams in Boston. If they didn’t have Chara on the roster they would have been viewed as a small team. Amazing what one player does for a teams reputation.

  • freelancer

    I understand your argument Willis but until the Oilers have a Seabrook-Keith pairing it’s going to be difficult to make comparisons between the two teams.

    • RJ

      If I could have liked this more than once I would have done so.

      Though I would add the Oilers don’t have three defencemen like Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson who play for them, or move the puck like them.

    • TS

      Seems to me he wasn’t comparing the Oilers to the Hawks, but using the Hawks as evidence to support his central point: that blindly adopting current dogma about building winning teams is unwise. An excellent point and worthy of discussion, IMHO.

  • russ99a

    Watching tape of the last two Kings-Hawks series should be required viewing for Oilers fan.

    The Kings size advantage was nullified. But it wasn’t due to smaller skill, it was due to all 5 skaters playing as a unit in the defensive zone.

    This is what the Oilers are most missing. Too much cherry picking going back the other way, too many blown assignments, and constant failure to pick up their man and trailing opponents.

    Watching the Hawks players rotate to cover assignments was a thing of beauty.

    If the Oilers can even be half as good as the Hawks were, the playoffs await.g

  • Zarny

    I think Mr.Willis makes some good points, but ignore the Chicago Blackhawks is as simplistic as copy the Kings and Ducks.

    I don’t think it’s about “size” per say; it’s about the jobs and roles players do. Which is why many GMs like Chiarelli talk about playing heavy.

    Jonathan Toews may only be 6’2″ 201 lbs, but he can go in a corner with Zdeno Chara and come out with the puck. Toews is the exception not the rule. Most players who can physically battle D like Chara are physically bigger than Toews.

    Again, Hossa may only be 207 lbs but he plays like a tank and is one of the best 2-way forwards in the league. And I think it’s a bit disingenuous to ignore players like Brian Bickell – all 6’4″ 223 lbs of him who contributed 17 pts in 23 games in 2013. Consistency and sustained success has eluded Bickell, but that doesn’t change the fact a big, hulking W creating havoc in front of the net was part of their success.

    I do think the point about not overpaying for size is salient. As is not falling into the trap of trying to copy other teams. You pay for what a player can actually do. There is not one formula to win. You need a mix of players who do different jobs and create offense differently.

  • Am I right?

    The NHL mantra is big players have to prove they can’t, small players have to prove they can.

    If you don’t have the size, you better be quick and smart.

  • madjam

    The key to any team success is keeping as many players on your team that positively effect team performance , especially on a young club like the Oilers . Add to that by draft and dealing away those players are not contributing in a positive way effectively . Chicago has had a tough time holding onto some good positive players because of cap . Oilers with their ones are not nearly as expensive , and keeping them together should not be the major problem it has been for the Hawks, etc . paying the big bucks for their stars . It could become a deterrent if we go after to many high priced upgrades this year , however .

    It’s unlikely Hall, Hopkins and EBS have even reached their full potential as yet and all are positive players for us , and should be kept as their values continue to increase . Likewise so should Draisaitl and Nurse and McDavid of course . Keep building around them !

    • McRaj

      And how do we acquire that #1 D-man which every single team that made the playoffs in the West had this year? Or Every single team that has won the cup in the last 10 years has had?

      Also, we are 2 seasons away from being in a cap crunch due to McDavid (8+ Million), Drai (4+), Nurse (2+ bridge) deals. Chicago had to trade players away before the Toews and Kane extension even kicked in and that was when both were making under 6 and their top 3 D were making 6 and under as well. If you have 4 forwards making over $6M (with two of them in Nuge and Ebs only producing at a 0.65 ppg rate vs the west) and then another in Drai and Pou at over 4M and then you have a second pair D-Man making 5.5 (Sekera), I’m sorry but you are bound to be in a cap crunch.

      • Copper

        Trade picks and prospects. It’s how you get the D needed. Doubt it? Please see: Gudbranson, Hamilton, Boychuck, Leddy, Byfuglien, Pronger THREE!!!!!!! Times. Shall I go on? #1 D are not traded unless there are issues. Cap/salary are primary ones. And if they are, WHY would the team trading the D want a $6M player/salary? Top paring D are developed, signed as UFA’s or traded for picks and prospects.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Things are really starting to get interesting.

    With the Cap the players can reject the escalator or bring it in.

    If the players reject it….teams will be in a free for all and player dumps like you’ve never seen before!

    The NHL will set records for trades.

    As it sit right now regardless of the CAP situation CBJ, NYR and COL are prime pickings so much so McKenzie has mentioned Fayne & Yakupov as possible trade pieces for Barrie.

    Another interesting piece.

    Gordon of the St. Louis Dispatch believes that the Blues are going to try and move Shattenkirk soon. Gordon believes that the Blues may try to offer Edmonton a late round pick as well as Shattenkirk in attempts to acquire the number 4 overall pick and draft Keith Tkachuk’s son, Matthew, who is expected to go 4th overall.

    Would you do that deal knowing Shattenkirk won’t resign here, could you flip Shattenkirk to ANH for Lidholm.

    Point being is with expansion & the CAP situation the Oilers maybe dealing from a position of extreme strength instead of talking about “core” players to trade.

    • madjam

      You can go to the head of the class .

      Expanding the real possibilities beyond the core is a good thing and the direction we should be headed in. To many feel the only way to improve is to start to deal the core . Would Chia make Hopkins for Jones trade today , rather than the time it might have been offered last season , before Draisaitl had his downturn ?

  • TKB2677

    I figured an article like this was coming from Willis.

    I saw the same chart and I had a look at all the teams sizes. The shinning example of “size not meaning wins” being Arizona and their average of 208lbs and them being near the bottom. Doesn’t matter that if you look at their lineup that most of their forwards are 3rd and 4th liners on most teams. Shane Doan and his 223lbs is going to be 40 this year. I wonder if Chris Pronger and his 220 was used given he’s on the roster. Jared Tinordi 230lbs who’s a border #6 Dman would have been used for sure.

    For he Hawk’s who are the #1 team when Advanced Stats guys get on their soap box and say “size isn’t everything”. Let’s see who are some of the main players that bring the Hawks average down to 197.6?

    Kane – 177lbs soaking wet. Kane just finished winning the art ross trophy and is probably a top 10 player in the entire freaking league. I have to think that Kane has a dramatic affect on that average.

    Keith – 192lbs. 2 time Norris trophy winner, 2 time Gold Medal winner. He would have an impact on that average.

    Panarin – Rookie sensation is 170lbs. Assuming he’s not a flash in the pan, he’s going to have a big time impact on the teams average. Not many teams have top 6 guys that size.

    Go look at the Oilers roster and if they take out Gazdic who’s 225 and doesn’t play. Take out Cracknell at 214 who’s a borderline player. Take out Nikitin at 217 who can’t play. Take out Pardy who’s 227 and is a borderline NHLer. Where would the Oilers be at? On paper the Oilers look big but there are AHLers and borderline NHLers propping those numbers up.

    So YES, a team CAN have success without being huge. But if you look at the Hawks and their “small players” they are insanely good players. Scoring champs and leagues trophy winner. Sub out Kane and put in Eberle, are the Hawks as good? Not a freaking chance.

    • camdog

      Those numbers were put together at the beginning of the season – according to the data Edmonton was right in the middle of the league in respect to team weights. Since then smaller players such as Schultz, Purcell are gone and Kassian and Maroon are in.

      With the big bench guys there were smaller guys such as Ference, Lander and Korpikoski, lowering the weight of the bench players.

      I do not believe the Oilers need to get bigger. Some of their kids they already have are going to get bigger through age. However by not means am I advocating the team get smaller. Trading away a big centre that can skate like the wind would be a huge mistake, a mistake that would haunt the team for years to come.

      • TKB2677

        While I agree that size isn’t the end all be all. You can be big but if you are big and can’t play, you can’t help. Playing a big 4th liner on your 1st line won’t make you better. But I do think the mix of the Oilers forwards needs to change. The Oilers need more heavy, hard on the puck, hard to play against guys. That doesn’t mean you need a ton of huge guys that can’t play. Smaller guys can play a heavy, hard to play against stay – See Brenden Gallagher. But for the Oilers, they need to change out some guys that don’t compete hard enough. So you either have to somehow get players to suddenly compete harder which the players below I am not sure that is in their make up as a person. Or you have to replace at least some of them. When I say they need to get bigger guys, it’s not because I am against smaller players, it’s because I think its harder to find smaller, good players willing to compete hard vs getting a bigger player.

        As much as I like what they can do offensively, I don’t think Nuge or Eberle compete hard enough. Not even close. There is 2/3 of the Oilers top 6 over the past 5 years. I’m not a fan of Yakupov. Where he was drafted doesn’t matter to me anymore. I personally don’t think he competes hard enough. He’s spent time in the Oilers top 6 over the years. Before he was traded, Purcell who had size but he didn’t compete hard enough, I don’t care what the advanced numbers said about his possession. Lander doesn’t compete hard enough. Before he was traded, Schultz didn’t compete hard enough. Fayne doesn’t compete hard enough.

        If you count them up, that’s 7 Oilers who played a major role on the team over the years. Only 2 are gone so far. Considering in a game you only have 18 skaters and early in the year, they had 7 so almost 40% of their game to game roster as guys who didn’t compete much, no wonder they don’t win. They got rid of 2. So now they are down to 5. IF all those guys come back, that still means almost 30% of their game to game roster will be filled with guys that don’t compete hard enough. Plus you can’t have the majority of your hard competing guys be all 3rd and 4th liners and your 6th Dman. They don’t play enough.

  • daryl

    Peter has done a good job with the draft except for Reinhart. He could really help us this year with good moves and not over paying. Kept the pick take Dubois and trade for your #I rh dman.

  • Key difference with the Hawks is they built and developed properly through the draft. But then also were able to combine that with good asset management that turned current players into prospects that were later developed into key players on cup winning teams.

    I think each of their cup winning teams has at least 13 skaters either drafted by the Hawks, or were prospects that came over from trades of players that were drafted by the Hawks.

    Finally, they started drafting their team arguably in 2003. But didn’t draft Kane until 2007. And didn’t win their first cup until 2010.

    They also drafted defence and goal first, with many complimentary players rounding out the actual team before getting Toews and Kane. Oilers, literally could not have gone a more opposite route.

    Started rebuild in 2010, same year they actually bought a team in a development league. Started by drafted top end talent and absolutely zero D and goal (though you could say Dubnyk but…), then proceeded down a road of poor asset management that either shipped away good players for no return, or pushed undeveloped players into key positions too early, and ruining their development.

    • TKB2677

      I agree with you. The Hawks also hit a homerun with their really high draft picks in 2006 and 2007.

      When they got the 1st overall in the Kane draft in 2007, they got the chance to draft a no doubt super star. As much as I am a big fan of Hall, he’s not as good as Kane. Either is Seguin who was also in the supposed conversations.

      When they got the 3rd overall in 2006, they picked Toews who is probably the best player in that draft. Erik Johnson was picked #1 and Jordon Staal was picked #2. I am a fan of Nuge, Nuge isn’t even close to Toews at all.

      So in those 2 drafts, the Hawks picked a much better winger and a much better center than the Oilers got. Even if the Oilers went the other way and picked Seguin and Landeskog’s the #2’s, those 2 still aren’t nearly as good as Kane and Toews.

      IN 2002, the Hawks drafted a 2 time Norris winner in Keith with the 54th overall. There were 15 other Dmen taken before Keith, most of which aren’t even in the NHL anymore. The Hawks themselves took a Dman with their 21st pick – Anton Babchuck who’s been in the KHL for the last 4 years. So even they didn’t think Keith would be this good.

      In 2003, they took Seabrook who on most teams is a top pairing, right shot Dman with the 14th. Suter, Coburn and Phaneuf were all taken before Seabrook. Suter is the only one that is maybe a little better than Seabrook but not by a ton.

  • TS

    Excellent post, Mr. Willis. It does seem we’re at a bit of a cross-roads in the NHL, where some organizations are determined to get better by getting smarter, while others are stubbornly/lazily/arrogantly/ignoranly sticking with the status quo. I’m hoping we didn’t buy a load of status quo with PC. Should be able to tell soon.

  • #1 overall waivers pick

    Penguins top players are not heavy.

    Try to find skilled players 6.01+ over 200lbs.

    Unless hockeydb is underestimating the Penguins height and weight.

    Hall being 6.01 over 200lbs, would be a big top 6 guy on that team.

  • Zarny

    @TKB2677

    I don’t disagree that Patrick Kane is better than Hall or Seguin, but I don’t think he’s “much better”.

    Kane had a much better rookie season than Hall or Seguin, but if you look at years 2 thru 6 for each player Kane’s ppg is 0.96, Hall’s is 0.91 and Seguin is 0.94.

    The major difference between the Hawks and Oilers is not that Toews and Kane are much better than players like Nuge and Hall. Because they aren’t “much better”.

    The major difference is everything else around Toews and Kane and everything that is not around players like Hall, Nuge and Eberle.

    • TKB2677

      I am a huge fan of Hall, I have his jersey. But when assessing a player vs another player, I think about a trade. It’s a little less clear these days given the cap. But if I go player for player, if the Oilers went to the Hawks and said Hall for Kane, no way it gets done. Oilers would have to add something for that to happen. I think the same goes for Seguin for Kane.

    • McRaj

      While I can agree that Kane is not much better than Hall, I have to strongly disagree that Toews is not that much better than Nuge.

      Toews is better than Nuge in every single aspect of the game. Toews was better than Nuge at the same age as well.

      Toews averages 32 goals and 72 points per 82 games for his career. Nuge averages 20 and 58 per 82. Hitting, blocking, corsi, fenwick, defense, in every single category Toews beats out Nuge. Toews career low seasons match up with Nuge’s career best seasons. Hossa is way better than Eberle and Toews is way WAY better than Nuge. Hall and Kane is a much closer comparable.

      • TKB2677

        I totally agree. I think there is a much better chance that Draisaitl gets closer to Toews level than Nuge will ever. I’m from Red Deer so I watched Nuge in junior so I am a fan. But Nuge does not have the tools in the box to be even close.

  • madjam

    Chicago – Has the elevator stopped , and now coming back down from their peaks .

    Toews -28 years old and being paid 10.5M for another 6 years . This season was his worst as he garnered only 58 points in 80 games . Doubt he is getting any better in the years ahead .Going on the downside .

    Hossa -already 37 years old and another 4 years on a 5.5M contract plummets in points/game just barely above .5/game , and almost half of production of the previous year . Rapidly descending .

    Kane @ 10.5M and 27 years old had his most productive year by quite a lot , but it could well be unsustainable in the future . 82 games-106 points .

    Due to the value of their contracts , only Kane seems to be still holding anywhere near full value of those contracts .

    • BobbyCanuck

      @madjam #36

      These players you mentioned are getting paid for what they have already brought to Chicago,

      Another way to look at it would be: ‘Would Chicago have won 3 cups without Toews/Hossa/Kane?

      I would be happy for 10 yrs of Cap Hell and bare cupboards on the farm, if it brought us 3 Cups in the near term

      I think all of us Oiler fans would be…

      • madjam

        I’d say they are being paid for what they hoped they would be worth over that period of time , not for the past contributions .

        We were not happy after our dynasty years and loss of players because we could not pay them to stay , so I doubt some of us fans would be happy if we were in cap hell situation basically again even with 3 cups in 10 years . I like us being a perennial Cup finalist and multiple winner to be honest .

    • @Hallsy4

      I’m not a huge Toews fan, I kind of think he’s a whiner or something. But I think he is worth the value, I doubt they would have won any cups without him. I seem to remember that Crosby called Toews and asked him it is was alright with him that Crosby had been named team Canada captain at the last Olympics. Pretty telling if guys around the league, including one of the best players ever, have that much respect for him. Unfortunately I would rather have Toews than Nuge and Ebs, who toghether make $12 mil.

  • @Hallsy4

    Hawks would be scary good if there was no cap. Just after their first cup the basically had to give away Ladd, Buff, and Versteeg in his prime. Wouldn;t have minded if they gave Ladd and Buff to us.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Chicago is interesting for me, because they give almost 1/3rd of the cap to Toews and Kane, while still being cup contenders every year. They have overpaid Hossa( despite only paying him 1mil for the next 4yrs, the cap hit for him is crazy at 5.2) and imo, Seabrook which has hindered them the last couple years. I wonder how they’ll be able to handle things when Panarin has to be resigned.

    Makes me wonder if the Oilers can do the same with McDavid and Hall. Here’s to hoping they both are good with a cap friendly next contract.

  • Hockey Buddha

    Is Chicago a great example? They only won their most recent 2015 Stanley Cup being undersized. They had much larger teams in their two previous championships. Also, they were just knocked out in the first round by a big-bodied St. Louis Blues team this post-season.

  • JimmyV1965

    Great article as usual JW. An equally interesting topic I would like to see you tackle is how the Pens are winning with that awful, awful defence. Take out Letang and they have amongst the worst defence in the league. Is it enough to have just one stud?

    • The key about having a great defensive team usually is not so much the defensemen, but it usually lies more at the discretion of the centers. Centers are usually the ones that drive possession and filters threats towards the corners of the ice.

      While it helps to have competent defensemen, just take take a look at centers of any successful team to see why they are having success.

  • camdog

    Pittsburgh, might have the smallest forward group in this years playoffs and their defence going into this years playoffs is average at best. Now there centres on the other hand are are out of this world.