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Top Ten Canadians in the Game

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NHL.com lists the ten best Canadians in the game today (in order) as:

1. Sidney Crosby   2. Martin Brodeur  3.  Jarome Iginla   4.  Marc-Andre Fleury   5. Chris Pronger   6. Ryan Getzlaf   7.  Rick Nash   8. Roberto Luongo   9. Joe Thornton   10. Vincent Lecavalier

Though not ridiculous, it’s a tad nostalgic.  Chris Pronger is the fifth best Canadian hockey player alive today?  Don’t take the following as not liking any of the above guys, I just thought I’d mix in my own thoughts, and hear some of yours (okay, you can take it as me not liking Pronger).

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

{First, I’m finally impressed with a US hockey team, which makes me a tad nervous for Canada.  It was a hassle when every country in Europe starting getting really good (go back to producing bums with eight “i’s” in their name, Finland), but now the US?  That’s annoying.

Names like Parise, Stastny, Kane, Kessel, Kessler, Ryan and Booth point to a pretty strong future.  Young, fast and a talented — all of ‘em.}

But back to our Canadian top ten.

1. Sidney is a given.

But I just can’t give Martin Brodeur the title of #2.  This is always a tough point to make, because folks can drag up stats (career GAA of amazing-point-five, save percentage is ninetywhatever-point-awesome), but come on.  I could drag up Bobby Orr’s amazing numbers too, but you wouldn’t want him (the 61 year old him) starting at defense in 2010, would you?  Brodeur’s great, but on the downslope of his career (and never exactly been known for his fitness).

Marty has become a staple of Canadian big game hockey and I love him to death for that.  But, Canada should probably move on.  Cam Ward didn’t crack the NHL.com top ten, but wouldn’t you like to see him wearing a Team Canada jersey at the Olympics?  It’s not like Carolina’s teams have been stacked, but he’s made them successful – this guy is a big game goalie too.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Our best Canadian goalies today are Luongo (what goalie would have won a cup backstopping the teams he has?  Don’t give me that argument), Cam Ward, and Marc-Andre Fleury (who I’ve always liked, despite the fact that everyone in Canada hated the disappointment he “was” before June of this year).

One – that’s right, ONE – defenseman made that list, and it was Pronger.  More than taking away from Chris, who admittedly is still in the upper echelon of defenseman (hanging on… losing… grip… must… hang on), I have to give credit to two other guys, Mike Green of Washington, and Shea Weber of Nashville.

I got more texts from hockey-playing friends watching NHL playoff games last year about Mike Green than anyone else.  He does some amazingly nifty little things that make a big difference.  To be a scorer in the NHL today is tough to do, but this guys’ stat-line from last year as a defenseman was 31 goals, 42 assists for 73 points… in 68 games.

Oh, and he’s 24.  His defensive game has gotten better every year, and will continue to.

As ridiculous as it seems now, I was Shea Weber’s instructor at Dave Roy’s “Edge of Excellence” hockey school.  I was 18, and Shea was 15.  He was probably bigger than me by three inches then and just under twice as fast.  I made a huge difference in his life. 

“Yep, you’re doing it right.  Yep.  That was good.  Uh-huh.”

At this point, he’s not even freaking human.  Punishingly physical, with a booming slapper and great foot speed, I bet there’s a lot of GM’s who’d take him over Green.  He’s Pronger 2.1 – the next edition.  Toting less lumbering largeness (a mere 6’3″ 210), he carries his size more like Duncan Keith than a Todd Bertuzzi, and is frighteningly better every time I see him play.

"Hi I'm Jon. I'm allowed to drink this year.  Neato."

"Hi I'm Jon. I'm allowed to drink this year. Neato."

Oh, and he’s 24.

I think a list of our top ten Canadian players today needs to pay closer attention to the way the game is being played now.  Vinnie Lecavalier is a great player, and plenty physical to boot.  But remember how it looked when the international teams were bombing around and we were trying to Eric Lindros/Keith Primeau them into the ground?  We couldn’t catch them.

Vinnie isn’t that big slug type of player; I just think the new type of goal scorer is more evasive than invasive.  Doesn’t Jonathan Toews strike you as a more effective guy in today’s game?  The guys scored 34 times as a 21 year old captain last year.  He’s following in Lecavaliers footsteps as the young captain, but is already trouncing the numbers Vinnie put up at that age.

So without further ado… My list:

1. Sidney Crosby

2. Ryan Getzlaf

3. Jarome Iginla

4. Roberto Luongo

5. Rick Nash

6. Mike Green

7. Jonathan Toews

8. Joe Thornton

9. Shea Weber

10. Cam Ward

I’d put those guys out against any country, any day.  (Wait, except Russia.  Not sure what they’re doing over there, but it’s starting to resemble cheating).

Comments

23 Responses to “Top Ten Canadians in the Game”
  1. Cole says:

    Pretty tough to argue with that list!

    I would have slid Mr. Niedermayer in there though!

    If the Olympics were to start today I’m pretty sure he’s the go-to guy on the point (not to mention he’s probably captain-worthy and has won everything possible in the hockey world)!

    Another solid writeup though Mr. Bourne – I love reading your stuff!

  2. josh ciocco says:

    I like Ward, but I’d prolly go with Mike Richards if I had the option. And no heatley huh? Drama aside I’d take him over a couple guys on that list. Jeff Carter and Corey Perry would both get honorable mentions. Cammallari made his case too last year. Jason Spezza will cry about not being top, he’s not too shabby either. Won’t be long before Travis Zajac starts entering these conversations as well… Jeesus, and your complaining, Canada could make 3 olympic teams and all would finish top 6.

  3. jtbourne says:

    I was thinking, man, Philly’s got some great Canadian forwards don’t they? Richards, Carter, Gagne, Briere… probably more, I dunno. Heatley I had pencilled in, but just missed it. And I saw Spezza was invited as a “replacement” to the tryout. But Andy Macdonald got one on his own??

  4. Beckmann says:

    I agree with most of the choices but a question. Does performance in the playoffs factor into this or is it just based on skill? If you include the playoffs Thornton definitely wouldn’t make the list for me as he seems to pull a disappearing act when it matters. I’d have a hard time leaving Fleury off the list after last years performance and I’m not sure about Toews as I doubt he would crack the top two lines on Team Canada or if he will even make it.

  5. JD says:

    Good looking list Bourne, think I would have snuck M. Richards in there somewhere though (over Joey T maybe). I never know what to make of Nash. On one hand he always seems to look kind of lackadaisical and utterly one-dimensional out there. On the other, however, he’s a legit 40 goal guy who has never played with a true #1 centreman. Not sure how much press you got down there about the Olympic orientation camp, but he was paired with Sid the whole week. On paper anyways, I don’t think you could hand pick two guys more suited to playing with each other on account of their playing styles.

  6. JD says:

    P.S. I don’t think E. Staal gets enough credit either. The way that guy can fly down his off wing (as a centreman) and shoot in stride/dangle has to be downright scary for d-men. I thought his playoff performance last year was phenomenal. Oh ya, over the last 4 years he’s averaged 38 goals, and in sticking with your theme, he’s 24

  7. jtbourne says:

    Right, if he played in Toronto and not Carolina, he’d be mentioned in the first breath.

  8. josh ciocco says:

    As far as I’m concerned Andy Macdonald could be placed on the power play unit with Shane Doan, Marc Savard, Eric Staal, and Ryan Smyth—- the all boring unit

  9. Deirdre says:

    Sadly the problem (IMHO) with Eric Staal is when he *doesn’t* have the puck he’s a defensive burden. He’s lazy getting back to the bench, and sometimes downright in the way. I imagine his play style is why Marc is looking so good on defense!

  10. Neil says:

    I like your list better than NHL.com’s but “Top Ten Canadians in the Game” is too vague, maybe they are putting Brodeur and Pronger in there because they have won the cups, played a long time, won some international medals, etc. Top Ten in skill right now? Top Ten in skill plus untapped potential? Top Ten in skill/potential/playoffsuccess?

    I agree about Shea, he’s a beast and I’d happily take him over Pronger. I love Getzlaf at 2. Gutsy to put Ward at 10 and no Fleury but that’s a tough call, one guy won the cup, the other had a huge year and already has a cup.

    The only thing I disagree on is Toews, I don’t think I’d put him at 7 or even on the list, even though I think he’ll make it in a couple of years. He’s put up 50 and 70 point seasons and he’s a young captain, but Savard has been putting up 80-point seasons for years, Joe gets 100 points a year and he’s usually +20-30, Mike Richards has put up 30 goals and 80 points twice (once with the C on his chest), Carter just exploded and was +23 on a team with Biron in goal (don’t get me wrong, the Flyers are garbage no matter where they place). Do you see Toews having a big breakout this coming season, maybe 100+ with Hossa around? Speaking of which, who is Chicago’s second-line center…? I digress. Nice post!

  11. jtbourne says:

    And, one guy won the Conn Smythe when his team won the cup – that says something too.

    Though an underrated offensive threat at all times, Savard is one dimensional. Not many people would put him higher than Toews on their list (which, by the way, as a “top ten” is meant as of this second, if we were to play a game tonight, who the top ten players would be).

    And, okay, maybe Joey T could be a spot or two higher, but the games he doesn’t show up for, he’s unbelievably absent. I’d take Toews over him for our game tonight (and yes, i could see him pushing 90 pts this year). +/- is a bad stat unless you look at a whole career. Year in, year out so much changes in terms of being on a good and bad team (I have to believe Briere, Richards and Gagne take some of the sting of Biron out).

    The first line/second line thing ends up being merely a fans perspective at this point. You have two top lines, and the coach will write whichever one played better the night before on top for practice the next day. Glad you like the post – it’s not something I think really matters, just a fun off-season thinking game!

  12. Neil says:

    With fantasy league drafts around the corner, these questions will preoccupy me for weeks…haha

    I’d be interested to see a similar list for American players, lots of quick, young guys (as you mentioned).

  13. JD says:

    Not that anyone said playoff performance is a huge consideration in putting together the top 10 Canadians, but if it were, how about this comparison of 2 players on your current list. In the post lockout NHL:

    Player A – 26 playoff GP – 25 points – .96 ppg – 4 straight first round exits.
    Player B – 41 playoff GP – 35 points – .85 ppg – 3 second round exits, 1 first round exit

    It would probably surprise some people that Player A is Iginla and Player B is Thornton. Not to take anything away from Iggy, as it could be argued that San Jose had better teams and there is obviously far more to impacting a playoff hockey game than point production, but a look at the numbers alone might indicate that Joey T has had to put up with a little more criticism that he deserves.

    By the way, Crosby = 1.29 ppg in his first 3 playoffs, yikes.

  14. WWPKD says:

    Johnny T. is definately a lock. He has won gold in 4 of 5 international competitions since 2006 and WILL compete in the upcoming Olympics. I like the Mike Green addition as well. He makes some scary good plays with the puck in both the offensive and defensive zones. Its nice of the Olympic committee to allow all these teams (US, Canada, Sweeden, Finland, Czech, ect.) to come out and play for a silver medal.

  15. Officer Koharski says:

    Pretty solid list, hard to argue with. Although I would bring Green down on the list, his defensive play is kind of a dealbreaker for me. Don’t get me wrong, his offense is unbelievable, he’s so effective he deserves a spot on the list, but you still have to hold him accountable and defensively I would put him below most everyone else on his team. Like, John Erskine is more effective at limiting offense as he is, and John Erskine is not in the top 300 active Canadians. Defensemen still have to play defense.

    Also, does anyone else have a fondness for Team Finland? I don’t have any particular reason but I’ve always rooted for the Finns after the North Americans. Every product of Finland has a high tempo tenacious style of play, it’s a cool distinct style from a small, talented country. Also they get drunk in the snow and watch Rally Races fly through the woods at high speeds. Hardcore

  16. Nathan says:

    Great list (your list, that is). I think MAF is one of the most overrated players in the game right now. I know, he’s played in two consecutive finals, and won one of them, but something just rubs me the wrong way about his game. I don’t have “stats” and “Fenwick Number” or anything fancy like that, but when I watch him I just always feel like the dam is about to spring a big leak. He reminds of Chris Osgood. He deserves a ton of credit and in many ways will likely be a HOFer when he hangs ‘em up, but there will always be some shaky performances and Swiss Cheese goals that we just cannot forget.

    I really like Shea Weber. I think he’s one of the best players in the game. His game makes Phaneuf and Bouwmeester look mediocre. Weber has the size and finesse, he’s like the defense version of Getzlaf (who is a better all-around player than Crosby, by the way).

  17. jtbourne says:

    My thoughts: 1) Erskine is not more effective at anything than Mike Green. Anything. 2) Yes, Green is not yet a defensive all-star 3) I do not find myself rooting for Finland. Has any country churned out less interesting stars? Thanks for Selanne, um… Jokinen and… the Koivu brothers. Maybe Kurri was more of a thriller, I dunno.

  18. AiH says:

    Let’s not overlook Esa Tikkanen and his famous Tiki-Talk. Not even teammante Jari Kurri knew what he was saying sometimes. Tikkanen was The Grate One.

    I’d like to see a list of the Bottom 10 Canadians in the Game.

  19. Officer Koharski says:

    I think if you lined up the forwards and had them try and get down the wing with either Green or Erskine covering them, Erskine would be better at limiting the attack or closing the guy off than Green. He knows he’s not very talented, and so he relies on simple positioning. Again I can’t knock Green because his skills are off the hook but I see him getting turned around and chasing where Erskine will keep the guy to the outside and protect the house better.

    Anyway, Finland. True they lack really flashy stars, the Koivus and Jokinen are admittedly pretty boring, but the big names aren’t what makes me like them, it’s the Tuomo Ruutu’s and the Bergenheims. Their style is like if you put a Wolverine in a box, shook the shit out of the box and sprayed some mace in there, and let it go. I love the Berserker Cannonball style. Their country is right between Sweden and Russia and they kind of resisted both styles of play, they emulate physical North American hockey and for that I gotta give them some respect. They have real talent too, I would bet Valteri Filppula will emerge as a top flight center in the next 5 years. They have good Goalies in Kipper and Toskala and Salo is still a good offensive defenseman. He’s no Mike Green but the guy does still have a sneaky cannon. Also, remember Sami Kapanen? I would make a spot on my bottom 6 for that guy 10 out of 10 times.

  20. smoboy says:

    Green and Toews need to do a lot more before they can be considered. A few more similiar years, and I’d have no problem putting them, say, top 20.

    Don’t take this as a flame, but the US won’t medal in 2010. Just not deep enough.

  21. jtbourne says:

    Nobody’s medalling, Russia is winning all three.

  22. vek says:

    I know that he sounds out of place considering the names mentioned, but there’s not another country that has a player that can bring the kind of game that Milan Lucic could contribute, even in an international tournament.

    That Russian forward line would be a lot less scary if they had to skate with their heads up the whole game.

  23. jtbourne says:

    Not sure how to respond to that without offending you, Lucic, everyone in Boston and large portions of Canada. For now, I’ll go with:

    I’m guessing part of the reason those Russians are so dangerously offensively is because their heads are up.

    I’ll give that Lucic guy a full post one of these days.

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