If you haven't noticed, Roberts and I engaged in a Throwdown recently on building the ULTIMATE NHL TEAM (which must be capitalized for effect) within the salary cap. However, we mutually agreed that 3600 characters isn't nearly enough to describe the inexact science and complex decisions involved in creating a team. Ergo, I decided to post my team, and describe why it is what it is here for all of FanNation to see. I used this site (http://www.sportscity.com/NHL-Salaries/) for my cap numbers. So, without any further ado:
LW: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings ($2,650,000)
C: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings ($6,700,000)
RW: Marian Hossa, Detroit Red Wings ($7,400,000)
LW: Brendan Morrow, Dallas Stars ($4,100,000)
C: Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche ($850,000)
RW: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames ($7,000,000)
LW: Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings ($942,000)
C: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings ($956,000)
RW: Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres ($1,033,000)
LW: Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks ($483,000)
C: Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins ($2,200,000)
RW: Jordin Tootoo, Nashville Predators ($975,000)
DEFENSIVE PAIR ONE
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins ($7,500,000)
Mike Komisarek, Montreal Canadiens ($1,700,000)
DEFENSIVE PAIR TWO
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks ($1,475,000)
Braydon Coburn, Philadelphia Flyers ($1,300,000)
DEFENSIVE PAIR THREE
Stephane Robidas, Dallas Stars ($1,500,000)
Johnny Oduya, New Jersey Devils ($600,000)
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres ($2,667,000)
Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild ($725,000)
LW Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins ($850,000)
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins ($835,000)
G Alex Auld, Ottawa Senators ($1,000,000)
Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres
When digesting the above information, one could quite accurately state that most of the above players are from playoff teams. In fact, four out of twenty-three players listed are on the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings. The reason why this is the case is simple: the best teams generally have the best cap management. The better you can allocate your limited funds, the more successful you will be. Also, one will notice that most of the players on THE ULTIMATE TEAM are young players. This is because they haven't reached their big payday yet, and are likely still under their entry-level contract.
I'll start with my rationale at the top:
THE FIRST LINE (also known as MOTOWN MAGIC, or THE EUROPEANS WHO PLAY DEFENSIVELY TOO)
The most difficult part of making this team was managing my big-money players. Who deserved the money? Who would fit better into my ideal team? Should I spend it on skaters or goalies? In the end, the allure of a positively dominant line won out over other considerations.
The fact that all three of these All-Stars are on the Detroit Red Wings was definitely not lost on me. In fact, I'd even say that it was my primary motivation for assembling them together. You see, Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hossa have the kind of chemistry teams can only dream of.
In last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, Datsyuk and Zetterberg played together almost exclusively. Zetterberg has 27 points in 22 games (leading the league), while Datsyuk had 23. The more significant stat, though, was that Zetterberg had a Plus/Minus of +16, while Datsyuk was +13, both among the Top 4 in the league. This is truly a special stat. Keeping in mind that powerplay points don't factor into the +/-, this shows that the Datsyuk-Zetterberg combo was truly dominant when they were on the ice at even strength. Quite simply, they dictated the play.
Last year, Hossa ended off with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he signed with the Red Wings in the off-season, bringing his immense talent to Detroit. Any concerns about how he would mesh with the team were quickly dispelled once people began to see how well he worked with Datsyuk. So far this season, he has 21 points in 15 games, which is spectacular for a player on a new team. He also has a +/- of +7.
Factor it all in, and what do you get? Three stars who clearly work well together, controlling the puck and hitting paydirt. An added bonus? All three are extremely capable defensive players, with Datsyuk and Zetterberg both being nominated for the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward and Datsyuk winning. This makes the "Motown Magic" a line for all situations, and a true coach's favourite.
THE SECOND LINE (also known as TWO CAPTAINS AND A KID, or WE WILL ROCK YOU)
My first impression when assembling this line was that it would be incredibly difficult to stop, but for very different reasons than the first line. While the first line is a more controlling line, this one is definitely more smashmouth. While the first line would rather poke the puck away and toss it around, this line would much rather hit you, take the puck, dump and chase, and crash the net.
This revolves entirely around the line's two wingers. Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla have reputations as two of the grittiest power forwards in the NHL. Morrow is a recent breakout stud, who expanded on a strong regular season with a strong playoffs. Iginla is an annual Hart candidate, who possesses incredible power and finesse moves. Both are captains of their respective teams, both have solidly improved over the years, both are unafraid to fight, both are clutch playoff performers, and both have a reputation of needing a play-making centre to succeed. Enter Paul Stastny.
Stastny is one of the best young playmakers in the NHL today, with a style similar to his Hall of Fame father Peter. He has been described as heady, efficient and intuitive by analysts. He scored a phenomenal 78 points in his rookie season, earning him a Calder nomination, and followed it with 71 points in 66 games and an All-Star berth. A strong skater with good vision, Stastny acts as the perfect set-up man for Iginla and Morrow's prodigious scoring talent. More appealing than his talent, however, is his paltry price tag: $850,000. This makes him a true bargain. The combination of the three go hand-in-hand, making this line equally as tough to stop as the previous one. Oh, did I mention that these guys are great defensively too? Iginla and Morrow are hard hitters, and Stastny always seems to be in position.
THE THIRD LINE (also known as THE UNDER-APPRECIATED LINE, or THE UNDERPAID LINE)
Why are these three guys so underpaid? Simple. Franzen and Pominville broke out last year, and Kopitar is still on his entry-level contract. This team is extremely lucky for that, because they gained three powerful scorers.
Why are these guys on a line together? Simple. There's no other place to put them. But when looking at this, you can see that these guys actually can work together quite nicely.
Kopitar, offensively, is a complete player who can only be described as a dynamo. He can pass very well, but his primary objective will be to utilize his sharp-shooting skills thanks to Pominville. Pominville is a skilled playmaker, notching 53 assists last year. He is a fast skater, and still is very capable of shooting the puck with his accurate wrist shot. Where does this leave Franzen? He'll be crashing the net, picking up every loose puck imaginable in front of the net and using his large body to create problems. Basically, he will be demonstrating why his nickname is "The Mule". He is also a very capable scorer, who can work his magic anywhere within the blue-line.
What does this lead to? Another match-up problem, with a dynamite scoring line facing a likely pair of third-line defenders. The three here are all potential All-Stars this year.
THE FOURTH LINE (also known as THE ENERGY LINE, THE GRIND LINE, or THE UNDER YOUR SKIN LINE)
Every successful team needs a line that can go on the ice, hustle, maybe start a fight, maybe chip in a goal, and dump and chase to perfection. This "Grind Line" may not be perfect, but it's damn close.
The key to my energy line is that they are all young players. Younger players generally have more legs (which could help them out later in the game), more willingness, and more boundless energy. For a line like this, those are essential qualities to have.
Alex Burrows is the classic agitator. He skates up and down the ice aggravating other players physically and mentally, and provoking them into taking penalties. However, the greatest part of his development is that he has now become a more reliable offensive player with 10 points already this season in 16 games. His energy, though, makes him a perfect fit for this line.
Staal isn't as clear-cut a pick, and doesn't exactly fit the classic mold of an energy-line player. However, it's more than possible that he can fit the role nicely. Staal is big, strong, and imposing on the ice, and is also a very solid defensive player. He is more that willing to knock bodies around, which makes him a good fit for this line.
Tootoo is not the best enforcer in the league, but he is definitely the fastest enforcer in the league. Tootoo plays the game as a little ball of hate, terrorizing opponents and occasionally scoring goals. He's also more than capable of dropping the gloves to protect other players, which is his main role. I've always been a huge fan of his hustle and guts, and he would be a natural here.
FIRST DEFENSIVE PAIR (also known as THE TWO TOWERS)
Zdeno Chara and Mike Komisarek are both huge. Komisarek is 6'5", Chara is 6'9". However, size doesn't matter if you can't do anything with it, and right here we have two of the top defensive defencemen in the NHL. These two guys can combine to shut down just about any offensive line in the NHL.
Komisarek is the quintessential defensive defender. He can hit hard, block shots, and take away the puck at all times. Not only can he do it, he's the best at it. Chara is a very hard hitter, a very sound positional player, and is armed with a heavy slapshot that would be perfect on the power play.
These guys are noted for using their size to snuff out opportunities. Putting them together makes the opportunities ever scarcer.
SECOND DEFENSIVE PAIR (also known as THE YOUNG GUNS)
Both these guys have developed into annual All-Stars. Keith is an extremely underrated player, who rarely appears in the news because he almost never makes mistakes. Armed with a solid shot, physicality that never goes overboard, and incredible hockey sense, Keith would be an asset for any team.
Coburn is famous for being the good half of one of the most lop-sided trades in NHL history. A very young player who only has room to improve, Coburn is armed with an incredible defensive game, and is able to produce offensively as well. He holds the WHL record for most goals in a game by a defenceman, with four.
Together, these two who are wise beyond their years make a capable defensive pair for all situations.
THIRD DEFENSIVE PAIR (also known as THE PUCK-MOVERS)
The two guys are both first-pair defenders who often don't get the recognition they deserve. Both are very skilled puck-movers, and both are also capable defensively.
Robidas and Oduya are here for three reasons:
1) In today's NHL, it always help to have defencemen who are capable of moving the puck up to the forwards to take advantage of the lack of a two-line pass. Even though theirtats may not show it, these guys are experts
2) These guys are capable of cycling the puck on power plays. With all of the rule changes designed to help offense, capitalizing on power plays is critical to staying one step ahead of the other team.
3) They're top-flight, reliable, and cheap.
Oduya, who is actually Swedish (?!?!?!), has been a top-liner for the New Jersey Devils ever since Brian Rafalski left. He's a smooth skater and is criminally unknown among hockey fans.
Robidas entered my consciousness during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not only was he very capable at starting plays and passing the puck, he also demonstrated a toughness not normally present among players his size by playing with a broken nose.
This was the easiest category for me to choose. It was made even easier by the fact that Miller is having an incredible start to this season.
In the NHL, most goaltenders are criminally overpaid. Rick DiPietro rakes in $4,500,000. Marty Biron earns $3,500,000. Jose Theodore earns $4,500,000. However, to find a goalie who has been a stud on an offensively oriented team, a model for consistency AND an incredible playoff performer is next to impossible to find at $2,667,000. Hence, Miller is a no-brainer.
Some may say that my backup selections involved no brains, however. There are very good reasons for them, though. Josh Harding has proven that he's successful with a defensively sound team (.927 SV% and 1.84 GAA this year), and at 24 has tons of room to improve. Auld, meanwhile, is a tough goaltender who can step in for any situation and is also having a great start to the season. Not a risk-taker, Auld is a goalie that doesn't make teams worry.
Milan Lucic is a budding star who is willing to score and muck it up. Kris Letang is a skilled offensive defenceman who has much room to improve.
I think this is a scrappy team, a team who will hustle, compete defensively, and is chock-full of improving youth. Who better to coach them than a former aggresive winger who has experience coaching youth to success in Lindy Ruff? His blunt style will force the team to be better, and his experience with young players in Buffalo will shoot them through the roof.
There you have it. That's my team. This article check in at 13,665 characters, by the way. If anybody else has a team, I would love to see it.
Oh, and my team's name? Give me the Detroit Red Wings. They're close enough, anyways.