7.23.2008

The Go-To Guys

Just a fun comparison, the go-to guys for each team and how much they impact their team.

Anaheim Ducks: The obvious go-to guy in Anaheim right now? Ryan Getzlaf. The 2003 1st rounder has shown that he can be a star. In his first three seasons, he scored 39, 58, and 82 points. Now, logically, his production can't keep going up forever. However, if he keeps his production between 70-90 points, he'll be in the NHL for a good 10 years as a legitimate offensive threat.

Atlanta Thrashers: Some people say the greatest Russian is Ovechkin. Some nominate Malkin. But Ilya Kovalchuk, the 1st overall pick in 2001, is making his own case for that title. Consider that in 6 seasons, he's only fallen short of 30 goals once, in his rookie year. In every season after that, he's scored at least 38 goals, reaching 52 twice. I'm not suggesting that Ovechkin (minimum 46 goals in 3 seasons) and Malkin (33 and 47 goals in 2 seasons) won't keep up their awesome pace, but Kovalchuk has been as consistent longer.

Boston Bruins: A few players could be slotted into this role for Boston, but I would go with Marc Savard. He's not a spectacular goal-scorer, but since joining the Bruins, he's averaged 68.5 assists over two seasons. With wingers like Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, and now Michael Ryder, Savard will be a force to be reckoned with.

Buffalo Sabres: About two years ago, you would've had a tough time distinguishing a single offensive star for the Sabres between Danny Briere, Chris Drury, and Maxim Afinogenov. Nowadays, Drury and Briere are gone and Afinogenov has lost some of his touch. In their absence, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have shown that their offensive skills are more than just secondary. I pick Derek Roy as Buffalo's go-to guy, but only for the reason that he had more points. Both Roy and Pominville are skill players who put up big numbers and play an important role for their team.

Calgary Flames: The Flames look to Jarome Iginla whenever they get into a tough spot. For the past nine seasons (not including Iginla's rookie and sophmore seasons), 'Iggy' has consistently hit 30-50 goals, reaching a career high of 52 in 01-02. He led them to the Finals in 2004, and Calgary fans are hoping he can take them there again in 08-09.

Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal. No doubt, he's a mainstay on the top line for Carolina for a long time now. Last season, he was the only Cane to play all 82 games, and he scored 82 points as the leading scorer. No other player on the roster can be that consistent.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks have several players who could be the go-to guy. Brian Campbell will be a top defenseman. Patrick Kane was last season's leading scorer. But Jonathan Toews, recently named team captain, is probably going to have the most impact with Chicago next season. He scored 24 goals and 54 points in 64 games in his rookie season, and stories about his leadership are all over the hockey world.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs had an injury-plagued season last year, so a go-to guy is hard to predict. Two catalysts, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic, only managed 66 and 44 games, respectively. However, Sakic still managed 40 points and has the reputation of a hard-working leader. Stastny is being groomed as the next Sakic, and has had seasons of 78 and 71 points, despite the injuries in his second year.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash has been the man in Columbus ever since his first season when he scored 17 goals and 39 points. Under new coach Ken Hitchcock, Nash has kept up his offensive skills while improving on his defensive play. Soon, he'll be one of the better complete players in the league.

Dallas Stars: In the playoffs, this would've gone to Marty Turco. However, I'm basing this report around offensive players, so Brenden Morrow gets the trophy. Last season was his first full year as captain, and he responded with career highs of 32 goals, 74 points, and led the Stars to a spot in the Conference Finals.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings look to Henrik Zetterberg for high-octane offense. Last season, while being shuffled between the first and second lines as Detroit looked to spread offense, 'Zetts' scored 43 goals and 92 points. He'll put up similar numbers for a long time in Detroit.

Edmonton Oilers: In a season of transition, during which a foundation of youth was set, Andrew Cogliano emerged as a go-to guy for the Oil. His three straight overtime game-winners are an unforgettable achievement, and scoring 45 points during his rookie season is respectable on its own. The next Gretzky? Doubtful, but the University of Michigan grad will be a key cog in the Oilers system.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are another team transitioning to youthfulness. Former go-to center Olli Jokinen was traded to Phoenix, so now Florida will look to right-winger Nathan Horton for consistent offense. For the past three seasons, he's scored around 30 goals, and with likely more top line time, he could score even more.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are hoping that with their current abundance of youth (Kopitar, Frolov, Johnson, Hickey, Doughty, Tuebert, Bernier, Purcell, Moller, etc., etc.) they won't have to rely on just one go-to player. As of last year, that player was Anze Kopitar. King Kopitar increased on his rookie season total of 61 points by scoring 77, including 32 goals. He'll get much needed help from Doughty and Purcell this coming season.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild, despite several changes up front, will still depend on the electrifying antics of Marian Gaborik for a win each night. Last year, Gaborik tallied 42 goals and 83 points, both career highs. He'll be a mainstay on Minnesota's top line as long as they can keep him.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs looked to Saku Koivu a lot since he joined the team, but last season, it was Alexei Kovalev who led the Canadiens during a season in which some thought Montreal could win the Cup and Kovalev could be MVP. He scored 35 goals and 84 points, playing in all 82 games.

Nashville Predators: The Predators recently had a star exodus, but a solid core remains. Originally, I was going to give Alexander Radulov this title, but due to his suspension by the IIHF, he might not play next season. Therefore, Jason Arnott is Nashville's go-to guy. He's not just a replacement, either. Arnott was tied as the Preds leading scorer with 28 goals and 72 points in 79 games.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils have two players that can be go-to scorers. Patrik Elias was New Jersey's go-to guy for several years, but he appears to have been overtaken by Zach Parise. The son of former NHL-er J.P. Parise, the young Devil posted career highs of 32 goals and 65 points last season. He could produce more if the Devils' system becomes less focused on defense.

New York Islanders: The Isles are struggling, and looking for a leader. In an 07-08 season that featured ZERO 50-points scorers on the Islanders roster, the one bright spot was the production of rookie Kyle Okposo. The UM college product scored 2 goals and 5 points in 9 games. Hopefully he can produce like that for a full season.

New York Rangers: The Rangers lost a former go-to guy in Jaromir Jagr, but Chris Drury is always a pleasant name to have present on the bench when game situations get tight. Drury scored 25 goals and 58 points last season, despite third line time (Brandon Dubinsky earned majority playing time with Jagr on the first line, Gomez took the second). He's always a factor in the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators: In my opinion, Dany Heatley is still the main offensive catalyst for the Senators. In three seasons coming off the lockout, Heatley has scored 141 goals. Last season, he might have totaled 50 once again if not for an injury that limited him to 71 games (He had scored 50 in 82 games twice). The Sens will look to him again this year if they want to reach the playoffs.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers can finally rely on Mike Richards for key performances in big games. Last season, the young center scored 75 points in 73 games, including 28 goals. He was the team's leading scorer, and will probably play a similar role this year.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Desert Dogs found a new hero last season in Peter Mueller, a rookie who scored 22 goals and 54 points in 81 games. Mueller will lead a cast of young players next season that includes Martin Hanzal and Daniel Carcillo. He's already been touted as Phoenix's next captain when Shane Doan retires.

Pittsburgh Penguins: On a team that went so far in the playoffs last year, with so many big names, you'd think it was impossible to name a single go-to guy. Unfortunately, that list has been narrowed down to just two stars that will definitely lead the team offense-wise. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are two stars that can take this team to the top despite who might be the supporting cast. Last season, Malkin stole the spotlight, playing all 82 games and placing second for the Art Ross trophy with 47 goals and 106 points. Crosby suffered from a high-ankle sprain that only allowed him to play in 53 games. Despite this, he scored 72 points, second on his team.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks look to Joe Thornton every game when they need scoring. A passing master, Thornton scored 96 points last year and 67 of those were assists. He puts up similar numbers every season, and he'll continue to do so for San Jose while he remains in the lineup.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues may have found their new go-to sniper in Brad Boyes, who scored 43 goals among 65 points last season. Boyes was an unexpected top goal-scorer in the NHL, and seeing as he was the only Blue to even reach 30 goals, they'll need him to continue that strong play.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Without a second of hesitation, Vincent Lecavalier is the man in Tampa. He topped the league in goal-scoring in 06-07 with 52 goals, and his 108 points were easily a career best. Last season, he managed 40 goals and 92 points on a last-place Lightning team. However, thanks to that finish, Lecavalier will welcome the help of rookie Steven Stamkos, who looks to be, well, the next Vincent Lecavalier.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs are desperate for a new hero. For the longest time, Mats Sundin was the heart and soul and scoring prowess of the Leafs, but he is now considering other teams or even retirement. The Leafs are hoping a leader can come out of Nik Antropov, Alexander Steen, or Jiri Tlusty. Antropov is the most likely candidate, having scored a career high 26 goals and 56 points, while Steen is said to have leadership abilities comparable to Jonathan Toews. Tlusty was the Leafs most promising rookie last season.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks not only have the luck to own two go-to players, but those two go-to players are also twins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are clearly the foundation in Vancouver now. Henrik is a center in the mold of Joe Thornton or Marc Savard; last season he scored 15 goals and 61 assists for 76 points. Daniel is slightly more talented in the goal scoring department; he finished 07-08 with 29 goals and 45 assists for 74 points.

Washington Capitals: This team has the most obvious choice for go-to player. Alexander Ovechkin has led the Capitals since his rookie season of 05-06. Last year, he blew away the NHL, scoring 65 goals and 112 points to lead the entire NHL in both categories. He even boosted the Capitals to a division-leading finish, although the Caps fell to the Flyers in a 7-game first round match-up.


That's my opinion on the go-to guy for every team. I know some teams (New Jersey, for one) rely more on amazing goaltending then a strong offense, but this blog was to review the strongest offfensive player on each team. Please comment or critique, thanks.