Being the unofficial “Bible” of its sport, The Hockey News is to be taken seriously; which I do, believe me, I do.
But that doesn’t mean that The Maven and The Hockey Bible have to agree all the time; especially when the time is now.
To be specific, I will now take issue with THN’s listing of the National Hockey League’s best players just released in its annual Yearbook.
For starters, The Hockey Bible places Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin atop the ladder and there’s no doubting his excellence; except that he’s not number one in my book. Moody, often out-to-lunch while on the ice, Malkin’s skill is all there but I question his focus and dependability. The Man was even minus-1 in the Penguins’ speedy playoff exit. Not good!
MAVEN’S TOP PICK: STEVEN STAMKOS
Here’s a maturing superstar essentially surrounded by mediocrity and fading aces such as Marty St. Louis and Vince Lecavalier. Nonetheless, Stamkos scored 60 goals, plus 37 assists virtually carrying the Lightning all season. His work ethic, adaptability and shot all surpass those of Malkin. Steve’s shooting versatility extends from all parts of the ice.
At least THN put Stamkos in second place, but it then followed with Sidney Crosby who once belonged at the very top but now is a questionable commodity because of his spate of concussion problems.
Like teammate Malkin, Crosby’s first-round playoff sayonara was significant. As far as I’m concerned when it comes to Sid The Kid, THN is living in the past.
MAVEN’S SECOND PICK: CLAUDE GIROUX
Talk about a kid coming out of nowhere, Giroux is emerging as one of the most multi-talented forwards since Pavel Bure. One could say that the French-Canadian authors the best passes sinceWayne Gretzky and certainly thinks on the ice in The Great One’s manner. What’s more this Flyer is getting better by the year, extending his multi-dimension abilities to goal-scoring as well.
THN put Giroux in fourth place, deciding that Number Five on its list belonged to the Stanley Cup-winning goalie, Jonathan Quick. No question, there’s plenty of arithmetic to endorse the Kings’ rubber-stopper as the NHL’s best goalie. But there’s more to mere numbers and a Cup when it comes to goalie-rating and that explains my disagreement.
MAVEN’S THIRD PICK: HENRIK LUNDQVIST
Hey, he wasn’t voted The Vezina Trophy because the experts were blindfolded. Unlike Quick, The King has survived the test of time. No one-season wonder, he! But I’ll go a stop farther and point out that there’s no showboating with Henny who happens to rank among the very best at stopping Shootouts ever since that extra-added attraction was added to the NHL marquee. We’ll know more about Quick once he plays as much as Lundqvist has.
To my astonishment, The Hockey Bible inserted Quick’s teammate Drew Doughty right behind the goalie in its sixth place. This is a selection that I really don’t get when you consider that Doughty didn’t awake from his regular season slumber until the playoff alarm went off. What’s more — and worse — is that Drew drew a minus-2 over the season. Ugh!
MAVEN’S FOURTH PICK: ZDENO CHARA
Let’s start with the fact that we have a defender who was plus-33 over 79 regular season game. That elevates the Slovakian ace a full 35 ahead of Doughty in plus-minus.
Add to that Chara’s versatility and the asset of intimidating not merely with his ferocity but with size alone. There never in NHL history has been a player who uses his total size (6-foot-9, 255 pounds) to such advantage at all points on the rink.
In disagreeing with THN’s selection of Zach Parise as the NHL’s seventh-best player, I base my call on having seen the ex-Devil-now-Wild right from his very first move as a rookie in New Jersey. I love watching Zach’s dipsy-doodle game and his never-give-up attitude on the ice. But when a player on a high-grade club like the Devils is minus-5 in the regular season and minus-8 over a run through the Stanley Cup Final, well, something is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Defensively at least; and that counts, too.
MAVEN’S FIFTH PICK: JONATHAN TOEWS
Like the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, Toews is my idea of a “Captains’ Captain.” I’ll take the Blackhawks’ leader’s I.Q. — and that includes intelligence as well as intensity quotient — over Parise’s any day or night. Jonathan may not be the world’s greatest scorer but, then again, he doesn’t have to be; not when he finishes plus-17 over the regular semester and plus-four in the playoffs. Given a choice between Parise and Toews for my team, I go with the latter although — as the expense of being redundant — Parise always is a pleasure to watch; except of course when the opposition is scoring!
I rest my case. Whose picks do you like — The Bible’s or The Maven’s?