Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Depth = Cup

After the deadline several teams made moves to beef up their depth forwards corps.  Depth forwards have shown their worth in the playoffs every year, and so this year will be no different.  This list is compiled now for playoff contending teams, for us all to look back on after the Cup Winner is named in June.

Criteria for bottom six rankings: Versatility, Offense, Physicality, Special Teams Play, Experience, Puck Battles, Speed, Face Offs, and play in all zones. 

It was very difficult to seperate.  So many teams had very solid groups offering very similar options and qualities but without further adieu, and with much deliberation, here they are:

1 - Philly: Too much talent, and tons of gritt and experience, plus extras if there are injuries.  Daniel Briere is techinically the third line centre to give an idea of the depth Philly has. Hartnell is strong two way player who can put up 30 goals, and his playoff beard is unrivaled. Ville Leino is a safety net for skill in the top six if need be and Blair Betts is a tremendous two way centre.
2 - Montreal: David Desharnais has emerged as an option in the top six, Pouliot has developed some gritt.  Jeff Halpern's experience is invaluable and we've seen Travis Moen's sandpaper in the playoffs too many times.  Matthew Darche and Tom Pyatt are great depth options with speed.  I was surprised but I couldn't dethrone Montreal from second.
3 - Chicago: This area became very difficult to seperate but Chicago won out on the basis of experience, gritt and speed, and ample talent in their bottom six with the likes of Dave Boland and Bryan Bickell, Fernando Pisani has been there before, and the newly acquired Mike Frolik will fit well once he gets up to speed. Vik Stalberg has replaced many of the depth guys that got the job done for Chicago last year.
4 - Boston: This group was bolstered by GM Peter Chiarelli in the days leading up to trade deadline day.  Newly acquired Rich Peverly and Chris Kelly only compliment a group that would've probably been top five anyway.  Their depth is great, but the size and offense of Mike Ryder, the emergence of Gregg Campbell and Shawn Thornton as gritty guys with some hands, and solid play of rookie Tyler Seguin make this a very formidable bottom six.
5 - Vancouver: GM Mike Gillis' down to the wire acquisitions of Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins on deadline day bumped his team up in to the top five.  You can't argue with the third line.  Second best faceoff man in Manny Malhotra, and big, fast hitting machines on his wing, Raffi Torres (former 20 goal man and cup finalist) and Janik Hansen.  Tanner Glass has played with a rotating group on the fourth line, but he'll do well with Lapierre who showed his worth with MTL in last year's playoff run, and Higgins, who could also step up as a top six if need be after re-discovering his game in FLA this year.
6 - San Jose: Possibly the toughest fourth line makes this group 6th overall just because teams will hate to face: Scott Nichol, Ben Eager and Jamal Mayers - experienced and physical.  Joe Pavelski will step up to the plate in the playoffs, and Kyle Wellwood was probably Vancouver's best forward in the playoffs two seasons ago.
7 - Minnesota: Again, we're splitting hairs from 3 - 11.  The more I analyze Minny's depth the more I like it.  Two words sum it up: Jon Madden.  Don't forget Chuck Kobasew healthy and ready to contribute, Cal Clutterbuck the hit machine with a goal scoring flair, Matt Cullen's experience and versatitlity.  This group is cemented in a playoff spot and they're for real.
8 - GM Glen Sather went out and picked up a rugged contributor in John Mitchell, but he'll have a tough time cracking the bottom six with names like Prust, Boyle, Avery, the fleet of foot Zucarello Aasen and of course Mr. Playoffs Chris Drury.
9 - Pittsburgh: They're top six is heavily depleted, even with the acquisitions of Jamie Benn and Alex Kovalev, so much so that a solid group of bottom six players may not be enough to get the job done, but these guys are ready for the challenge: Max Talbot who scored the only two goals in the deciding cup final game two years ago, Mike Rupp, Craig Adams and Aaron Asham are solid vets with physicality and smarts, and Dustin Jeffery and Chris Conner don't look out of place.  Jordan Staal has been thrust in to the top six, but he's really the third line centre of this group, and probably the best in that role in the game.
10-Calgary rounds out the top ten, and should they make it it will be in large part to the gritt and speed of their bottom six which include: Curtis Glencross and Tim Jackman.  Tom Kostopolous can agitate and the new addition of Freddy Modin brings experience and an option on the PP point. Mike Backlund is energetic and skilled, and the real Matt Stajan needs to please stand up.
11- Detroit: This team knows the importance of the bottom six probably more than anyone.  They had the great grind-line of the Avs/Wings rivalry days.  Todays version brings a little more skill in guys like Mursak, and Drew Miller, Darren Helm and Justin Adbelkader could all switch jersey's and no one would notice; their dogged pursuit of pucks is probably the best as a group of all teams in playoff contention. Ben eaves is a solid two way guy, and Kris Draper, the orginial grinder, is still getting the job done.
12- Dallas: Adam Burish has got a cup ring, and this year he's not only gritty but goal inclined.  Paired with Steve Ott these guys are simply hated, and rightfully so. They skate on a third line that features Jamie Langenbrunner, who helped this team to their first cup a decade ago. The fourth line brings even more gritt with Brian Sutherby and Kris Barch, and Raymond Sawada might just stick.
13- Buffalo: Griere and Neidermyer are an experience depth combo, and McCormick and Kaleta have some sand paper, Paul Gaustad can play a good two way game but the much maligned tim connoly isn't a great fit as third line centre.
14- Pahlson, Clark have experience, boll brings physicallity and this lunch box group have chipped in offensively too
15- Tampa Bay: Adam Hall, Dana Tyrell and Nate Thompson area  good trio, and Dominic Moore is the consumate bottom six guy.  This group could get the job done.
16-Nashville: Dumont and Ward have some offense but this group is kind of a hodge-podge.  The whole team is like a bottom six forwards core so they will survive.
17-LA: Handzus, Brown and Clifford are a solid trio, and there's enough speed and gritt in this group to go all the way.
18- PHX: Belanger and Stempniak are going to drive teams nuts and make it tough to match as their offense in the bottom six is solid.  Taylor Pyatt has scored a few goals this year and Biz-Nasty is going to be a playoff monster.
19-ATL: Thorburn, Cormier and Stapleton are a great gritty fourht, buttoo much flash and not enough experience in this group if they even make it.
20-CAR: Young and small, they make up for it in speed, but not enough.
21-WSH: Move to add Arnott cost top faceoff man Dave Steckel. Young group is willing, but are they able?
22-TOR: Armstrong and Brent are great...little thin after that.
23-NJ: Who are these guys?  NJ has made a late push but are lacking in the depth forward dept.

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