NHL's best forwards in tough situations: Datsyuk, Zetterberg … Gomez?

goalmez.jpgEvery now and then, we’ll try to go deeper than the every day stats talk you normally see. After all, hockey is a sport where a lot happens that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard. One of the increasingly useful ways to gauge a player’s usefulness (and transcendence) comes in looking at who they play against and in which situations they come onto the ice. 

Oilers blog the Copper & Blue is one of the leading sites for hockey stats nerds like myself and they didn’t disappoint today with a post regarding which players thrive amid the toughest competition.

It’s not too surprising to see Detroit’s brilliant forward duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top of the list since they’re often considered elite two-way players. Other names like Eric Staal, Mike Richards and Daniel Alfredsson make plenty of sense too. That doesn’t mean that the list lacks surprises though, including ones that could change your viewpoints of a few oft-critiqued (or completely ignored) players. Here’s a few of Derek Zona’s observations.

I said last year that I was stunned that Stephen Weiss was the 4th-best player on the list. This year, he’s up to 3rd. I took a deeper look at Weiss and noted that he was outscoring the biggest names in the game each year and I still find it hard to believe just how good Weiss is and how under-recognized he is.

Scott Gomez takes a beating from NHL fans for his lack of goal-scoring and Bob Gainey took a beating for the trade that he made to acquire Gomez, but Gomez is the goods. He may not score goals, but his defensive prowess and playmaking ability are top notch. His performance in New York was supposed to be a by-product of Henrik Lundqvist, but the numbers in Montreal show differently. Gomez is an even strength demon.

Jochen Hecht is one of those bargains on this list. Though he’s thought of as a role player in a very specifically defined and extremely narrow scope, in reality, Hecht is an excellent even strength player.

Seeing Weiss at No. 3 on that list is possibly the most surprising development, as he seems (on paper at least) to be something of a bust in a parade of drafting blunders by the Florida Panthers. While I have noticed that Scott Gomez was playing well in the playoffs, I’m also among the hordes of bloggers who lampooned his huge contract. (And let’s not be too hasty to say it still isn’t a bit rich.)

Stats aren’t everything, but they can often provide a crucial dollop of cold, hard reality while raw perception can often be plagued by personal prejudices. I, for one, will have to hesitate the next time I make fun of Gomez or Weiss. Not to say that I won’t make fun of them again altogether but … baby steps, right?

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    Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

    Mike Richards

    The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

    Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

    Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

    “Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

    Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

    • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
    • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
    • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

    … Yeah.

    Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

    Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?

    Coyotes exploit another lousy outing from Quick

    Jonathan Quick

    Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.

    Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

    Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.

    Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).


    A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:

    Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.

    It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.


    After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.

    Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.