Ladies and gentlemen, after I constructed a math system last year to try to project numbers and the worth of players in a mathematical spectrum, I made a couple of tweaks here and there and bring you a taste of what’s to come. Not only will I give you the best and the worst, I will be highlighting the players moving in deals to see which team wins according to a system based on math.
Keep in mind, this system has its limitations. I didn’t work on special teams and so all the players are factored according to how much they’ve played, even if some of those minutes were offensively challenged minutes. Also, using a system like this, as seen in Moneyball, does not win you championships, but it is pretty good at giving you a good regular season team. I’ve completed the forwards, I’ll also in the future be working on defensemen, goaltenders, and best teams overall, hopefully all in time for a good 82 game season!
The projected numbers are the strength of their ability according to last year’s projections gone through a few filters, assuming they play on average teams.
So without further ado, I present to you the 50 best players going into 2012-2013.
Rank : Player: GP: AP: +/-P: Why:
1 Sidney Crosby 28 100 48 Obviously what affected Crosby’s stats is that he only played part of the season. I estimate he’d have gotten more goals, maybe a few less assists, but his +/- would have evened out a little from physical wear and tear. I imagine a game or two against the New Jersey Devils and he’d have gotten a few minus points!
2 Steven Stamkos 62 38 15 No one in the game scores better than this guy except Crosby when Crosby decides to shoot more. I once referred to him as this generation’s Brett Hull two years ago, and believe he still merits that distinction. Even playing with that Swiss cheese Tampa defense squad, he still comes out of plus player... amazing.
3 Evgeni Malkin 49 58 10 It’s difficult to say whether playing second line helps or hinders him, because he’d be the all star on any other team in the league and would probably win Hart trophies for them, too. He strives with Crosby out of the Line-up... which doesn't make much sense. This guy’s got everything to his game... reminds you of Mario Lemieux, or Todd Bertuzzi in his prime... except with neither’s temper.
4 Jordan Eberle 44 54 26 They say that when people have a gap in their front teeth, it’s a sign of wealth. This guy’s already a national treasure for what he did at those world juniors. And he didn’t have to be drafted first overall like his three predecessors on this rank table (well okay, not Malkin, but 9 out of 10 other years and he’d been first). More highlight reel goals with those hands that could weave silk, please!
5 Tyler Seguin 35 46 26 He’s fit, loves the game, and has eyes for plays that many others don’t. Brian Burke probably chisels his teeth when he sees Seguin playing for the Bruins and being a part of one of the best first lines in the league.
6 Jonathan Toews 41 39 22 Chicago’s captain’s season was cut short in February, but he’d have been solid all the way through the season with the heart he has. Why does my mind always continue to pronounce his name the way it’s spelled, though?
7 Jamie Benn 34 49 19 I really didn’t know much about this kid until TSN put him on the best young players in the league. Then I saw his stat projection last year and thought, “This guy’s gonna be pretty good.” Still... ask around, you’re still going to get “Who’s Jamie Benn?” Players sort of disappear in Dallas and Phoenix.
8 John Tavares 37 59 3 I don’t know what it is about this guy, he just reminds me of Joe Sakic. If the Islanders can fix their arena situation and give him a supporting cast that’s competent defensively, he’s going to win them a Stanley Cup. He’s just got that champion’s face.
9 Patrick Sharp 33 36 29 Chicago hit some nasty rifts this year, but one guy who’s helped them hold it together is Sharp, who not only helps you laugh on the ice when you score a goal and he’s one of the guys you’re hugging, but also helps you laugh off the ice when he’s ordering a ridiculous amount of room service for your room as a prank.
10 Taylor Hall 45 43 -1 Taylor is still a very young player like Tyler, and so the debate rages on, because right now, this guy has rockets equipped to his skates and is rated the third best goal-scorer right now. I see 50 goals in this guy’s future, supposing he can play a full season. Please don’t drop the gloves again, Taylor, please.
11 Alexander Steen 31 27 38 St. Louis’ forwards are a penetrating presence, and while they don’t always flurry the offense, they sure don’t let you score on them very much. Hitchcock had his lions tamed and doing rain dances around roosters. Steen’s stats were padded by his not playing a full season, sure, but who wouldn’t want a player like that on their first line, making sure it always outscores the opponent, even if it’s 1-0?
12 Evander Kane 40 36 15 It’s hard to appreciate this guy’s abilities as a hockey player when he gets lost in Winnipeg. He’s a quick skater with a quick shot and tough as they come. Not many other guys out there fooled Brodeur with a quick shot and right-hooked Matt Cooke to make him crumble like a stale cookie in the same season.
13 Tyler Ennis 32 41 20 I’m starting to wonder if Pegula’s the best thing to happen to the Sabres or the worst. They have a great development system that was gated off when they brought in all of those useless longterm contracts. Keep breeding guys like Tyler Ennis and you’re sure to be a champ one day... okay, it’s Buffalo, so maybe not.
14 Radim Vrbata 37 29 24 He and Ray Whitney this year were a match made in heaven. This is proof that good chemistry can make you look real good. I’m not so sure this hobbit’s going to repeat his effort this year with Gandalf the Wizard gone to Dallas.
15 Jason Spezza 33 49 10 I love Jason Spezza... it’s too bad he’s not as loose lipped as he used to be! Poor guy had to endure Jacques Martin bagging him on his defensive game and rendering him insecure. He should be secure, he can zip a wrist shot top shelf or feather it to someone else who will: all Michalek has to do is stand there with his stick on the ice.
16 Nicklas Backstrom 32 68 -6 Then again, maybe Backstrom is the product of a Spezza if you let him do whatever the heck he wants. After all, he is projected as a hundred point getter on an AVERAGE team. If Ovechkin gets his act together, maybe we can see these two guys back in the race for the Art Ross and see Washington score 300 goals in a season again. I totally miss those Capitals.
17 Claude Giroux 28 66 1 Okay, Giroux is good. He has one of the best PPGs this year, he is a hell of a playmaker and a gifted scorer. However, keep in mind, he played for a team that was so packed with offensive talent that his numbers may have been bolstered a tad. Still, he’s going to be in the race for the Art Ross, and he’ll get to play his biggest competition to stop them from doing it 6 times this year.
18 David Perron 34 34 22 Part of the St. Louis bruisers that’ll keep you kissing the glass in the corner rather than scoring goals. When they stand in front of the net, they usually get their way as well.
19 Loui Eriksson 27 47 20 I don’t think we can call this guy underrated anymore. That can only last for so long.
20 Matt Moulson 39 36 10 Speaking of underrated, if the New York Islanders would get their act together, they could harness the talent of this rugged goalscorer. Moulson and Tavares are two beams of light in an otherwise pale landscape... but with Ryan Strome sure to make the jump to the NHL, perhaps with Griffin Reinhart, help may be arriving.
21 Michael Ryder 38 29 18 I like to call him Ezy Ryder, because he makes it easy for you to play with him. He’s my dad’s favourite player, and with reason. He finishes off many of his goals, and he works hella hard to keep em out of your net. You see that glove save against Montreal? Why did they ever let him go?
22 Ray Whitney 22 49 25 Gandalf is in Dallas now and may well be orchestrating plays with the likes of Jamie Benn and Loui Ericsson to pad their stats. I just wonder how much is left in the tank, because while he is a wizard, like many wizards, he’s old!
23 Marian Hossa 28 47 17 This is the kind of guy you sneak onto your second line and laugh whenever he gets on the scoresheet while other teams continue to deny his existence. He went to the Stanley Cup finals three years in a row... he’s the ultimate definition of a hired gun.
24 Marian Gaborik 40 34 9 Some say that Gaborik may have slowed Richards down, and I’m wondering if it wasn’t the other way around. Playing for Tortz probably makes him (and us) feel like he’s scoring ten goals, but he’ll still keep to his usual forty.
25 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 31 58 1 I can still hear the Edmonton fans crying foul when they decided to have him play in the NHL in his rookie season. I saw the drive and determination he had to play in the NHL and people thought it unfair that I said they should keep him up if he scores 9 points in 9 games. He’s been nearly a PPG player all season. I wish he would scrap one of his last names, though. Nugent is good enough.
26 Anze Kopitar 27 54 10 Anze’s always been an offensively dynamic player, but playing with a rook like Brown has given him more space to use his speed to rush down ice from a breakout pass. I hate him for that ot goal against Jersey, but only because I know he deaked the hell out of Brodeur when he did it.
27 Brad Marchand 31 30 25 I call him this generation’s equivalent of Claude Lemieux. Not only can he get in your face and pester you, you’ll be chasing him around next shift while he scores a goal in front of you to drive you even more nuts. There is not a team in the league that wouldn’t want this angry squirrel playing for them... especially in the playoffs.
28 Max Pacioretty 39 38 4 It was October last year that I discovered that he and Desharnais are the best players for Montreal (outside of the crease). They were playing third line minutes at that point, yet producing way more than their ice time dictated. He’s one of the best goal-getters in the league and Desharnais compliments him well. Feel better, dude!
29 Phil Kessel 38 47 -5 Doing the Kessel run in hockey is rushing up the ice in about 2.3 seconds. When he uses his speed, goaltenders find themselves out of position when he rifles it upstairs or throws it over to Lupul, who’s gasping, gripping his lower back, and trying to keep up.
30 Joffrey Lupul 30 51 5 I am happy to see him back in a starring role for a hockey team. I mean... he was traded for Chris Pronger twice! He’s got to be good. Burke takes chances... sure he may have lost a little on the Kessel deal, but he won big time on the Lupul deal(s).
31 Teddy Purcell 27 46 15 It’s got to be tough playing for the Lightning who are about as defenceless as a spider turned onto its back. This guy’s coping just fine. Remember when it was St. Louis and Lecavalier? Now it’s Stamkos and Purcell.
32 Mikko Koivu 19 51 23 Everyone made a big deal about Parise signing onto Minnesota, but what they don’t realize is that comparing the stats, this guy is still their star player. It’s not that he sucks, it’s that the rest of his team leaves more to be desired, and he’s forgotten in the process. Ten bucks says he out-produces Parise this year, barring injuries.
33 James Neil 40 41 -4 James Neil is a weapon, but given how much the Pens were out producing their opponents, you have to wonder whether this guy’s cherry picking his points. Playing with Malkin may have also bolstered his stats. Remember Rob Brown?
34 Andy McDonald 33 40 7 Easily one of the most underrated players in the league. Not only is he steady at getting you points, he doesn’t get shut down in the playoffs either. He was Anaheim’s offensive catalyst in their cup run. He’s just one of those players that score those off-timed goals that wreck the other team’s offensive momentum. It wasn’t just size that beat the Senators that year, it was this guy!
35 Henrik Sedin 14 67 15 He’d be much higher if he’d stop using his twin sonar to find his brother. Given that his playmaking skills are grade A, he’ll see those numbers go down if he doesn’t continue to score.
36 Gabriel Landeskog 27 37 22 I call him the Swedish Iginla. It’s not that this guy is just a captain type player (Colorado just told themselves “who we kiddin? He’s our captain”), he was a plus 20 on a team full of minus players. Just imagine what he’ll be like when Colorado starts prospering again! And he’s only 19, but plays like a 26 year old. He’ll likely to be top ten next year.
37 Daniel Sedin 32 39 10 Now Daniel’s finding a way to score! It’s difficult to explain how identical twins produce a playmaker and a sniper, but to me if they divided that role up a little more, they’d go back to being 100 point players and being top ten players.
38 Joe Thornton 18 58 14 I never understood why this guy never honed his goalscoring abilities. He’s a lot like Jason Spezza and sure, he’s got great eyes, but man, if he took shots, he’d be so dangerous. He’s a case of passes-too-much and it’s starting to show as he and the Sharks are becoming less of a factor as years go by.
39 Carl Hagelin 23 39 23 This is one of those unsung heroes for the Rangers during the season and in the playoffs. With the steady king in goal and guys like this on your team, you won’t let the Canucks take another president’s trophy away from you.
40 Patrice Bergeron 20 38 28 You’re playing the Bruins, and after Seguin and Marchand are keeping you latched to your zone, guys like Bergeron and Lucic come out and score against tired players. Neither he nor the Bruins mind: their unrelenting forecheck with guys like this centering their lines leads to wins.
41 Pavel Datsyuk 20 49 17 I think the puck orbits this guy’s stick... it’s about the only way I can explain it. Or maybe if you broke it, you’d find the plume of a phoenix inside of it. Either way, he’s aging a little, and probably could tickle the twine a little more.
42 Johan Franzen 31 29 19 I don’t know! If I was playing with Pavel Datsyuk. I mean, do his linemates do him justice? I was never quite sure of that. But Franzen is capable of making a game go from bad to worse for you if he scores hat tricks on a regular basis.
43 Eric Cole 36 26 13 I can’t believe I’m writing this guy’s name on this list ahead of Ovechkin and Kovalchuk, but the system is the system, and power forwards like this playing with goal scorers will leave them looking like a pretty solid 4 year signing. He wasn’t the reason the Canadiens bombed last year: their bad management was.
44 Kris Versteeg 30 40 9 He may not seem that good, but he was a total nightmare for New Jersey in the spring (and the catalyst to many of my curses). He’s a competitor and a great fit in Florida.
45 Scott Hartnell 33 27 15 He may fall down a lot, but in doing so, rose up my charts. He’s part of the reason the Flyers are so tough to play again. Give them a power play, park this guy on the door step, and let the goals begin.
46 Mathieu Perrault 33 29 12 WHO?! Even with Ovechkin not playing the top of his game, Washington still somehow made it by the Boston Bruins with guys like this. Maybe he’s going to earn himself some first line minutes this year.
47 Logan Couture 34 37 0 Logan is a rising power in the NHL, Marleau’s heir. Okay, so MAYBE playing with Thornton bolstered him a little bit, and maybe his defensive game could use a little work, but he still finds the net aplenty.
48 Joe Pavelski 30 29 15 Speaking of Sharks who can score, this guy not only does it, but makes sure the other team isn’t freewheeling in his zone either. He’s the Joe people worry about in the Shark’s zone.
49 Alex Tanguay 18 50 14 Matter of fact is, Calgary sucked last year. You drive three hours north, and they got a great farm team. Calgary’s farm would look like a swamp in comparison. Aside Sven Baertschi, they got nothing. But they do have a playmaker that still cares about winning in Tanguey.
50 Justin Williams 25 42 8 This guy’s been showing up on score sheets for years and you continue to tell yourself that he’s not that good. Thing is, he’s a steady point getter.
Left off the list are a few notables, and here is why:
- #55: Alex Ovechkin: His point production keeps dropping and he isn’t the force he used to be.
- #71: Patrick Elias: Yes, he was 12th in the league in scoring, but he used to be a two-way force. The Devils were not a two-way team, but a pressing forecheck, win by one goal, lose by three goals type of team. And while they won more, you have to wonder about the Devils’ two way game since Kovalchuk arrived on the team.
- #75: Jerome Iginla: Yes, he carries the Flames, but even his intensity couldn’t save his defensive game this year.
- #93: Corey Perry: Reigning Hart and Rocket Richard trophy winner sees his numbers flop when Getzlaf has a terrible season.
- #99: Rick Nash: I’m not so sure he’s as good as people make him out to be.
- #114: Zach Parise: Given he’s one of the league leaders in ice time, the 69 points he put up was less than impressive, and he, as usually a dominant 2 way player, was playing for a team that kept trying to hang on to leads rather than build on them.
- #118: Ilya Kovalchuk: Fifth in the league in scoring, first in the league in ice time, first in the league in give-aways, -13 projected plus minus, and this isn’t counting the fact he was scoring goals short-handed. His defensive game still has a ways to go. Henrique saved Parise and Kovalchuk from an even worse fate.
- #178: Matt Duchene: He apologized to fans at the start of the year for having an off season, and he went out and had an even worse one. I hope he finds his game again!
- #203: Ryan Getzlaf: He suffered, and so did Anaheim.
- #420: Nino Niederreiter: He was absolutely atrocious last year and his confidence must be shot. One goal, -29 in 50ish games. Talk about not living up to hype.