Are defensive forwards overrated?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Ogopogo*, Jan 26, 2006.

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  1. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    The way I see it, great offensive forwards are much more valuable than great defensive forwards. A Gretzky, Lemieux or Lafleur are significantly more valuable to their teams than players like Gainey, Carbonneau or Lehtinen. Most players can be good defensively, it is a skill they can learn - it takes something special to win scoring titles. Take a look at the Hart trophy balloting over the years, the one dimensional defensive player like Gainey was never seriously considered for the NHL's MVP. Honestly, would you take one of: Spezza, Staal, Forsberg, Jagr, Heatley, Alfredsson, Crosby, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Hossa, Iginla, Naslund, Sakic, Datsyuk, Thornton or would you rather have the BEST defensive forward in the NHL - Kris Draper?

    As well, if a forward blows his defensive assignment, he has two defensemen and a goaltender to cover his butt. He is not the last line of defense by a long shot, his role as a defensive player is almost more of a bonus and a helper to the d and the goaltender.

    If a defensive player is truly valuable, he should receive some consideration for the Hart trophy. Even the best defensive players in the history of the game, guys like Gainey, Carbonneau, Tikkanen and Lehtinen have never even finished in the top 7 in the Hart trophy balloting. Players like Trottier and Yzerman who were very good defensively were among the vote leaders many times but, they had a great offensive game to go with their defense.

    Not trying to bash defensive players, they are good to have on a team. Just saying that they might be much less valuable than many people seem to think. I see posts on occasion that bash one dimensional scorers but, in reality, a one-dimensional scorer, most times is a lot more valuable than a one-dimensional checker.
     
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  2. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    If you'd rather have a Spezza than a Gainey then there's no reasoning with you.

    But they've been in Conn Smythe trophy consideration.... a MUCH more significant honour.

    Playoff warriors are worth much more than a Selanne or a Naslund.
     
  3. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    Conn Smythe is a significant award, and in order to capture it, Gainey also had a good offensive playoff run that year. The Conn Smythe is not MUCH more significant than the Hart, I consider them equals.

    We have the advantage of seeing Gainey's entire career at this point, Spezza has not even played one full season (Riding the pine under Martin was not exactly a full season). After Spezza has retired it will be a fair comparison but, the way it looks, Spezza will do very well for himself.
     
  4. Snap Wilson

    Snap Wilson Registered User

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    You may find this hard to believe, but on those great Canadien teams of the early '70s, the question of who was more valuable to the team, Lafleur or Gainey, wasn't cut-and-dried. Obviously the team wouldn't have been as successful without a high-scoring player like Lafleur (who also made his linemates a hell of a lot better), but his contribution could be duplicated, to an extent. At the end of the day, points are points. Gainey's contribution, unquestionably, could not. He wasn't simply "a great defensive player." He was a thoroughly unique defensive player, the matchup problem from hell. Ask Ken Dryden, Denis Potvin, Darryl Sittler, Viktor Tikhonov, etc.

    Heck, you might even want to ask Bowman. I wish the numbers were available to check this, but I think Gainey logged as much ice time as any forward on the Habs. I've heard the same observation from others as well.

    Alot of the HF peanut gallery views history through the lens of statistics. That's only half the ice. Scoring chances don't happen without solid breakouts in your own end. Much of Guy's production can be related to Larry Robinson and Serge Savard.

    Who was more important to those Habs teams, Lafleur or Robinson? If you think it's at least not close, then you're not paying attention to how the game is played.

    Whether it's a skill they can learn isn't the point. Whether it's a skill they perform at a high quality is.

    But scoring titles don't necessarily translate into playing on a winning team.

    Because sportswriters like numbers, just like you do. Doesn't mean they're necessarily right.

    Draper isn't the best defensive player on his own team. Lidstrom is. If you're talking strictly about defensive forwards, make the distinction.

    To answer the question, it depends on the context. What does my team need? Does it need scoring or defense? Is it easier to acquire two 60-point guys than it is to acquire one 100-point guy?

    I agree. But just because he doesn't receive such consideration doesn't mean he's not valuable. It means that the voters are missing the contribution.
     
  5. Steelhead16

    Steelhead16 Registered User

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    Trying to compare the value of offensive or defensive players is ridiculous. Bottom line for any team is to win the Stanley Cup. A team with 18 (insert your favorite offensive player) will never win a Stanley Cup just as a team with 18 (insert favorite defensive player) won't either. The key is a mixture of both, so I don't see how one type of player can be "more" valuable, you take either one away and you don't win. In my view they are equal because you cant win without both.
    As far as awards go, they're nice for the guys who win them but they are all pretty meaningless. Ask any player if they would rather win the Hart or The Stanley Cup and I'm guessing the voting wouldn't be very close. The one everyone wants is the one that needs everyone together as a team. Let the players vote for all the individual awards and see how they come out. That goes for the All Star Game too.
     
  6. God Bless Canada

    God Bless Canada Registered User

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    First of all, let’s differentiate between defensive players and defensive forwards. Scott Stevens was a defensive player. Nobody would ever question, or overestimate, Stevens value to the Devils. (Hence his 2000 Conn Smythe, his three Cup rings, his Norris Trophy nominations in 1997 and 2001 while a defensive specialist, his guaranteed place in the HHOF and his status as a top 20 or 25 all-time defenceman). Shut-down defencemen have a place in the game, with very high value. Just watch Foote, Regehr and Hannan during recent playoffs.

    “Most players can be good defensively.†You are accurate in your assessment, Ogopogo. But there is a difference between being good defensively, and being great defensively. It takes God-given ability to be great defensively, and that’s what Gainey, Carbonneau, Tikannen, Otto, Lehtinen, Jarvis, etc., were. (And in Lehtinen’s case, he still is). It takes hockey sense, anticipation and dedication to your craft to be great defensively. The best defensive players were born to be great defensive players, just like the best offensive players were born to be great offensive players. It takes something special to shut down the opposition’s top scorer, too.

    The Hart as important as the Conn Smythe? Players would tell you otherwise. They’d tell you the Conn Smythe is much more important, because if you won it, odds are you probably just won the Stanley Cup, too, and that trumps all. I wouldn’t want a player who would rate the Hart ahead of the Conn Smythe.

    Defensive forwards are extremely valuable, especially in the hockey that matters most: the playoffs. Regular season is simply about getting to the playoffs. Look at Tikannen in 1990. He was Edmonton’s MVP after Ranford. Lehtinen was just a shade below Nieuwendyk for value in 1999. (And Nieuwendyk’s value went far beyond offensive contributions). If New Jersey would have won the Cup in 2001, Holik would have won the Conn Smythe. And Gainey didn’t not win the Conn Smythe because he scored at a point-per-game clip that year.

    If a forward scores 60 goals, but is responsible for more goals against than goals for (witness Bure in 2000-01), he is of no value.

    If you want to see the value of defence, watch the 2005 WJC gold medal game. Canada thoroughly and systematically shut down Evgeny Malkin, considered by most to be the best player outside of the NHL. Why? Great defensive play and an unwavering commitment to the system. In the end, it is not only the team that scores the most goals that wins, it is the team that allows the fewest.
     
  7. Spitfire11

    Spitfire11 Registered User

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    Roy > Hasek?? ;)
     
  8. Hockey Outsider

    Hockey Outsider Registered User

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    I think it comes down to the amount of offense a player produces versus the amount of goals he allows.

    For example, if Spezza scored 90 pts this year and Draper scores 30, you'd have a tough time arguing that Draper was better. He's definitely better defensively, but is Draper really worth 60 goals (relative to Spezza)? That seems like an awful lot of defense to attribute to one player. (This gets more complex because, for example, Spezza plays with better teammates and gets more icetime, which is something you'd somehow need to factor in). However, if Spezza scored 90 pts and Lehtinen scores 65, I'd argue that Lehtinen was better, because his defense is that good.

    In the end, measuring defense is the tricky thing, and that's what makes the question so hard to answer.
     
  9. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    I find it hard to believe that, in a team game like hockey, you can attribute more than 60 goals against to Pavel Bure alone. He is a forward with two defensemen and a goalie behind him so, how exactly is HE the one responsible for any particular goal against. He might be partly responsible but, saying it is completely his fault on any goal is a stretch.
     
  10. chooch*

    chooch* Guest

    Bowman has consistently said (and lastly a few weeks after he retired) that Lafleur was the player of the 70's and the one forward he could count on game after game.

    He's been saying this since 1976.

    The whole Gainey as the greatest player in the game thing was nonsense - a way to spark conversation after reading article after article of how Lafleur was the best and maybe the best ever (said Beliveau). Personally, I thought there was something lost in the translation when Tikhonov was quoted as such about Gainey.

    Guy could have won every Conn Smythe and Hart those years also (not to mention the Byng) but they wanted to recognize that Lafleur had some company also, and if you watched Guy you'd know he didnt give a damn about scoring titles and trophies anyway. Just the Cup.
     
  11. Bring Back Bucky

    Bring Back Bucky Registered User

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    I've never known a real live psychic before, only seen them on television late at night. Do you use your powers for personal gain such as lottery numbers, or just read the minds of Habs greats?? Just out of curiosity, what does it add to the topic to mention that le demon blonde didn't care about trophies? It has nothing to do with the thread.. :shakehead
     
  12. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Well Gainey's in the HOF right now so he was hardly a plug throughout his career. In '79 he was said by Tikhonov to be the best player in the world. Its funny how when you consider that Lafleur, Trottier, Bossy, were also in the NHL. But I'll take Lafleur anyday over Gainey, just because Lafelur could dominate a game, Gainey could shut down a guy and kill penalties but hardly dominated a game the way Guy did.

    That said at the end of Spezza's career I would like to think that he will be considered not only a Hall of Famer but someone who is at least Gainey's equal. Look at his plus/minus as well. If Spezza or his linemates almost always have the puck and they usually do, how is he a bad defensive liability?
     
  13. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    Is that how you remember it?
    Or is that just an impression?

    I remember Gainey as a guy who made things happen. I liked Lafleur more because he scored goals and it was fun to cheer, but even as a kid I knew Gainey was doing lots of great plays, I just didn't care as much (compared to my later grown appreciation for other aspects of hockey than just scoring and goaltending).

    Guys like Lehtinen are not noticed by fans who follow the puck around and look at big body hits. Jere is phenomenal, truly amazing, if you watch HIM and see not only what he does defensively but his smart decisionmaking and dynamic effect on the entire flow of play.
     
  14. arrbez

    arrbez bad chi

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    defensive play is equally as important

    but an elite calibre offensive forward is more valuable than an elite defensive forward

    For argument's sake, let's say Bob Gainey is the best defensive forward ever, and Gretzky is the best offensive forward ever. Both are rated 100/100. (like in a video game ;) )

    With the right amount of determination, effort, and awareness an average NHL hockey player can probably reach probably the 75-80 range defensively if they work hard enough at it.

    However, an average hockey player will never achieve Gretzky/Lemieux level abilities, no matter how hard they work at it, because it's not something than can be taught. Try as they might, they'll probably never top 30 or 40

    While Gretzky and Gainey may be equally valuable to their teams, Gainey is a lot easier to find a moderate replacement for, and therefore has less value.
     
  15. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    we are comparing a Gainey to a Selanne or Spezza

    NOBODY is comparing him to a Gretzky or Lemieux...
     
  16. taunting canadian

    taunting canadian Registered User

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    Do you also consider the Stanley Cup and the President's Trophy "equal"?
     
  17. justsomeguy

    justsomeguy Registered User

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    Chicks dig the long ball.

    This discussion seems to be illustrating the hockey equivalent. Let's face it, we all enjoy watching a great goal being scored more than seeing an outstanding defensive player nullify a play before it can get started.

    It just doesn't stand out the same way. No sirens, stoppage in play or PA annoucements greet most of the work done by guys who are there, not to keep up with the opposition on the scoresheet, but to keep them off it.

    Howie Meeker said that teams are made up of leaders, bleeders and feeders. These are more often labels awarded as a result of character traits rather than big offensive numbers.

    Hockey is a two-way game and most of the truly great teams in the game's history have had standouts performing both offensive and defensive functions.
     
  18. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    a football analogy.

    are wide receivers more important than linebackers?

    ... depends on the team's character and strategies I'd say.
     
  19. DisgruntledHawkFan

    DisgruntledHawkFan Blackhawk Down

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    If you had five Lehtinens and five Spezza's with equivalent goalies net, who would you take?
     
  20. Malefic74

    Malefic74 Registered User

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    I don't see defensive specialists as over-rated at all. Every Cup winner has had at least one or two players who filled that role. Every single team. No exceptions.

    The Habs had Gainey, Jarvis, Keane and Carbonneu.
    The Devils had two entire lines full of those guys.
    The Wings have had Draper and Maltby.
    The Stars had Carbonneau and Keane.
    The Avs also had Keane in addition to guys like Ricci.
    The high scoring Oilers had Dave Hunter and Dave Lumley.
    The Isles had Wayne Merrick and Butch Goring.
    The Flames had Joel Otto and Colin Patterson.
    The Flyers had Terry Crisp.
    The Bruins had Don Marcotte.
    The Penguins had Errey and Trottier.

    And those are only the teams who won. Each team they beat had an accomplished defensive forward or two as well. The notion that defense is learned but offense is talent is misleading. Yes defense can be learned, but more than that it is; at its very core, a contest of wills. Good defense is all about working harder and anticipating faster than the opposition's offense. And wanting it more.

    But because those things can't be quatified by statistics they are buried and forgotten about by fans and media alike but the players know. Very much like the offensive linemen in football. They may not get glory and are often forgotten but you will never win the big games without some greatness in those positions.

    As to whether they are more or less valuable than offensive players... well it's a chiken or egg argument to me. And equally as pointless. History has shown that even the most prolific offenses had to learn to play a little defense before they won and even the most passive defenders had to score some goals to win as well.
     
  21. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    Are you trying to say that the Oilers won the cup BECAUSE of Lumley and Hunter? Did the Islanders dominate the NHL because of Wayne Merrick and Butch Goring?

    The point is, the Oilers won the cup because of Gretzky, Kurri, Coffey, Messier and Anderson. Without Hunter and Lumley, they still would have won 5 cups. They would have found a couple of other spare parts to put in their place.

    Not one player you listed is the reason for a cup victory. All teams need checkers and they do help but, they are spare parts. The scorers are what makes a team great, the spare parts are interchangeable.

    The players that made those teams champions were guys like Gretzky, Trottier, Bossy, Clarke, Brodeur, Sakic, Lafleur, Dryden, Esposito, Orr. The teams would have won the cup without the checkers you listed. Just insert the name Matt Cooke instead of any checker you have listed - those teams would still have won the cup.
     
  22. God Bless Canada

    God Bless Canada Registered User

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    Ogopogo,

    Ask these teams that won the Cup whether their defensive players were overrated, and you'll get your answer. Cut and dried.

    And didn't Butch Goring win the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1980? Yeah, that was him. But his value to the Islanders was little more than a prototypical third line winger. Okay.

    In the end, it is a team that wins the Cup, not one player or two players. On a Stanley Cup championship team, there are no "spare parts." While some players do mean more to success than others, ask anybody who has ever won a Cup, or built a Stanley Cup championship team, and they'll talk about the value of every person on that team, from their leading scorer, to the fourth liner who got 11 minutes per game.

    In hockey, nothing trumps winning, and when it comes to winning, there no unimportant parts. Take away the rock solid defensive defencemen, a team doesn't win. Take away the line that shuts down the opposition's best line, a team doesn't win. Take away the offensive contributors, a team doesn't win. Take away the goalie who makes the big saves in key situations, a team doesn't win. Take away those two or three critical leaders, a team doesn't win.
     
  23. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    In my mind, defensive forwards are like construction workers. Do you need them to build a house? Yes. Are they critical to a house being well built? Yes. Can a million other guys step in and do the exact same job? Yes.

    The scorers are like the real estate agent that closes the $20 million condo deal. Not just anybody can do that.
     
  24. God Bless Canada

    God Bless Canada Registered User

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    Too bad we're talking about hockey here, not real estate. But if you want a good real estate chat, I've got some friends in the industry. Personally, I'm on here to talk hockey.

    And ask Kenny Holland if "a million other guys can step in and do the same job" that the Grind Line did in 1996, 1997 and 2002. Or ask Lou Lamerillo if "a million guys" could contribute in the way that Holik and MacKay did in 2002. Bob Gainey from 1976-1979, Butch Goring from 1980-1983, Guy Carbonneau in 1986 and 1993, Joel Otto in 1989, Esa Tikannen in 1990, Holik and MacKay in 1995 and 2000, the Grind Line, etc. These guys were all among the most valuable players to their Cup-winning teams.

    Again, it goes back to your opening question: Are defensive players overrated? Ask anyone who has ever won anything at a high level of hockey: these players are of the utmost, undeterminable value.

    There's a reason for the saying "Offence wins game, defence wins championships."
     
  25. Ogopogo*

    Ogopogo* Guest

    Here's the thing, the forwards have two defensemen and a goalie behind them. How much are they really worth. So, they check a guy or not - he still has three players to beat.

    Yes, defensive forwards are needed but, they are far less important than true superstars. Guys like Tikkanen, Carbonneau, Goring, McKay and Draper are never seriously considered for the Hart Trophy because guys like Gretzky, Trottier, and Yzerman are far more valuable.

    Put together a team of checkers and grinders and you have the Vancouver Canucks of the 80s. Put together a team of skilled offensive superstars and you have the Oilers of the 80s.
     
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