"ewing theory" in hockey

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by vadim sharifijanov, May 23, 2011.

  1. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    i find this really fascinating, and a provocative argument that having a cohesive team is more important than a transcendent superstar.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/010509a


    so basically the nuts and bolts of ewing theory is that the team has a superstar or franchise player who isn't in the upper echelon of elite players. they build the team around him and, in basketball, run the majority of plays for him. they are an above-average team, but can never get over the top because the superstar always gets outplayed by the opposing team's superstars. this especially makes sense in basketball, where if you have two star players at the same position going against each other, most of the time they defend each other and it really is in a sense a one-on-one matchup. see: patrick ewing against hakeem olajuwon or wilt chamberlain against bill russell or dominique wilkins against larry bird.

    so ewing is the test case. most famously, this knicks went to the finals in a year he was injured. they banded together, got other guys more involved in the offense, and played really well as a team, doing as well without him as they had in the previous five years with him.

    supposedly ewing's college team, georgetown, used to also play better when he was out of the lineup than when he was in. i have no idea if this is accurate, but they did win a national title with him for what it's worth.


    so who are hockey's "ewing theory" players? simmons coyly mentions ray bourque, which i can't make heads or tails of. he also mentions lindros in '00, which seems more plausible to me.

    i think the crux of the theory is that with an unquestioned alpha dog, guys sometimes do less looking to and deferring to their star for the heavy lifting. that works when you star is jordan, not so much when it's ewing. but with him out, the other guys play better as a team and take more accountability for and control of the team.

    you see this sometimes with non-playoff teams making an unexpected run for the 8th seed after trading their impending UFA star at the deadline, or going on a win streak after their best player packs it in for the year after they are mathematically eliminated. but the better and more interesting case, of course, is always in the playoffs.

    so i'm thinking, mats sundin? in '02, he gets hurt and alyn mccauley and gary roberts lead the team into the third round.

    pierre turgeon in '93?

    a little out there, but markus naslund's absence from the swedish olympic team in '06 (also note his absence in '94 after playing on the '93 WC team that won the silver)?

    other names in NHL history who might qualify?
     
  2. Zoo

    Zoo Registered User

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  3. Rob Scuderi

    Rob Scuderi Registered User

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    If it weren't for the emergence of Couture and Pavelski I think many would say Thornton
     
  4. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    You guys already said the ones I thought of immediately - Lindros in 2000 (or really after he started having problems in 1998), and Mats Sundin over the course of his career.

    Would Keith Tkachuk qualify? Always paid to be the superstar of his team, but would probably have been better served with a lesser role.
     
  5. Sensfanman

    Sensfanman Registered User

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    Kovalchuk and Chara spring to mind. Possibly Nash.
     
  6. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    the doomsaying canucks fan in me foresees a worst case scenario where thornton misses game 5, all the guys who have done nothing like pavelski, clowe, and maybe even heatley step up, and...


    i'd never considered chara on the sens before. food for thought. kovalchuk in atlanta is definitely on the money.
     
  7. Fleuryoutside29

    Fleuryoutside29 Registered User

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    I think John Tavares is a canidate but I can't see the islanders being good without him.

    Vanek is also a possible canidate, but I don't think people would write off the Sabres if he got hurt.

    One more could be iginla for the flames
     
  8. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    Perhaps Iginla would qualify if/when he moves on from Calgary.

    Bertuzzi and Naslund, maybe Shea Weber, Doug Weight, Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph and Ryan Smyth.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  9. Finlandia WOAT

    Finlandia WOAT Bench Constance Garnett

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    Eric Staal looks like the perfect candidate, especially when you consider that he takes "some games off", in the words of some Hurricanes' posters.

    However, our win-loss ratio is incredibly pathetic when he is out, or even when he is playing injured.
     
  10. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    Except he won a cup at the age of 22...
     
  11. De Montreal

    De Montreal help

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    Interesting theory. Thanks for posting that.
     
  12. metalfoot

    metalfoot Karlsson!

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    Never mind.

    I think I got this backward the first time. It'd be Spezza who was the Ewing until this season.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  13. Nalyd Psycho

    Nalyd Psycho Registered User

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    I don't think the idea works in hockey because you always have to have a coherent team. In hockey, a player being on the ice for half a game is huge and rarely happens. In basketball, a star player playing the entire game is more common than that.
     
  14. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    to me, one of the interesting things about ewing theory is that it suggests basketball is also a sport where you have to have a cohesive team. yes, basketball players stay on the court more and more continuously than hockey players. but i think, if we extend this theory to hockey, it tells us something about leadership, about how a team functions both on and off the ice, about what a team's captain means to the other guys, and how player performance is dependent on teammates on levels that go beyond talent, stats, and maybe even what happens on the ice.

    i posted this somewhat in reference to that "quantifiable HOF system" thread. basically, i suspect "ewing theory" tells us that team success in hockey is much more complicated than "objectively" ranking players and then counting up which team has the aggregate score.
     
  15. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Just a thought for a second, I'll admit that Ewing was a player that tended to falter in the big games at important times but of all the names mentioned so far, I think he was a far better basketball player than others were hockey players on this thread. I like the Thornton example and that might be the most comparable for him but no doubt in my mind Ewing was better at his sport than Kovalchuk or Nash or Tkachuk were at theirs. Sundin is another fairly good comparison however.

    I guess if I could throw another name out there I'd say Iginla would be a close comparison as well
     
  16. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    reading that again, i think i should clarify. maybe the more interesting question isn't why sundin and turgeon never led their teams to glory, but why the leafs led by mccauley and an aging gary roberts, or the islanders led by stumpy thomas and ray ferraro were able to do what they did in the playoffs.
     
  17. headsigh

    headsigh leave at once!

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    Calgary Flames post 2004.
    To a lesser extent, this season's Dallas stars relied on 3 guys (Eriksson, Richards, Benn) and then there was everyone else.
     
  18. RoyalAir

    RoyalAir Looks Better In Gold

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    He played Pippen to Brind'Amour's Jordan. That Canes team was very deep; Staal was an accessory piece for sure. A very nice accessory, but an accessory nonetheless. He's come into his own as a great player, but I can understand the criticism of Staal as a Ewing-type.

    This thread screams Ilya Kovalchuk.
     
  19. Kevin Forbes

    Kevin Forbes Registered User

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    Paul Kariya when he was with Anaheim might fit?
     
  20. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    No, I just don't see that analogy. Staal led the way with gaudy regular season stats and carried that over with gaudy playoff stats. Brind'Amour was a warrior, but Staal was critical. He wasn't riding on anyone's coattails.
     
  21. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    Here's another: Dale Hawerchuk.

    He played in the Smythe Division, had a few great individual seasons, but always underachieved since the Jets were in the same division as the Oilers and Flames. Not his fault at all, but in a division with so many individual stars, he certainly wasn't achieving as much as his contemporaries.
     
  22. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    .... or simply have a better superstar than the other team.
     
  23. Hasbro

    Hasbro Can He Skate?! Sponsor

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    Lindros.
     
  24. Nalyd Psycho

    Nalyd Psycho Registered User

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    Thats the thing, in basketball it's easy to miss or mask that it is a team sport. But in hockey, it is never hidden.
     
  25. MS

    MS 1%er

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    I don't think it's as black-and-white as that.

    Mark Messier in the last 7 years of his career is the textbook example of a player who was played far too much to the detriment of his team. Demanded star icetime and simply couldn't deliver the goods 5-on-5. Both Vancouver and NYR got worse when he arrived and better when he left.

    Daniel Alfredsson this year was a guy the Ottawa offense was built around, and he simply couldn't deliver at a first-line level anymore.

    But this probably happens most often with goalies. This has come up in the Richter/Joseph thread, but Richter and Ranford were two guys who were treated as 'top starters' for 5 years after regressing to mediocre goalies.
     

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