I’ve been meaning to do this post for awhile, but never quite got around to it. With so much focus on the Caps on this blog, I feel the need to show some love to other players around the league who, for one reason or another, I’m a big fan of. There are roughly 3 metrics that I used when I created this list, and they are as follows: 1). hockey talent, 2). hilarity factor, and 3). Douchebag factor (lower is better). This ranking is ridiculously subjective, but I think most people will agree that these 5 players are pretty awesome in their own right. Without further ado, here’s my list:
Zach Parise scores very high marks in the “hockey-talent” rating. He’s a proven 40+ goal-scorer, despite playing on a team that’s notoriously defensive-minded. He has one of the better wristers in the game, can dangle, and works hard every shift. By all accounts he’s the opposite of “douchebag”, and is an American Hero, regardless of the fact that the US couldn’t pull out a win in the gold medal game. I personally don’t know how much of a “hilarity factor” he has, but his talent and non- douchebag ratings make up for that.
Nicklas Lidstrom is, quite simply, one of the best defensemen to ever lace up skates. Not overly strong or physical, Lidstrom manages to see the game like very few ever have or ever will. His teammates call him “The Computer”, because he always seems to make the perfect decision. He’s exceptionally sound positionally, makes the first-pass with the best of them, and has top of the scale stickwork. Lidstrom’s a consummate professional, a 4-time Stanley Cup Winner, 6-time Norris winner, a Conn Smythe winner, and being able to play with him in NHL ’93 gives him a huge boost. He’s almost 20 years into his playing career and he’s still producing, while providing his customary outstanding defense.
Unlike the other people on this list, Lidstrom isn’t easily reduced to highlight clips on youtube. You can only really get an appreciation for how good he is by watching him on a consistent basis. Still, here’s a nice goal from him that’s worth a look.
Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the most explosive talents currently playing in the NHL. He’s a powerful skater, with a top-tier wrister, the best one-timer in the game, and a pretty solid mean-streak to him. When Kovy is at his best he’s a one-man wrecking crew, that can beat you with speed, power, stickhandling, or his shot. In addition to his talents as a player, he’s shown that he’s willing to drop his gloves, and had a pretty hilarious exchange with Sidney Crosby, shown here (it’s a must see). He’s one of few NHL’ers who can single-handedly dominate a game, and he’s a Russian, which I think is pretty cool. Some more videos for your pleasure:
Pavel Datsyuk is a fucking magician. A FUCKING MAGICIAN with the puck. There’s simply no one better than him at getting, and keeping the puck on their stick in traffic. Watching him work on offense and defense really is mesmerizing. When he’s playing well you can pretty much be guaranteed that he’ll dangle at least one player on the opposing team just about every time he touches the puck. I really can’t overstate how incredible it is to watch him handle the puck like he has it on a string. His moves in the shootout are legendary, he’s Russian (which is cool), probably one of the nicest guys in the NHL, and is completely hilarious (seriously, watch that). I’m totally in heterosexual-love with “Dats”. I don’t know what else to say, other than watch the videos I link.
Jarome Iginla is the quintessential NHL Captain. He’s a two-time 50 goal scorer, and along with Joe Thornton, is considered the best player of the past decade. Iggy should be considered a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done, which is something very few current players can say. Why is he my favorite non-Capital player? Well, to me, the guy’s got everything you can ask for in a Captain- he’s an excellent player, is tough as nails on the ice, and one of the classiest players in the NHL off the ice. Iggy’s the perfect ambassador for the game, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Vancouver who has something negative to say about him. This story in particular opened my eyes to how awesome of a guy he is:
In 2002, while in Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympic Games, Iginla struck up a conversation with four Calgarians sitting next to his table, and found out they were sleeping in their car outside of the hotel. He excused himself from the conversation, and booked them accommodations at his own expense at the hotel his family was staying in.
He’s not the best player on my list, he’s not the funniest, by I respect the hell out of him, and I think everyone else should too. That’s why he’s my favorite non-Capital, and why I’m rooting for him to take home a Stanley Cup before his career’s over.