Posts Tagged ‘Mike Knuble’

October 7th, 2010

Why Intimidation Will Always Have a Place in Hockey

This morning at Box Seats at the WaPo, Ryan Cooper is proclaiming that "Old Time Hockey is Dead:

The game has changed. Now more than ever, you need defensemen who practice special integrity (hey, that sounds like Jeff Schultz! But he doesn’t hit! Booo!!), can clog the middle, box out the forwards down low and block shots. You need an ultra-aggressive penalty kill like Philadelphia’s and Montreal’s (thankfully the Capitals are starting to do this). You don’t need slugs that can’t skate and are only there because someone thinks they’re “tough.” That era is over.

I have a hard time arguing with anything Ryan says about how the way the game is played these days. Hockey has become something of a different — and better — game since it emerged from the lockout.  Then again, regular season hockey and playoff hockey are two entirely different things.  For a reminder, click here for a highlight reel of Sidney Crosby’s goals against the Caps in their epic 2009 playoff series.

When you watch goal after goal, it’s impossible not to notice that Crosby, a man who is celebrated for his incredible skill, scored many of his goals that series down low within a few feet, or even inches, of the goal crease.  And it’s impossible not to notice that in many of those cases, Crosby was more or less unmolested as he tapped, poked and slashed at rebounds for score after score.

And if old time hockey is gone for good, you might want to check in with players like Mike Knuble, Tomas Holmstrom and Erik Cole — and be sure to chat them up immediately after the final whistle as they’re nursing multiple bumps, bruises and contusions from the hits they’ve taken as they’ve tried to stake out real estate in front of the enemy net.

So what’s the lesson here?  Well, it would seem that for all of the rule changes we’ve seen in the NHL since the emergence from the lockout, physical play still has a place in the game.  Yes, we need folks who can skate, are skilled and are disciplined enough to play sound positional hockey.  In too many quarters, those sorts of skills are undervalued.  But we also still can use people with some muscle who can put a body on the puck carrier.  What teams don’t need, and what we see less and less often, are folks who are one dimensional and serve as a drain on resources both on the bench and on your payroll.

One last thought: in the five finals since the resolution of the NHL lockout, Chris Pronger, generally agreed upon by observers of the game to be the meanest SOB in the valley, has played in three of them for three different teams.  It’s funny how people keep trading for him.  Here’s his stat line for those three playoffs:

2006: 24 GP 5G 16A +10 TOIG: 30:57
2007: 19 GP 3G 12A +10 TOIG: 30:11
2010: 23 GP 4G 14A +05 TOIG: 29:03

When you have one defenseman on your blue line who is able to play around 30 minutes per night and puts the fear of God into forwards everywhere, a lot of other problems take care of themselves.  Ask Tomas Holmstrom.  He’ll tell you.