Backchecking: The players who lay it on the line

Scott Cullen
1/30/2009 4:07:43 PM
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Intangibles are always touted as part of the reason for a team's success, yet they are invariably awarded in hindsight, after a team has won something significant.

That doesn't stop countless people from e-mailing me to extoll the virtues of heart, chemistry and teamwork. While I'm not going to go so far as to say this is a way to find the players who play that heart-and-soul, body-sacrificing game.


As part of the player ranking formula, there is an attempt to quantify the intangible element by addressing statistical categories like hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways and faceoffs.

At the very least, it helps to identify some of the unsung hero types who contribute in ways that don't typically show up on the scoresheet.

Shotblocking defencemen and grinding forwards, this one's for you!

Here are some of the results to this point in the season:

The Top 75

Rank Player Position Team Rating
1. Brooks Orpik D Pittsburgh 4.73
2. Greg Zanon D Nashville 4.48
3. Mike Commodore D Columbus 4.14
4. Ryan Callahan RW N.Y. Rangers 4.09
5. Dennis Seidenberg D Carolina 3.97
6. Stephane Robidas D Dallas 3.94
7. Cal Clutterbuck RW Minnesota 3.92
8. Zbynek Michalek D Phoenix 3.91
9. Mike Komisarek D Montreal 3.89
10. Anton Volchenkov D Ottawa 3.79
11. Matt Cooke LW Pittsburgh 3.70
12. Tim Gleason D Carolina 3.68
13. Brett Clark D Colorado 3.63
14. Brent Seabrook D Chicago 3.55
15. Matt Greene D Los Angeles 3.54
16. Milan Lucic LW Boston 3.53
17. Niclas Havelid D Atlanta 3.52
18. Shane Doan RW Phoenix 3.51
19. Daniel Girardi D N.Y. Rangers 3.41
20. Brandon Dubinsky C N.Y. Rangers 3.37
21. David Backes RW St. Louis 3.32
22. Dustin Brown RW Los Angeles 3.26
23. Toni Lydman D Buffalo 3.25
24. Brad Stuart D Detroit 3.21
25. Denis Gauthier D Los Angeles 3.19
26. Jason Smith D Ottawa 3.17
27. Brendan Witt D N.Y. Islanders 3.13
28. Bryce Salvador D New Jersey 3.13
29. Mike Fisher C Ottawa 3.10
30. Josh Gorges D Montreal 3.10
31. Rob Scuderi D Pittsburgh 3.09
32. Dan Hamhuis D Nashville 3.05
33. Luke Schenn D Toronto 3.01
34. Gregory Campbell C Florida 3.01
35. Jeff Finger D Toronto 3.00
36. Mattias Ohlund D Vancouver 2.98
37. Shea Weber D Nashville 2.97
38. Tuomo Ruutu LW Carolina 2.97
39. Trent Hunter RW N.Y. Islanders 2.97
40. Cody McLeod LW Colorado 2.97
41. Marc Staal D N.Y. Rangers 2.95
42. Ruslan Salei D Colorado 2.93
43. Milan Jurcina D Washington 2.88
44. Philippe Boucher D Pittsburgh 2.88
45. Michal Rozsival D N.Y. Rangers 2.85
46. Andrew Alberts D Philadelphia 2.84
47. Roman Hamrlik D Montreal 2.83
48. James Neal RW Dallas 2.82
49. Ryan Kesler C Vancouver 2.81
50. Pavel Datsyuk C Detroit 2.80
51. Alexander Ovechkin LW Washington 2.78
52. Jarret Stoll C Los Angeles 2.78
53. Barret Jackman D St. Louis 2.76
54. Roman Polak D St. Louis 2.73
55. Ed Jovanovski D Phoenix 2.73
56. Keith Ballard D Florida 2.72
57. Evgeny Artyukhin LW Tampa Bay 2.71
58. Zdeno Chara D Boston 2.70
59. Colin White D New Jersey 2.70
60. Derek Morris D Phoenix 2.68
61. Aaron Ward D Boston 2.66
62. Ryan Malone LW Tampa Bay 2.66
63. Andrej Meszaros D Tampa Bay 2.66
64. Rod Brind'Amour C Carolina 2.65
65. Maxim Lapierre C Montreal 2.63
66. Travis Moen RW Anaheim 2.60
67. Steve Bernier RW Vancouver 2.60
68. Mark Streit D N.Y. Islanders 2.60
69. Chris Kelly C Ottawa 2.57
70. Douglas Murray D San Jose 2.55
71. Steve Begin RW Montreal 2.55
72. Niclas Wallin D Carolina 2.54
73. Ossi Vaananen D Philadelphia 2.53
74. Scott Hannan D Colorado 2.50
75. Kristofer Letang D Pittsburgh 2.50
75. Dustin Byfuglien RW Chicago 2.50

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the guys who haven't (and don't necessarily have to) sacrifice their bodies by making hits and blocking shots.


The Bottom 25

Rank Player Position Team Rating
25. Jason Spezza C Ottawa 0.26
24. Mike Comrie C N.Y. Islanders 0.24
23. Petr Sykora RW Pittsburgh 0.24
22. Mikhail Grabovski C Toronto 0.24
21. Daniel Sedin LW Vancouver 0.23
20. Michael Nylander C Washington 0.23
19. Tyler Arnason C Colorado 0.23
18. Benoit Pouliot LW Minnesota 0.22
17. Brendan Morrison C Anaheim 0.21
16. Brad Richards C Dallas 0.19
15. Todd Bertuzzi RW Calgary 0.18
14. Robert Nilsson LW Edmonton 0.16
13. Patrick Kane RW Chicago 0.14
12. Simon Gagne LW Philadelphia 0.13
11. Thomas Vanek LW Buffalo 0.11
10. Derek Roy C Buffalo .09
9. Pierre-Marc Bouchard LW Minnesota 0.01
8. Andrew Brunette LW Minnesota 0.01
7. Michael Cammalleri LW Calgary 0.00
6. Teemu Selanne RW Anaheim -0.13
5. J.P. Dumont LW Nashville -0.14
4. Ilya Kovalchuk LW Atlanta -0.17
3. Maxim Afinogenov RW Buffalo -0.26
2. Ales Hemsky RW Edmonton -0.34
1. Sam Gagner RW Edmonton -0.42

- There have been a number of rumblings about the Anaheim Ducks, not satisfied with their current lineup, possibly listening to offers for workhorse D Chris Pronger. The Orange County Register says that it's possible the Ducks move either Pronger or Scott Niedermayer if the Ducks don't improve significantly.

- The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, worrying about Niklas Backstrom's pending free agent status, wonders whether the Wild will at least listen to offers for their All-Star goaltender.

- The Boston Globe reports that, if the Bruins were going to go after Panthers D Jay Bouwmeester, it would likely cost one of the team's young power forwards, Milan Lucic or Blake Wheeler.

- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch still believes that veteran Blues LW Keith Tkachuk will be traded and pegs the price as possibly a second-round pick and the USA Today concurs that Tkachuk, who has a no-trade clause, is likely to be moved.

- According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the Devils are looking for an experienced defenceman.

- The Detroit News notes that, with the Red Wings close to the salary cap, they're more likely to call up the likes of Darren Helm and Ville Leino from Grand Rapids rather than trading at the deadline.

- According to the Boston Globe, the Flyers may move ex-Bruins Glen Metropolit and Andrew Alberts, presumably to get more room under the salary cap.

- The Calgary Sun suggests that red-hot Flame, and pending free agent, Mike Cammalleri will be a Toronto Maple Leaf on July 1.

- Reports out of Ottawa and Calgary have the Flames expressing interest in recently waived Senators G Martin Gerber, if the Senators would take on a salary in return.

- USA Today has the usual names listed as possible trade bait, but some of the lesser known players include Dean McAmmond, Dominic Moore and Greg de Vries.

Marty Turco, G, Dallas (4-1, 1.58 GAA, .932 SVPCT in last 5 GP)
Tom Gilbert, D, Edmonton (1-5-6, plus-2 in last 4 GP)
Zach Bogosian, D, Atlanta (3-2-5, plus-6 in last 5 GP)
Michael Cammalleri, LW, Calgary (10-1-11, plus-2 in last 6 GP)
Tim Connolly, C, Bufalo (6-2-8, plus-4 in last 5 GP)
Dominic Moore, C, Toronto (3-5-8, plus-3 in last 6 GP)

Carey Price, G, Montreal (0-3, 4.17 GAA, .854 SVPCT in last 4 GP)
Pavel Kubina, D, Toronto (0-0-0, minus-3 in last 4 GP)
Roman Hamrlik, D, Montreal (0-0-0, minus-6 in last 6 GP)
Daymond Langkow, C, Calgary (0-0-0, minus-3 in last 4 GP)
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, San Jose (1-1-2, minus-5 in last 9 GP)
Andrei Kostitsyn, LW, Montreal (0-0-0, minus-5 in last 4 GP)

"For a French-Canadian kid to go back there, imagine his legacy if he would win a Stanley Cup. He would be the next Maurice Richard." - ex-Canadiens LW Steve Shutt, discussing the Vincent Lecavalier trade rumours

"I may be a little biased, but I think he's one of the top five defensemen in the world." - Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, on Jay Bouwmeester.

"The one motto I have with my players is: no complaints, no excuses." - Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke

"Quick saved our bacon a couple of times out there. He's been that way through most every game that he's played." Kings coach Terry Murray, on G Jonathan Quick.

"It's hard to remember who has the lead and what the score is when there's that many goals." - Maple Leafs D Jeff Finger, after a 7-4 win over the Avalanche

"We have the puck a lot, and we like to play in their end as much as possible." - Sharks RW Ryane Clowe.

"We're not so blessed with talent that we can have five or six guys take nights off." - Thrashers coach John Anderson

Scott Cullen can be reached at

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