THN: Ovechkin, Crosby, Phaneuf - Who would you choose?
In der Titelstory der neuesten Ausgabe des nordamerikanischen
Fachmagazins "The Hockey News" geht es um die drei Jungstars Alexander
Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby und Dion Phaneuf:
Who would you choose?
By Ken Campbell
There’s a better-than-average chance Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby
and Dion Phaneuf, in many ways the cornerstones of the new NHL, will
emerge as the undisputed elite of the league as early as this season.
Owners of the most remarkable freshmen seasons in years, all three are
poised to continue their upward trajectories and presumably, drag their
teams along with them.
Yup, the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames
are sure lucky to have these guys. And here’s a scary thought: The
Penguins could have actually had Phaneuf, too, who inexplicably fell to
ninth overall in the 2003 entry draft, eight spots after the Penguins
took goalie Marc-Andre Fleury first overall.
Oh well, you can’t have ’em all. But a hockey guy can dream, can’t he?
And that’s exactly what we asked a bunch of them to do when we posed
the following question: All right, you’re starting your franchise from
scratch and you can choose one of Ovechkin, Crosby or Phaneuf as your
cornerstone. Which one would you choose?
The NHL fraternity being the NHL fraternity, a good number of them
turtled, either refusing to answer the question or coming up with such
gems as, “Golly gee, you can’t go wrong with any one of them.”
Well, duh. We knew that already because we tend to watch an awful lot
of hockey around here. Evidently, so do readers of thehockeynews.com.
In a poll conducted in early September, Internet surfers were asked the
same question. Of the 8,594 who responded, 3,597 (42 per cent) went
with Ovechkin, followed by 3,541 (41 per cent) for Crosby. Phaneuf was
the choice of 938 (11 per cent) and New York Rangers goalie Henrik
Lundqvist, who was part of the online query, but not the one to NHL
personnel, garnered 518 (six per cent) of the votes.
It was almost as close among NHL experts. In all, we asked the question
of 14 GMs, coaches and pro scouts. Of the 12 who gave definitive
responses, six chose Ovechkin, five Crosby and one Phaneuf. Most on the
panel provided us with answers without giving their names, but several,
such as Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke, weren’t afraid to make their
“The GM in me is screaming Phaneuf,” Burke said. “Just screaming. But I
have to go with Ovechkin. What he did last year just can’t be ignored.”
Hockey people are often loathe to compare young performers to the
all-time great players in the game, as if mentioning similarities
between Ovechkin and Mario Lemieux, Crosby and Bryan Trottier, and
Phaneuf and Scott Stevens is going to wreck their careers or something.
But consider the following. When Lemieux broke into the NHL in 1984-85,
he averaged 1.37 points per game in a league that was producing 7.8
goals per game. Last season, Ovechkin had 1.31 points per game and
Crosby 1.26 in a league that averaged 6.1 goals per game. As for
Phaneuf, his 20 goals was the third-highest all-time for a rookie
defenseman and represented just one fewer than Bobby Orr scored as a
20-year-old. He scored substantially more goals than Al MacInnis (11),
Phil Housley (16) or Denis Potvin (17) scored at the same age and was
at least within shouting distance of 20-year-old Paul Coffey (29) and
Ray Bourque (27).
What made it that much more impressive was Phaneuf did it while
finishing sixth in the league in hits with 203, something that caught
the attention of Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall, who was a
pro scout with the Philadelphia Flyers last season.
“For me it’s Phaneuf because I think the most important guy on your
team and the hardest one to find is a No. 1 defenseman,” Hextall said.
“I just think the physical and offensive package this guy brings is too
hard to pass up. I think this kid can be better than Scott Stevens. His
offensive game is much better than Stevens’ and the rest of his game is
Penguins GM Ray Shero, whose choice was not included for obvious
reasons, said there’s no reason to believe Crosby will not go on to do
great things. Shero said prior to training camp, Crosby had a one-word
answer when the GM asked him what his conditioning level was like
compared to last season’s training camp.
“He just said, ‘Pfffft,’ ” Shero said.
We’re guessing that means he’s in pretty good shape. And that will be
bad news for teams trying to stop him as he speeds through the neutral
zone or that try to knock him off the puck in the corner. At just
5-foot-11, Crosby has one of the strongest trunks in hockey and it
makes him almost impossible to separate from the little black thing.
Combine that with a sublime level of skill and competitiveness and you
have something very special.
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock saw Crosby play eight times last season and
often thought he was looking at a player who occupied his own bench.
“Crosby, to me, has everything (Peter) Forsberg had as a young player,”
Hitchcock said. “His strength is in his legs and they’re going to carry
him forever. Ovechkin is a special scorer, but to me Crosby has the
Forsberg personality on the ice.”
That doesn’t mean he necessarily thinks Crosby is better than Ovechkin, though.
“You asked me about building a team,” Hitchcock said. “You didn’t say top-end player. You said building a team.”
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