The New Found Importance of Special Teams

Under the new rules of the NHL special teams (Penalty killing and powerplays) will a greater importance to team success than ever before. With officials consistantly cracking down on obstruction and calling penalties there were an abundance of powerplays in every game during the preseason. While, yes this was preseason and they’ve said they were cracking down on obstruction years ago and stopped calling it, I think this year they will stick with it.

I believe the average of penalties per game in the preseason this year was 20+. Until the players adjust to the new officiating this spike in penalties and powerplays will stay high. Penalty killing and powerplays will be so important this year that I say any team with a top 10 ranking in both special teams catagories will be near the top of the league. Sure, maybe a team with strong special teams like that was already at the top of the league before, but now you really can’t get away with only having a strong PK unit or a strong powerplay, you need both.

But here’s my real point of this article. The better penalty killing forwards in the league will no longer be so underappreciated. They will be key players to the success of your team. Every team will need 1 or 2 players they consider potencial shutdown men for their penalty killing units. I’ve taken the liberty of trying to find the best 1 or 2 penalty killing forwards on each team. Feel free to correct me or add any names you feel I forgot.

Northeast Division

Boston- Dave Scatchard

Buffalo- Jochen Hecht

Montreal- Niklas Sundstrom, Steve Begin

Toronto- Darcy Tucker, Chad Kilger

Ottawa- Mike Fisher

Atlantic Division

New Jersey- John Madden, Jay Pandolfo

NY Islanders- Jason Blake, Arron Asham

NY Rangers- Steve Rucchin, Dominic Moore

Philadelphia- Michal Handzus, Turner Stevenson

Pittsburgh- Andre Roy, Ryan VandenBussche

Southeast Division

Atlanta- Bobby Holik

Carolina- Kevyn Adams, Matt Cullen

Florida- Jozef Stumpel, Chris Gratton

Tampa Bay- Rob DiMaio, Dave Andreychuk

Washington- Jeff Halpern, Chris Clark

Central Division

Chicago- Curtis Brown, Martin Lapointe

Columbus- Todd Marchant, Jan Hrdina

Detroit- Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby

Nashville- Yanic Perreault

St. Louis- Mike Sillinger, Dallas Drake

Northwest Division

Calgary- Stephane Yelle, Jason Wiemer

Colorado- Dan Hinote, Andrew Brunette

Edmonton- Mike Peca, Todd Harvey

Minnesota- Brian Rolston

Vancouver- Matt Cooke, Trevor Linden

Pacific Division

Anaheim- Samuel Pahlsson

Dallas- Niko Kapanen, Stu Barnes

Los Angeles- Craig Conroy

Phoenix- Mike Ricci, Boyd Devereaux

San Jose- Marco Sturm, Scott Thorton

And as I said before feel free to add and remove names as you see fit.

19 Responses to The New Found Importance of Special Teams

  1. shakermaker says:

    Uh, Toronto – Mats Sundin. He is far and away our best PKer. Him and Mogilny were always the leafs PK1 unit. This time it will be Sundin and Lindros or Sundin and Tucker

    2nd best PKer? Id go as far as to say Eric Lindros. his PK ability is very under-rated. Lindros as the leafs 4th line checker may very well work out to their advantage here if Lindros can be used to shut down other teams big men. I dont know how much ‘shutting down’ there will be though, with the ‘new rules’ So we’ll see.

    Kilger & Tucker may very well be decent ‘defensive forwards’ But as for actual PK unit id say Sundin, Lindros and Tucker would round out the top 3.

    Aaaaah. Go Leafs Go.

  2. wingerxxx says:

    I wouldn’t put Gratton on for Florida. He’s not a great penalty killer. Neither is Holik actually, even though he’s regarded as a fine defensive player. Scatchard is the same way. For the Rangers, I’d say Rucchin and Rucinsky and/or Ortmeyer. He gets so much even strength defensive time, he’s never been put out on the PK that much. Colorado’s best PKers are probably Laaksonen and Laperriere. McCauley is one of San Jose’s better defensive forwards. Perreault is a good faceoff guy, but defensively, I don’t think he’s that strong. I think that Modano is actually one of Dallas’ two best defensive forwards. Walz is one of the Wild’s best. I’d say lastly, Brind’Amour is Carolina’s best defensive forward as well. A lot of your picks are good ones though.

  3. Habfanforever says:

    Bulis is also an effective PK-er in MTL. Koivu is another guy no one mentions because of his on-ice vision.

  4. habs_punk says:

    Definately put Bulis in ahead of Begin

  5. habs_punk says:

    Kilger for Toronto? They’re in for a ton of trouble this year if he’s one of their best penalty killers!

  6. simplyhabby says:

    We seem to underestimate Higgins who is a great 2 way player. Of course, we have to see how he adapts to the NHL but I am sure he will do very well logging all those minutes on the PK.

  7. Kamakaze says:

    Drury will be out for Buff., Bonk should be there for Mont., Verada and Alfi should be on the PK.

    Jersey also has Elias, Brylin, Langenbrunner, etc. The list goes on. York can easily play PK in NYI. Rucchin, Orymayer, maybe Betts, I could also see Straka (for punch). Phili has a few guys, Primieu, Kapanen, Turner is more of a checker. Pitts has NOTHING.

    Holik, Stefan, Mellanby, Aubin, all good to decent guys, mainly checkers though for Atl. Brind’more (sp?) should be on the PK in Car. Tampa has Andreychuk, and will probably put one of their big 6 on there as well.

    Chi also has barnaby and Dowd. Letowski and Wright alwasy stuck me as good PK guys for Clb. Nash will probably go with Walker, Johnson, Sullivan and someone else. St.L has zilch, maybe Johnson, Mayers, I don’t know.

    Calg should jus rotate their normal lines, because if they don’t play well defensivly they should not be playing, that’s what this team is about. Neilson is another good guy though. Colorado also has Laperier and Laaksonen. Smyth, Murreu (sp) and Stoll can play PK in Edm along with Peca. Minn also has Walz, Gaborik will probably play, maybe White.

    Anh, Neidermayer, probably Frderov. Dal, Modono, Lehtonin (sp). Pheonix has a few players, Doan, Ricci, Rupp, Johnson, Hull maybe. They can throw out a mix of guys. San Jose is in great shape with Primieu, Sturm, McCaully, Thornton, and even Ekman and Marleau when needed.

  8. TheCrosbyShow says:

    Very interresting topic!

    I also believe that teams like Ottawa or Montreal (yeah i live in the Northeast) will have a slight advantage on other teams this year.Huge PK and PP.For exemple,Montreal had,before facing Hasek the octopus in their last pre-season game, a devastating 26% efficacity on Powerplay!

    Thats huge and with the new rules you need guys like Koivu,Kovalev,Zednik,Ryder,Ribeiro that have a are always a threat on PP.Also your goaltender is your most important player in PK.If you control the rebounds you control the PK.It happens to be that Hasek and Theodore are the best goalies in the Northeast!Belfour is also solid.

    I think habs finish second in northeast just after the sens.Followed by Boston and Toronto and finally the Sabres.

  9. Heinzee57 says:

    Bruins – PJ Axelsson


  10. robinson19 says:

    Kilger sucks. I hate the Leafs, but if Kilger’s their best PKer then I feel sorry for their fans.

  11. SabresFan220 says:

    Well as I said, these names are open to as much scrutiny as you like. I kind of thought Kilger was a decent PK guy when I saw him play for Edmonton and even his stint in Montreal. I realize there are many very strong defensive players omitted from my list, but I tried to limit it to who I felt might be the strongest 2 PKers on each team. Needless to say the list can be reworked and names added and deleted, but that’s what I said before.

  12. soixantesix66 says:

    I see Koltsov as being groomed to be a PKer for the Pens at this point. He’s a good forechecker with great speed, hopefully allowing for disruption of breakouts.

    With the increased focus on special teams this year, the only way to get some of your 3rd liners good ice time will be penalty kills.

    The top players will log their 5-5 shifts and their PP shifts, leaving few of them time to kill penalties too.

    My concerns about Roy and VandenB will be their propensity to take penalties themselves.

  13. wingerxxx says:

    Kilger is actually a decent PK guy. If he stays on the Toronto roster this year, you can bet that he will be used on the PK quite a bit. This kind of begs that question, what makes a good defensive forward? Basically, it is someone that diligently backchecks, can shadow other team’s top players, and is consistent on the PK. For Toronto, this eliminates a lot of their forwards. Sundin is a good penalty killer. Guys like Allison and Lindros, however, are not. Lindros in particular. The extent of his defensive play is winning faceoffs and hitting the crap out of his opponents. He can check other top lines…not very well, but he can do it…but never has been a great PKer. Not even with the Rangers. You want Lindros to score points, not play complete defensive hockey. I’d actually make a list of all the teams’ 3 or 4 best defensive forwards. For example, for Dallas, you could say, Lehtinen, Modano, Barnes, and Kapanen. All of those guys are featured in a fairly prominent defensive role in a lot of games.

  14. PSU_Penguin says:

    And Fata, having him paired with koltsov on the PK is a short handed goal waiting to happen.

  15. SoBaZzZz says:

    Montreal have a bunch of great PK guys.

    Bulis, Sundstrom, Koivu, Plekanec, Bonk, Begin

    Don’t be surprised if you see Montreal in the top-5 PKers this year.

    Hell, which other team has 3 great PK lines?

  16. johnnymouthpiece says:

    I think for Edmonton you could add Marty ‘steelankles’ Reasoner!

  17. hockeyhead says:

    boston also has green, axelson leahy and fitzgerald who do a nice job.

  18. Mullet says:

    The New NHL SUCKS! I hate a lot of the new rules! some are just ridiculous! I will name the ones I hate!

    1)The shootout- it’s a skills challenge and not part of hockey! It’s like telling NFL teams that if there’s a tie their QB has to throw the football at a target to find out eho wins. Just have continuous OT like in the playoffs, thats much more entertaining to watch!

    2)Goalie playing the puck restrictions. I don’t think it’s bad but they should make the trapazoid bigger for more space for the goalies.

    3)Automatic suspension with a fight after the 5 minute mark in the 3rd period. This is possibly the most retarded rule of all! This is usually the time when most of the fights break out! Fighting is a part of hockey, and by allowing this rule you are possibly causing more stick related incidents! Get rid of this rule and the instigator rule and stick related incidents will decrease in hockey!

    4) The new obstruction rules! I like the base of this rule! but it’s too extreme right now! tiny hooks and holds should be allowed. Also defencemen should be allowed to try to move players away from the front of the net without getting penalties called on them! I mean i want to see hockey with some flow. With all these penalties it’s slowing the game down even more! These are the new rules that I hate!


  19. hockeyhead says:

    the shootout is in the olympics…….you must be a leafs fan.

    you get a point for an ot loss and shootout loss so it doesnt matter.

    i didnt know about the fighting one. i agree there.

    and d-men can move guys out from in front…they just cant hook em or grab em.

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