The Ultimate Bucci Top 100
Why in the wide world of sports would anyone attempt to assemble something such as this? Fully knowing it will result in way more instant hate email/tweets than love email/tweets. Like LL Cool J, I need love, not additional Mary J. Blige social-media hateration.
As you can see, music blows wind through my sails. A great song can actually alter the mood for a stretch of time, even through tough times. Florence and the Machine's "Only If For A Night" is that song right now. Like a great hockey game, it causes multiple emotions to peak. For me, it currently upgrades life's rich pageant.
The song reaches surreal status when Florence Welch sings "And I did cartwheels in your honor." The image of a young girl innocently and imperviously doing cartwheels and handstands (like only a young girl can) in a graveyard to deal with the death of a mom, a music teacher or whatever mysterious role model Florence is constructing or reliving is an overwhelming image. Especially if you have, or desire to have, a daughter someday.
The song sounds sad and heavy but like any great art it turns on a dime and extols those great hockey virtues of battle, perseverance, exhilaration, inspiration, fight and, most importantly, of feeling the most alive possible while pulling the rope with others in the same direction.
"And the only solution was to stand and fight
And my body was loose and I was set alight
But she came over me like some holy rite
And although I was burning, you're the only light
Only if for a night"
For my money, it's the best 4:58 of music going right now. Especially through quality headphones while you read along with the lyrics. Yeah, I'm listening to it as I write this.
My primary purpose of an NHL Top 100 is to have a vehicle to write about the great players of the NHL and commenting on them the same way I would if we were watching a slate of games together. All-Star Weekend is a positive weekend, and this list is 95.6 percent (approximately) positive. I like looking at numbers as well as using all the observational learning/information I stockpile watching NHL games every night with my pet otter, Ken. And I like looking for the best in others, especially those I admire.
What were my guidelines? I tried to rank players in terms of picking players for this spring. Guys you would want, and we assume they are all 100 percent healthy, for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Past production, whether trending up or down, was examined in an attempt to get an accurate snapshot today. "Potential" or "ceiling" or projected drop-off were not considered. At least I tried not to let them affect my thinking. It's about who can help us win right now.
I also tried to use the parameter that, if I definitely wouldn't trade Player A for Player B straight up (not taking into consideration cap number), then Player A must be ranked higher, right? I agree it's hard to compare players who play different positions or have different roles. And it was difficult in situations in which I know a team already had a goalie or a similar position in abundance. I admit to some human error and perhaps a contradiction or two. This is not an absolute list, but a rough guideline according to one fool. I will probably have one or two glaring omissions that, upon further Ed Hochuli review, I will admit were foolish.
More than 900 players have suited up in the NHL this season. My player 97 might be your 197. I tried to make a quick, easy-to-digest case for each player, while also extolling his virtues. Sports debates should be measured, thoughtful, smart (or at least attempt to be) and fun. They should not include wrenches or a plugged-in waffle iron.
Check out some of your responses at the end of the list.
And here's the final list of all 100 players.
1. Sidney Crosby: He is No. 1 because there simply no one in the NHL for whom you would trade when healthy. He truly blows away the competition. I could have been "different" and picked someone else (especially considering his concussion), but that would have been disingenuous. Two things are sad about his injury: He is in his primo prime, and this is the best Penguins team he's been on.
2. Jonathan Toews: The only player I would trade Jonathan Toews for is a healthy and dependable Sidney Crosby. Incredible home faceoff numbers (61 percent) and plays all situations. And he is getting better. Will set career high in goals and points. He's a captain. His attitude sets the tone for the franchise. That's invaluable.
3. Evgeni Malkin: A-plus skater, A-plus hockey sense, A-plus hands, A-plus shot and he's rangy. Defensive stickwork is underrated and right there with Pavel Datsyuk. When fully invested, he is the NHL's most impactful player because of the extra height/reach factor to go with his skill. Lack of faceoff dominance (he can control that) and penalty-killing time (he can't control that) keep him beneath Toews for me. Playoff beast: 73 points in 62 games. One guy, all-out, for 60 seconds, to score or set up, with you strapped to an electric chair watching and needing your team to score to save your life? You take Geno.
4. Pavel Datsyuk: Does everything well and with style. Sickest mitts in the biz. A yearly mayoral candidate of Dangle City. Snipes, sauces, wins faceoffs (56 percent) and has a great work ethic. Wins more shorthanded draws than he loses. No MVPs, scoring championships or Conn Smythes. Considering his talent and teammates, that's a little surprising.
5. Claude Giroux: A great age, just turned 24 on Jan. 12. Was drafted 22nd overall in 2006, after the Rangers took Bobby Sanguinetti 21st . A scorned athlete with something to prove is dangerous, and they tend to have productive careers. Loves grilled cheese sandwiches, according to road roomy Matt Carle. Good on the faceoff, kills penalties and, as HBO's "24/7" showed, is a stealth chirper. Best hands in Flyers history.
6. Steven Stamkos: Doesn't kill penalties and is poor on faceoffs but he is otherwise an all-world talent, has another skating gear this year. Tom Brady-off-the-charts people skills. Keeps getting better. Much better 5-on-5 and not just a left-circle one-time machine. Already has as many even-strength goals this year as he did in his 51-goal season two years ago. The new lettuce look has him looking like Jeff Spicoli, which is unfortunate.
7. Shea Weber: An absolute beast. Having a career year. He proves the slap shot is not dead and is still an intimidating weapon. It is still a weapon in the Honky Tonk. You couldn't quantify his loss for Nashville if he leaves via trade or free agency after next year.
8. Alex Ovechkin: He has turned out to be a comet. Shooting less and assisting less, which says he's not moving like he used to. Was once a human can of Red Bull. Fifth straight year his goal-per-game average has decreased. Tied for 38th in scoring this year. Maybe the offseason Happy Meal runs need to end. Playoff beast: 50 points in 37 games. Had 43 even-strength goals in '07-08. He has 37 in his past 126 games. Let's hope the train returns soon.
9. Zdeno Chara: Another barrier-breaker. A Slovakian is the leader, personality and torch carrier for an Original Six team in Boston. Nick Lidstrom leads with sunrise/sunset consistency and dependability; Chara with a club and two cavewomen on his arms. Like Pedro Martinez, Chara speaks more eloquently and thoughtfully in his secondary language than most in his dressing room do in their first. Big shot, big presence, block shots at important times. Invaluable come playoff time.
10. Daniel Sedin: 44 points in last 47 playoff games. He will be a 1,000-game, 1,000-point Hall of Famer.
11. Henrik Sedin: 46 points in last 47 playoff games. He will be a 1,000-game, 1,000-point Hall of Famer.
12. Kris Letang: Defensemen like Letang are like great point guards. They are the engine of the offense. All great teams have a fuel injector that makes life easier for everyone else. If I had three wishes, the first would be to skate like Kris Letang. The second would be to have flow like Kris Letang. The third? Boxes and boxes of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies.
13. Nicklas Lidstrom: The NHL's angel. If every NHL player played with his vision and class, we would have fewer concussions. Seven-time Norris Trophy winner. Maybe the best power-play net-hitter of all time. I coach a peewee team in South Windsor, Conn., and I implore these Sparkys to skate, pass and shoot with their heads up. Like Nick Lidstrom.
14. Zach Parise: I love Parise's demeanor on the ice. Energetic, engaged, invested and joyful. He will return to his old self when his knee/legs have another summer of training and when his career location is settled. These are my favorite players to watch, Christmas-morning players, who play with the energy and spark of Dec. 25 at 7 a.m. Pokemon!
15. Anze Kopitar: He entered the NHL as a 19-year-old and is pretty much the same player. His offensive numbers this year are almost identical to those of his rookie year. A very good player but not in the "elite." Of course, he doesn't have much skill around him in L.A. Put Parise on his line or find him an identical twin and see what happens.
16. Tim Thomas: He is Dominik Hasek-dominant right now: ultracompetitive and a game-changer. I have him this high because you could see the Blackhawks, the Sharks, the Capitals and others improving their chances of winning a Cup with him in net, and others that will miss the postseason making the playoffs with him. Dude had a .940 save percentage in 25 playoff games; .940! Would I be surprised if the Bruins traded Thomas and Nathan Horton at some point to get in on the Parise/Suter mix? No.
17. Corey Perry: After a spike in numbers that led to the MVP and Richard trophy (50 goals), Perry has regressed to his mean numbers. But he still has two great traits: He is durable and he produces in important games, whether it's Junior, Olympics or Stanley Cup.
18. Marian Hossa: Hossa is having a monster year in Chicago, productive and energized. He is a lock Hall of Famer and one of the game's best all-around players. Great skater, fast hands, sturdy checker, special-teams ace. There is nothing he can't do well. I think the MVP race is a five-horse race: Malkin, Giroux, Datsyuk, Toews and Hossa.
19. Rick Nash: I admire the emotional capital he has poured into his futile cause in Columbus. He will be rewarded some day. He will be 28 next summer and still hasn't experienced a playoff game win. Not one win. The Jeff Carter trade was a disaster and now the Blue Jackets have to try to unload him to get back to even par. They won't. Nash has never had a great center.
20. Brad Richards: His .01 buzzer-beater in Phoenix on Dec. 17 was no accident. That's what players like Brad Richards do. The Rangers don't have a lot of pure scorers, therefore Richards' assists per game is at a career low. Dallas was a better regular-season stat fit for Richards. But he signed with the Rangers for the best collection of summer golf courses in the country and to perform on Broadway in June, not January. Playoff-dependable guy. The bigger the moment, the better he is; a human's best trait.
21. Duncan Keith: Any youth hockey coach will tell you that a great skating defenseman controls the game. Keith is often the best skater on the ice, a big reason the Hawks are good. His offensive game is not great but he is NFL-cover-corner fast. Like Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, he can shut down one side of the ice.
22. Ryan Kesler: I thoroughly scanned all of the numbers last year and felt he was the clear-cut MVP. He probably won't score 41 goals again in his career but he is an every-situation, confrontational player. Power play, penalty kill, faceoffs, in your face. I'd never want to be his roommate; he looks perpetually grumpy, but I'd have him as my No. 2 center.
23. Phil Kessel: The most electric player flying through the neutral zone with speed in full flight right now. He puts the snipe in sniper. Unique skating style. 500-goal career. He is shooting less with the Leafs and scoring more. This is the fourth straight year his assists per game have risen. He makes more plays for others than he used to.
24. Patrick Kane: Patty Danglesauce. His 15-dangle shootout goal against the Wild on Dec. 14 was jaw-dropping. He might go down as the most talented American player of all time. A point-per-game guy in the regular season and the playoffs.
25. Jeff Skinner: He reminds me of a lot of Zach Parise with his on-ice countenance, his unbridled joy and investment in the shift. "The Thriller." Thirty goals as an 18-year-old is special. Would have had 30 more this year if he hadn't gotten hurt. He will hit 40 goals in a season soon. Top-10 player in terms of excitement. You just sense the Stanley Cup playoffs would take his game to an insane excitement level, possibly causing him to explode.
26. Marian Gaborik: Elite speed and shot. Joe Sakic ability in the open ice. A gear most humans don't have. Imagine being able to say that about yourself for any skill. A playoff underachiever keeps him from being higher. This is a Hall of Fame talent.
27. Henrik Lundqvist: He's having the best year of his career. The definition of a franchise goalie. His performance in the playoffs has been substandard, however. A deeper offensive team should help him in the postseason because he has underperformed in the playoffs. He has to be better.
28. Patrice Bergeron: Four years later, it looks like he is back from his severe concusion. Think about that. Still just 26. Great faceoff dude, would rather pass than shoot. The Bruins would not have raised their Cup last June without the return of his classy, all-around gem.
29. John Tavares: He is in the Jason Spezza category. Stupid-great hockey sense and velvety mittens that are among the NHL's best. I'm told he is a hard and creative worker, which bodes well for longevity and consistency. His skating isn't elite, but he is so smart that I could see him winning a scoring title.
30. Ryan Getzlaf: A below-average player this year. Is he healthy? His skating looks poor. He needs to skate more and shoot more, two things he is doing less.
31. Marc-Andre Fleury: His save on Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 7 of the 2009 finals is on par with Bill Mazeroski's Game 7 World Series home run in 1960 and the Immaculate Reception. It should be a statue. Great attitude, incredible lateral movement and always in attack mode. Cheerleader flexible.
32. Ryan Suter: Nobody develops defensemen like Nashville. It's been a slow progression to excellent for Suter. He's raised his game another level this year. It would be cruel for Preds fans if he leaves after this year.
33. Henrik Zetterberg: Shooting less as he ages, 4.77 shots a game in '07-08, 3.16 this year. This is the fourth straight year his goals per game has gone down. He looks older than 31. Better goal scorer in the playoffs than the regular season. I like that. A former Conn Smythe winner. I'd rather win one of those than a Hart.
34. Tyler Seguin: One of the most purely talented players in Bruins history. There is nothing he can't do at a high level. Shoots it better, passes it better and skates better than any other Bruin on the current roster. Nineteen years old and he leads Bruins in goals, points and plus/minus. If the B's repeat as champs, he will win the Conn Smythe.
35. Keith Yandle: Turned into a consistent producer who is in the lineup every night. This will be his third straight year of double-digit goals and 40 points. A playoff factor as well in the few games he's played. Big reason the Coyotes made the playoffs the last two years.
36. Joe Thornton: Only 32. He's a bigger Bernie Federko. The difference is Federko's numbers did not go down in the postseason, where Thornton's do. Still, a great career. Could get to 1,500 points. Would love to see him raise a Cup.
37. Ilya Kovalchuk: Was tied with Jussi Jokinen for 75th in points per game last year. An unreal shot and good size. With Parise back, he's sniffing point-per-game status again. Makes $11 million next season. If you are Zach Parise, how do take less when you're more valuable?
38. Logan Couture: Amazingly skilled player who has that bounce to his game that helps him come up big. Has 11 goals in 33 playoff games and he isn't even 22 yet. Big-time talent. Leads the Sharks in goals this year.
39. Thomas Vanek: Sick mitts, with an assassin's mentality. On pace for a career high in assists. He has improved his playmaking skills. Those hands should be able to make great passes. Velvety. If I'm his coach, I tell him to shoot more. Buffalo needs an overhaul. But keep this guy.
40. Brian Campbell: It's a fact. Teams that have Campbell win. He's been good in the playoffs as well, leading the Blackhawks in plus/minus the year they won the Cup. An underrated player who has had a terrific career.
41. Erik Karlsson: A Kris Letang clone. Real smart, real smooth. Not as nasty as Letang and not quite as strong, but right there in terms of sauce and silkiness. He is moving up this list fast.
42. Bobby Ryan: Wherever he's played, he's scored goals. He's settling in as a solid 30-goal scorer. If you trade that you better get a lot in return. This guy is elite.
43. Eric Staal: Like Evgeni Malkin he is a rangy, effortless, talent. Not afraid of the big spot. These Staals thrive in the spotlight. I think he needs a trade to give his career a second-half jump-start.
44. Drew Doughty: Doughty is regressing offensively and that has to concern the Kings. Is he committed to being a professional off the ice and the best at his position? He has all the tools to be in the 20s on this list.
45. Patrick Sharp: What's not to like? Good skater, great shot and arguably the best head of hair in hockey. Can fulfill many roles. He is my definition of a professional. He gets it. He does his job. Style and substance. With flow.
46. Mike Richards: Much has been made of Mike Richards' off-ice lifestyle. That can't be quanitified, but his on-ice numbers can. This is the fourth straight year his points-per-game average has gone down. But he is such a gamer, and I love him in big spots.
47. Danny Briere: I love Briere because unlike most players, his production goes up in the playoffs. He is not a point-per-game guy in the regular season, but he has 96 points in 97 career playoff games.
48. David Krejci: Like Henrik Zetterberg, he gets better in the playoffs. Doesn't shoot a lot (150 times a year) so he will never be a big goal scorer. Better than 50 percent in faceoff circle. Playing between Lucic and Horton, he's the book between the bookends. Has 0.74 points per game in the regular season, 0.92 points per game in the postseason.
49. Matt Moulson: You want 30 goals? Here you go. This guy is going to get 30 for the third year in a row. Some people know just where to go and what to do to be successful.
50. Alexander Semin: With his ability, it's nauseous that he is No. 50 on this list. Good size, good skater, and no one, I mean no one, shoots the puck like he does. Hall of Fame talent, but it looks like he will have to buy a ticket to get in.
51. Jason Spezza: Will always be underappreciated because of the ridiculous pre-NHL hype. Size, reach, sense and hands like a masseuse. His lack of quickness/speed keeps him from being among the superelite in the game, but he is still a really good point-per-game guy.
52. Johan Franzen: He has the curse of having a big body that plays with politeness. More is always expected of the large. Sweet, Swedish mitts, and one of the few with a good nickname: The Mule. When he is humming, it lifts the Red Wings to another level.
53. Jonathan Quick: Most of the country is in bed while he is working. I picked the Kings to win the West primarily because of the Connecticut native's ability. If the U.S. had an Olympic gold-medal game next week, Tim Thomas would start and Quick would be the backup. He also leads the NHL in shutouts.
54. Evander Kane: Cool name, cool game. Skater, fighter, athlete. This is what we want in our hockey players. He is a slow-burning improver. He could get to 30 goals this season, and I would expect him to be a good playoff performer.
55. Jordan Staal: He added another gear this year to become a little more of an offensive threat. Big, smart and reliable. Still just 23, and he has a little more room to grow. He was on his way to a 30-goal season before he got hurt. He is about to emerge into an all-situation guy.
56. Matt Duchene: The most entertaining feet in hockey. He regressed to numbers lower than his rookie season before he got hurt. He needs Steven Stamkos' off-ice habits to regain his form and be a top-10 player the next 10 years and move way up on this list.
57. Mikko Koivu: 2001 was a so-so draft year. The Wild picked sixth overall, and they nailed it when they drafted Koivu. An ideal No. 2 center. Not a great scorer, excellent on faceoffs.
58. Martin St. Louis: Insatiable love of the game and an obvious fear of failure that drives every stride, every facial expression. He has a face that seems to say, "I hope they don't take my equipment away today." Thirty-six years old and still a point-per-game guy. A playoff beast.
59. Dan Boyle: Miami University alum. A Brian Rafalski (Wisconsin Badgers) comparable. Similar stats, similar size, similar pedigree. In 39 playoff games with the Sharks, he has 34 points. That's extraordinary.
60. Jarome Iginla: What a bummer it would be if this model of a hockey player/person never raised the Cup. I love athletes who go from chill to rage in 1.2 seconds.
61. Ryan Callahan: Not a prolific scorer, a 60-point guy probably with a chance for a little higher ceiling, but high effort and his confrontational energy have helped give the Rangers an identity. The casual hockey fan has difficulty recognizing the value and purpose of players such as Callahan.
62. Dion Phaneuf: A legit physical talent. Powerful skater, thunderous shot. Subtlety and nuance not his strength, and that's a big part of being a great defenseman. He has a cool name and hockey player face, but he's a little more style than substance. I don't think his game will age well.
63. Roberto Luongo: Career wins leader for the Panthers and the Canucks. Cursed with a cool name and the dirtiest of salads. If his name were Mel Clinksdale and he had a crew cut, he wouldn't get as much grief.
64. David Backes: A big reason the Blues are for real. Backes is an L-O-A-D. He doesn't have playoff experience (four games), but he will be leaning on Toews, Datsyuk, Sedin and others this spring.
65. Joe Pavelski: Consistent, smart and dependable come playoff time. He's played hockey in Waterloo, Wis., and Worcester, Mass. Also, he is a 61 percent faceoff guy at home and a 61 percent faceoff guy on the road.
66. Niklas Kronwall: Hard hitter, good shot, and his offensive game is improving as he ages. He will get a career high in goals this season after getting a career high last season.
67. Scott Hartnell: Hartnell is having a career year after scoring one goal in 11 playoff games this past spring. I'm not sure whether this is a one-year spike or a trend toward less goofiness and a more mature, thoughtful game using his size and skating efficiently. He is tied with James Neal for most power-play goals in the NHL.
68. Jimmy Howard: His success shouldn't surprise. U.S. development team, three years of college hockey at Maine, 186 games in the AHL and now 175-plus games in the NHL. His $2.2 million salary helps deepen the roster for the playoffs.
69. Patrik Elias: Consistent player that is among the top 20 in scoring this year. The best and most consistent offensive player in Devils history. Not a Hall of Famer, but close.
70. Milan Lucic: Intimidator. Fighter. Physical presence. Excellent puck retriever. He lacks Neely's quick release -- it's a little slow -- but everything else is like No. 8. Mean, rough and a short fuse.
71. Jordan Eberle: Greasy gloves and plenty of finish. He looks like a perennial 30-goal kind of guy, especially considering the talent around him. He would be a postseason menace with his high compete factor and a popular #bucciovertimechallenge pick on Twitter in playoff overtime games.
72. Christian Ehrhoff: Good size, good skater, not much jam. Back-to-back 14-goal seasons with Vancouver. When you give a soft player all that money as Buffalo did (He makes 10 mil this year), it can be a recipe for a subconscious team chemistry disaster.
73. Patrick Marleau: Consistent, durable and pretty dependable whether it's the regular season or the playoffs.
74. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Elite player at home. Eighteen-year-old junior player on the road. Otherwise, he'd be higher. One can't gauge or forecast long-term commitment and desire, but I believe that, if the Noog has "it," he is a future MVP but also an impact guy right now, 35 points in 38 games.
75. James Neal: He's gonna pump in 40 goals this season in all likelihood. Good skater and can shoot in full flight. He is a restricted free agent after this year. He should stay right where he is for as long as No. 71 is in Pittsburgh.
76. Vincent Lecavalier: A very good player, falling just short of a great one. A five-year peak to his career from age 22-27. He seems to have made the transition to more of a grinding game using his good size, great hockey sense and good hands.
77. Loui Eriksson: Very good defensive instincts (where to go, where to put stick). Good puck protector along boards in own zone and then making subtle play. A twisted wrister and good on the PK. Good in shootouts and doesn't take dumb penalties because he skates well.
78. Carey Price: Great size, calm demeanor. Maybe sometimes too calm. He still seems like a work in progress but he has a high ceiling and seems destined to have a Cup over his melon if he can stoke the fire.
79. Mike Fisher: Has become more durable as he's gotten older. Because of his defensive role, his production is kind of up and down, but he's competent in all three zones. All-Star flow on his head as well.
80. Taylor Hall: Amazing skater. Doesn't have the offensive flair, hockey sense or shot that Tyler Seguin has but he will be 90-100-point star. I see Hall being a Zach Parise-type: relentless and a player who lives near the net.
81. Teemu Selanne: Only 12 players have more career goals than Selanne. It's amazing how well 41-year-olds can skate nowadays. Would love to see him traded to a big-market playoff team. He's 41 and still around a point per game.
82. Mike Green: A vital fuel injector for the Capitals' offense. Monster offensive force. His injuries and his lack of playoff production have him down probably lower than he should be.
83. Ryan Miller: His game has regressed a bit since the amazing Olympic run. Hasn't won a playoff series in five years. The burden of carrying that team might be getting to him.
84. Kris Versteeg: Having a career year in Florida. One of those hockey late bloomers. Great paws and a high compete level, with personality. Will be interesting to see how many times he hits 30 goals over the next five seasons. Currently has too much salad for his bowl.
85. Tomas Plekanec: Five straight 20-goal seasons. At least one shorty for six straight seasons. Doesn't miss games. Most of his goals are 5-on-5. Can play all situations.
86. Chris Pronger: A stick tap to a great hockey player. It stinks we won't see his personality again this season. He's an attraction.
87. Mike Cammalleri: His career is trending in the wrong direction. Injuries have hurt his chances to be a consistent 75-plus-point guy; 32 points in 32 playoff games show he has skill and battle and the kind of player you want on your team in a big game.
88. Shane Doan: His style of play has worn down his scoring acumen. Would love to see him traded to a top-tier team to watch his insane playoff intensity for more than one round. He was possessed in last season's playoffs. Free agent after this year.
89. Stephen Weiss: I really like him as a player and frankly am surprised he doesn't produce more points. A different situation with different teammates could have meant a more prolific career. Has never played in a playoff series in his 10-year career, but I bet he would be dependable.
90. Kevin Shattenkirk: Can run a power play and deliver a big hit. Smart and skilled. Elusive losing the first forechecker and strong on his skates. Well trained. U.S. Development Program and Boston University under Jack Pahkah. Great teammate.
91. Dan Girardi: He plays a ton, plays an involved game (top 5 in blocked shots, top 5 in hits), and has somehow evaded injury. His offensive playoff line is arid: 32 games, no goals, three assists. Helped construct the Rangers' identity with his personality and play.
92. Mark Streit: Very productive blueliner who is still coming back from a shoulder injury. His shots and goals per game are down. Expect those to improve during the stretch drive.
93. Pekka Rinne: Gigantic goalie (6-foot-5, 209 pounds) from Finland who has been a regular-season horse but whose numbers slip a little in the postseason. That has to change for him to move up this list.
94. Nicklas Backstrom: Hard to quantify how Alex Ovechkin effects his numbers. Before his current concussion, he was able to escape injury. He's a little hard to figure out because his numbers, while good, have yet to be consistent.
95. Cam Ward: He has a Conn Smythe on his mantel and that says a lot. His numbers get better in the postseason. That says he is a gamer.
96. Niklas Backstrom: He's the Backstrom from Finland. The Capitals' Backstrom is from Sweden. Has never had a save percentage under .900. Steady.
97. Brad Marchand: He is the kind of player you win with. He won't get 14-Down on your USA Today crossword puzzle but he is quick, nasty and relentless. Going back to Junior, AHL and now NHL, he shows up in big games. Yes, it helps having good teammates, but he is old-school nasty and does not care what you think.
98. Max Pacioretty: Good size, good skater and over his last 82 games he has 30 goals. I don't see why that can't continue, especially if he keeps getting 3.5 shots a game. An American late bloomer who plays with energy. Hockey energy is contagious. This probably surprises you, but the production is there right now and that's what we are looking for.
99. Jeff Carter: Columbus overpaid for him. I see him as a sniping winger, not a center. He scored a lot in Philly because he shot a lot. His shots are way down this season. Incredible release and good size. Poor playoff numbers and casual play are turnoffs for me. There is so much promise here.
100. Alexander Edler: Twenty-five-year-old, 6-foot-4 Swede hits, blocks shots, gets pucks on net, plays a lot and plays all situations. Vancouver's best defenseman who still produces points in the playoffs.
@RyneFults: Pekka is at least a top 50 player. Would you mind checking his stats this season and compare them to other goalies?
Buccigross: Pekka Rinne is 13th in goals against and seventh in goals against playing in a responsible, defensive system. His playoff numbers are not as good as his regular season. Nashville needs those numbers to get better in the postseason.
@LadyHatTrick: I adore you, but I have to agree with @CapsExaminer here: Backstrom at #94 under Fisher post-Cup run Senators is questionable.
Buccigross: With a seven game playoff series on the line, which was the basic premise of this Top 100, Backstrom would be about my 20th pick at center. Considering the five other positions on a team, his spot seems about right to me.
John Buccigross' email address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is email@example.com.
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