When making this team I tried to keep in mind two things besides "get the best players":
1) The ability to keep this team together.
2) Creating realistic and versatile lines.
So without furthur adieu here is my team (read after the jump for more information about the players and my rationale):
First off here is all of the players' information:
|Name||Team||Cap Hit||Draft Year||Draft Position||Years Left on Contract||Status at the End of Contract|
|Larsson, Adam||New Jersey Devils||925,000||2011||1st||2||RFA|
|Skinner, Jeff||Carolina Hurricanes||1,400,000||2010||1st||1||RFA|
|Eakin, Cody||Washington Capitals||637,778||2009||3rd||2||RFA|
|Tavares, John||New York Islanders||5,500,000||2009||1st||6||UFA|
|Pietrangelo, Alex||St. Louis Blues||3,166,666||2008||1st||1||RFA|
|Gunnarsson, Carl||Toronto Maple Leafs||1,325,000||2007||7th||1||RFA|
|Couture, Logan||San Jose Sharks||2,875,000||2007||1st||2||RFA|
|Clutterbuck, Cal||Minnesota Wild||1,400,000||2006||3rd||1||RFA|
|Giroux, Claude||Philadelphia Flyers||3,750,000||2006||1st||2||RFA|
|Greening, Colin||Ottawa Senators||816,667||2005||7th||2||UFA|
|Letang, Kris||Pittsburgh Penguins||3,500,000||2005||3rd||2||UFA|
|Wheeler, Blake||Winnipeg Jets||2,550,000||2004||1st||2||RFA|
|Brown, Dustin||Los Angeles Kings||3,175,000||2003||1st||2||UFA|
|Higgins, Chris||Vancouver Canucks||1,900,000||2002||1st||1||UFA|
|Roy, Derek||Buffalo Sabres||4,000,000||2001||2nd||1||UFA|
|Goc, Marcel||Florida Panthers||1,700,000||2001||1st||2||UFA|
|Lundqvist, Henrik||New York Rangers||6,875,000||2000||7th||2||UFA|
|Beauchemin, Francois||Anaheim Ducks||3,500,000||1998||3rd||3||UFA|
|Tanguay, Alex||Calgary Flames||3,500,000||1998||1st||4||UFA|
|Hossa, Marian||Chicago Blackhawks||5,275,000||1997||1st||9||UFA|
|Giguere, Jean-Sebastien||Colorado Avalanche||1,250,000||1995||1st||1||UFA|
|Robidas, Stephane||Dallas Stars||3,300,000||1995||7th||2||UFA|
|Schlemko, David||Phoenix Coyotes||550,000||UFA||UFA||1||RFA|
I ended up writing a very long rationale section which I figure will lead many to go TL;DR. With that in mind I wrote out what I think my strengths are first and then you can read the rationale if you so choose:
- My team has 3 players that I think could be called "franchise players" (or guys you could build an entire team around) in Giroux, Tavares, and Lundy. Add to that two guys who could become franchise players in Skinner and Pietrangelo and I love this core.
- My top 3 C's are great in Giroux, Tavares, Roy. I have Tavares as my #2 C. I think that gets the point across.
- Versatility of my line up. My top line can play in any situation and I built a defensive and hard hitting fourth line (read below to learn about Goc). With that in mind I could easily shelter Tavares line to get some great offense out of him.
- I feel comfortable with all of my defensive pairings on the ice and the top end talent in Pietrangelo and Letang (and ideally in the future Larsson) is great.
- King Henrik behind this team just fills me with confidence.
- I wanted to create real lines that work in different situations. The first line of Giroux, Brown, and Hossa can play everywhere on the ice. It includes 2 of the toughest guys in the game in Brown (consistently ranks at the top of the league for hits) and Hossa (try taking the puck off of him) and two of the best two-way players in the game in Hossa and Giroux. Their offense is undeniable with Hossa being one of the top goal scorers over the last half decade, Brown being the epitome of a power forward, and Giroux owning the league this year. This is a first line I could put out in any situation.
- The second and third lines I made with a balance of youth and veterans where I tried to match skills appropriately.
- The second line has two guys great goal scorers (Tavares and Couture) and a set-up man in Tanguay. I don't really know what needs to be said here. It has one franchise player on it (Tavares), a vet with good offensive instincts (Tanguay) and a player coming off a Calder nomination followed by an all star season (Couture). This line is a top line on almost any team in the league.
- The third line has one of the most underrated centres in the league: Derek Roy. While he is coming off a subpar season he is a 1C on almost any team in the league. While last year was bad the previous 5 years he consistently put up high 20 goal and 65-80 point paces, all while being a strong two-way player who is (reportedly) good on the PK. On his wings I have put two good young players. On the one wing we have the big body, Blake Wheeler, who appears to be finally coming into his own. While he may never live up to his 5th overall selection in the draft, Wheeler broke out last year, by scoring over 60 points. I recognize that he did that by receiving more minutes (19/GP) that he likely won't be getting on this team. That being said he has scored between 17 and 21 G every year of his career. I think he can bring good value and a big body onto the third line who is still improving. The other guy on the line is another potential franchise player and the man who beat Couture for the Calder 2 years ago, 20 year old Jeff Skinner. Finishing this season at only 19 years old, he has missed 18 games in his young career but has still managed to crack 50 G and 100 points. He is going to be damn good.
- On my fourth line I wanted to build a true, tough, defensive fourth line. My original plan was to use Frans Nielsen, but I wanted Tavares and he was a tad expensive for a fourth line. Lucky for me I found Marcel Goc. Goc started 38% of his zone starts in the O zone and finished over 47% there. While doing that he was the only player with 38.5% or less Ozone start to have a positive Corsi (Bickel had a slightly positive one at 38.6%). This is a man who can move the puck up the ice. I have lined him up with 2 great defensive players: Cal Clutterbuck who constantly pushes Brown for league lead in hits and Chris Higgins a good cheap, 2 way player who can also be physical. One thing to note about that fourth line is that both Higgins and Clutterbuck and push 20 goals (though wouldn't from the fourth line) and Higgins can push 40 points (again wouldn't in that position).
- For my healthy scratches I chose two young guys who have some upside (Greening showed it by having a strong rookie season (admittedly at 25) by scoring 17 goals and 37 points and Eakins by having a strong junior career).
- At first glance some may not think my D is top tier but I actually really like it.
- First off it has two #1 D-men in Letang and Pietrangelo. Both are huge offensive threats (very high in league scoring by a dman), can play a tonne of minutes, and are very strong defensively. Pietrangelo even adds in a more physical element. They are both the kind of D-men that you build teams around. Due to their great all around play I would split them up so as to have one of them on the ice very often (think about matching up against a one-two punch team like Pittsburgh or LA), but I would likely double shift them together as I know they can both play a heavy workload.
- Paired up with those two I have two underrated D-men. You can all go read Bower Power's article a year or two ago about how awesome Beauchemin is if you want, but just a quick addition is that he is a league leader in TOI/GP and PK TOI/GP. He is a steady physical defenseman who I thought could match well with the smooth skating offensively-oriented Letang. Matching with Pietrangelo is a guy many people forget. Stephane Robidas played over 24 minutes/GP for 3 straight years before dropping to just over 22 minutes last year with the addition of Goligoski. He is an all around D-men who can do what ever is needed but excels at the defensive side of the game. Like Beauchemin with Letang I think, he could be a strong veteran presence alongside the young phenom that is Alex Pietrangelo.
- On my third pairing I put a quiet responsible defenseman, that we all know and love: Carl Gunnarsson. He is responsible, has strong positioning, and can handle tough minutes (though he likely won't have to on this team). For a two-way defenseman he also puts up decent points. Beside him I have NJD building block Adam Larsson. As a 19 year old rookie he played 20 minutes/GP and put up 0.28 PPG. That is damn impressive. I don't usually put too much into this stuff, but I realized I put two Sweedes together, so maybe Gunnar can be a bit of a mentor to Larsson (though Larsson obviously has a much higher ceiling).
- Schlemko is a cheap 7th Dman who has some offensive upside and actually played tough minutes when he was in the line up. He provides good bang for the buck.
- If Lundy isn't the best goaltender in the league, he is damn close. I don't feel the need to explain this. He is an incredible goaltender. Period. To back him up I have the good ol' former Conn Smythe winner Giggy. While he didn't play well for us, we later learned that he was nursing a groin injury through his second season with us. After offseason surgery he had a great season as a back up in Colorado. I think he can provide great, cheap, back up goaltending to King Henrik.
- One thing I tried to take into account with this team (as clrkaitken suggested) was the ability to keep this team together. While I have 8 free agents after this year (5 RFA and 3 UFA) only 2 are looking for big raises: RFA's Pietrangelo and Skinner. Together they currently make 4.5 million. After their raises I would hope to keep them at roughly 10.5-11 million. I figure I could let Roy go (one of the UFA's) and use his 4 million plus a raise of ~3 million to give them their raises. The other guys either won't get much raises or are cheaply replaceable.
- I feel I should explain why I didn't go for Quick. If I chose Quick I feel I would have needed to save 4-5 million to be able to resign him next year. With Lundy I have a goaltender who is just as good (if not better) who is signed for two more years. After those two years he should be relatively easy to resign as I already have his cap space available for him.