Blessed Are The Playmakers

I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant, channeling my inner Dave Pratt, channeling his inner Dennis Miller. Why, oh why do we perpetually disrespect the playmaker while building shrines to the all mighty goal scorer? I know it’s easier to wrap one’s mind around the idea of a goal scorer. It’s a straighter line, puck goes in the net, goal goes up on the board. 

On the other hand appreciating playmaking is a bit more abstract. You might have to discount a few second assists that really didn’t contribute to the play and you can argue that a goal can happen without an assist, but can never go vice versa.  Strangely you might have to watch a game to see how much a playmaker can contribute to a team’s success, a shocking concept I know to most of the media on the east coast who seems to discern what’s going on in west coast games by staring at a stat sheet the next day.

Despite having only two goals, does anyone who watches  the Canucks play doubt that Henrik Sedin is the primary driving force behind most of their offensive output. Were Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Burrows the reason why Henrik amassed so many assists, or did Henrik seemingly create 30 goal scores out of whole cloth? While not black and white, I’m sure the latter is far more likely.

Like most people in this city, I haven’t had a chance to watch too many complete games featuring Steve Stamkos and his Tampa Bay Lightning. But, we’ve all heard the talk about Stamkos needing to be included in the discussion of best hockey players alive and we’ve all seen the eye popping stats.  With that in mind, I’ve been making a special effort to watch the Lightning play whenever possible. While Stamkos has amazing knack for positioning, a great nose for the net and a wicked one timer, I often find myself more impressed with the playmaking and offensive control of Martin St. Louis. Though there’s no denying both players would be successful on their own, I’m skeptical whether Stamkos could have a near goal a game pace without St. Louis.

Was Wayne Gretzky the greatest player ever because he scored more goals than anyone in NHL history, or was he the greatest due his unparalelled ability to control the game through his playmaking? (Just a quick side note, I’m hoping everyone has noticed my latest attempt at putting the most rhetorical questions into a hockey related blog, Guinness, you’re on notice) Gretzky played a magical, thoughtful game where he made everyone on the ice into a potential goal scorer just by the way he passed. Gretzky even credits his greatest game  as the second game of the 1987 Canada Cup final against the mighty and mysterious Soviets, a game in which he tallied exactly 0 goals. He did manage to chip in with 5 assists, and frankly who are we to argue with the Great One.