Playing the Field by Dink Carroll
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02-21-2013, 03:32 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
The Montreal Gazette - March 10, 1952
During the past couple of weeks, we have listened to a (???) of talk about great centres and their style of play. Dick Irvin declares that only two in recent years had the capacity to "make" wings. "One was Bill Cowley, and the other was Elmer Lach," said Dick. "Cowley was the better playmaker, but he wasn't as good a hockey player as Elmer because he was weak defensively."
"Tell Irvin," said Bill, his lip curling slightly, "that there is no neccessity to backcheck when you have the puck all the time."
But Cowley wasn't the greatest playmaker Dick had ever seen. He reserved that distinction for Duke Keats.
"Keats was a slow skater," Dick said, "but he was a wonderful stickhandler and so big and powerful that you couldn't get at the puck. He'd hold it until his wings were in position and then put it on the stick of one of them."
Carroll says that he is not in position to argue with Irvin about Keats, because he had never seen him or "Frank Nighbor, Newsy Lalonde, Joe Malone" or other "greats of the past." But he had seen Frank Boucher, Neil Collville, Joe Primeau, Marty Barry, Hooley Smith, and Cooney Weiland, all of whom "could set up plays."
Milt Schmidt, Syl Apps, Teeder Kennedy, Sid Abel, and even Howie Morenz are not classified in the trade as great playmakers, though acknowledged as great hockey players.
"They belong to the 'driving' type of player, Dick Irvin said. "Fellows like Schmidt, Kennedy, and Abel go into the corners and get the puck out to their wings." Apps used to hit the defense at top speed and Drillion would come behind and pick up his garbage. Apps used to get sore when I told him that Drillion profited from his mistakes.
Howie Morenz wasn't a good playmaker, said Elmer Ferguson. "Aurel Joliat was the playmaker on that line and the greatest playmaking left-winger of all time. Just like Bobby Bauer at right wing was the playmaker for the Kraut Line."
Link was originally posted by nik jr during the 2011 lineup advice thread
Notice the importance of puck possession in "playmaking" in the description of Duke Keats and the contrast to "driver" type players. I think a classic "playmaker" was like a point guard in basketball - he was the guy who stickhandled the puck down the ice and made the first pass in the offensive zone. This makes sense because before 1944, the forward pass was prohibited between zones, which meant that a player needed to skate the puck into the offensive zone before he could pass - no dump and chase. This would explain why someone like Bobby Bauer with relatively low assist totals would be considered a "playmaker," but someone like Sid Abel, who has excellent assist totals would not be considered one. Feeding a teammate off the cycle would not be considered "playmaking."
Milt Schmidt has better assist totals than Bauer, and Howie Morenz has better assist totals than Joliat. In the modern sense, the centers would be considered "playmakers" based on what they did in the offensive zone, but I think that before the Red Line, skating and stickhandling the puck into the offensive zone was considered part of playmaking - possibly the biggest part.
Interesting that Hooley Smith was considered a classic playmaker, and not a driver.
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