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10-16-2013, 04:21 PM
quoipourquoi's Avatar
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Location: Hockeytown, MI
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
The word is that by the 2000s, Sakic had a greater defensive role than Forsberg
Sakic took on Forsberg's PK responsibilities in 2000, but by 2003, he was putting in 4th/5th forward PK minutes. His even-strength defensive responsibilities consisted of matching up against most other teams' top offensive lines (even when Yelle was still there, for the most part) because Forsberg drew the oppositions' defensive matchups. It's a system that theoretically should have boosted Sakic's offensive numbers since he was going punch-for-punch and boosted Forsberg's plus-minus numbers because there would be a less threatening counter-attack despite stronger defense.

While the plus-minus reflects this, Forsberg's offensive numbers remained fairly healthy relative to Sakic's, with Sakic blowing people's doors down in 2000 and 2001. 2002 saw a noticeable dip for Sakic, as Forsberg wasn't there to draw a defensive matchup away, thus changing the types of matchups teams could apply against the Sakic line. Enter 2003, when Sakic goes down with an injury: Forsberg steals his linemates and scores 38 points in 20 games during Sakic's two lengthy hiatuses.

Forsberg certainly wasn't a sheltered player, outside of taking fewer faceoffs than he did in the late-90s. As much as Hartley and Granato would have loved to have Forsberg play against weaker matchups, it's not really feasible when the other team consistently pulls their weaker defensive players off the ice to ensure that such a thing does not happen.

1997-98 is probably right up there with 2002-03 in terms of his seasons that blow 1995-96 out of the water. That's the season that he was within striking distance of Jagr's Art Ross, something he possibly could have won had Marc Crawford given him less PK time in favor of ES/PP minutes. I don't think Crawford was wrong for wanting to burn his best player's candle at both ends, as Colorado was a rather poor defensive team and the PK was one of the few bright spots, but it is the sort of thing that often goes unnoticed when people talk about 1997-98, both at the time and in retrospect.

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