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Were smaller players in the dead puck era given a fair shake?

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03-06-2013, 09:04 PM
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Big Phil
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Were smaller players in the dead puck era given a fair shake?

This is my theory and it always has been, even during the dead puck era from the mid 1990s to 2004. The NHL was going through a phase back then. I don't know if it was just post 1991 and every team hoped to get a Lindros type player but teams drafted for size all the time and the most skilled player would be left behind if he wasn't 6'4" 220lbs. So we saw guys like Jason Arnott, Chad Kilger, etc. get drafted and we saw players like Brad Richards get picked much later. Or in the case of Martin St. Louis, not at all. This led to some bad drafts in the 1990s and a team like the Flyers overpaying Chris Gratton or a team like - again - the Flyers obtaining Keith Primeau in the hopes his size would help them.

This left a lot of small players out in the cold. Steve Sullivan was a smart little player when he was with the Leafs. I loved him and hated when they let him go. For whatever reason a guy like him - or Lonny Bohonos - never got the benefit of the doubt after a bad game. Sullivan left Toronto and still had lots of success elsewhere. There was this obsession with size in the NHL as if that was the only thing that mattered.

At the time I didn't think a small player couldn't be a star. I think the same way in hindsight and looking back you can see just how many star players in the NHL were small.

Fleury, Palffy, Bure, Sakic, Recchi, St. Louis, Kariya all had success and were top scorers. To a lesser extent Brad Richards and Demitra did well.

Was it exaggerated in the dead puck era that smaller players couldn't succeed? I think it was and it was the NHL's fault for having this obsession with size equalling success which wasn't true. I personally thought that a small player had to prove he could play while a big player had to prove he COULDN'T play and got all the chances to do so.

My take is that smaller players didn't get a fair shake during this time.

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03-06-2013, 09:23 PM
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pretty obvious. What were the sayings back then? I remember one was like a big guy has to prove he can't play while the small guy has to prove he can play. Another was something like draft a big guy and see if he could develop skills instead of drafting a small guy and hope he grows.

Look at Rafalski, teams didn't want him so he had to play in Europe. Meanwhile, big guys like Cory Cross and Steve Rucchin were playing in the Canadian University system and was able to make it to the NHL.

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03-06-2013, 09:34 PM
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LeBlondeDemon10
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I think the proof is in the pudding BP. That is, the emergence of the many young smaller players post 04 lockout tells the story. Toews, Kane, Briere, Giroux, Steen, Kadri, Ribeiro, Tavares, Gagner, Hall, RNH, Karlsson, etc...Some of these guys are below average in size, some average in size. But even your average sized player struggled during the dead puck era. I'm really happy to see Kadri finally getting a fair chance in Toronto this year. He is a nifty player with great skills. Karlsson excelling the way he has is a breath of fresh air. Gallagher in Montreal is doing just fine. The NHL appears to be trending in the right way. Can you imagine hockey history if players like the Pocket Rocket, Lindsey, The Roadrunner and Dionne were not given the opportunity?

The dead puck era was not just a low scoring era, it was dark era filled with oversized, marginally skilled players who took advantage of hooking, holding, tackling and interference. The NHL let this happen. As these trends tend to cycle (the last few being the era of violence in the NHL in 1970's and the blindside hits era of recent times), they also tend to creep up on us and we lose the beauty of the game for a time and we wonder what we missed. Marc Savard - what could have been? My worry is - will the NHL use the foresight to prevent what is coming next?

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03-06-2013, 09:36 PM
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In the late 90s, there seemed to be a ton of those 6'3"+ centermen in every system in the NHL. You literally had a league full of them: Eric Lindros, Mats Sundin, Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Keith Primeau, Petr Nedved, Bobby Holik, Jason Arnott, Jason Allison, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Erik Rasmussen, Radek Bonk, Alexei Yashin, Chad Kilger, Chris Gratton, Patrik Stefan, Olli Jokinen, etc.

Nowadays, you survey the league and there seem to be way less of those big centermen in the NHL or even in the prospect ranks. Instead you have a proliferation of those mid sized 6'1" and under skill centermen all over the place.

I guess a decade ago, most of those smaller kids wouldn't have even made it in juniors, with all the development time going to the big bodies who coaches were trying to mold into the next Lindros, Sundin, Thornton, etc...

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03-07-2013, 04:23 PM
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Big Phil
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See I think that was the problem. A little player like St. Louis at 5'8" won the Art Ross and Hart and nearly the Conn Smythe all in one year. I remember the game at that time and the mindset was just almost universal when it came to stuff like that. The small guys still could have done well but they just didn't get the benefit of the doubt. Chris Gratton on the other hand.................well a guy like him was treated like royalty before he even had an elite season. He had a 62 point year and he was given a contract with a $17 million signing bonus. It is almost like we were all watching the NHL at that time and knowing that what was happening was wrong but it was like a train wreck, no one could stop it.

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03-07-2013, 05:04 PM
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billybudd
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Interesting theory. There's no question it was "easier" for smaller players after the 06 lockout, but were the contributions of smaller players EVEN IN the DPE undervalued by scouts?

I'd say the answer's "yes." There's a lot of small players who were producing more than bigger counterparts who ended up kicking around waivers long after it was clear they were contributors (Straka, Briere, Stillman, maybe), while the big guys got large contracts whether they earned them or not (Gratton, Rathje).

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03-07-2013, 05:17 PM
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Stephen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billybudd View Post
Interesting theory. There's no question it was "easier" for smaller players after the 06 lockout, but were the contributions of smaller players EVEN IN the DPE undervalued by scouts?

I'd say the answer's "yes." There's a lot of small players who were producing more than bigger counterparts who ended up kicking around waivers long after it was clear they were contributors (Straka, Briere, Stillman, maybe), while the big guys got large contracts whether they earned them or not (Gratton, Rathje).
I guess you could make a general statement that small players weren't getting breaks at all levels of hockey. While Briere, Straka, Sulivan, etc. were getting the short end of the stick, the development system was simply not turning out those 5'10"-6'1" skilled centers which have really proliferated since the 2005 lockout. Look around the league now and there's Crosby, Stamkos, Giroux, Tavares, Toews, B. Schenn, Kadri, Turris, Seguin, Backstrom, Steen, M. Richards, Grabovski, Duchene, Nugent-Hopkins, etc. making various contributions to their teams.

Ten or twelve years ago, that type of player wasn't really in great supply. Who was even coming up in that size and skill profile: B. Richards, Tim Connolly, Stephen Weiss, Jamie Lundmark, Scott Kelman? What the developmental leagues has been pumping out lately is just different these days.

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