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Why Winger Over Center?

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07-03-2013, 12:14 AM
  #1
invictus
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Why Winger Over Center?

I am not really sure if this is the right section, but here goes:

Why is it that talented wingers end up as wingers? I never played hockey growing up, so maybe I just have a misconception. However, it seems to me that the most talented kids would always tend toward playing center when they are young. Or is this idea way off?

For example, why is Ovechkin a winger? As a kid playing in Russia, wouldn't it have behooved his coach to put him as a center (assuming he stood out from the crowd then as now)? I just guess center is where talented kids get put because they can have a bigger impact on the game there, generally speaking. Am I wrong?

Any thoughts on this? I apologize if it seems stupid and simplistic.

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07-03-2013, 12:29 AM
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Lazea
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Maybe because centers usually have more defensive responsibilities and tend to be playmakers rather than goalscorers.

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07-03-2013, 12:50 AM
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Darth Yoda
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I believe it's mostly a matter of that the talent are more diluted on the wings since there is two of them on the ice. If you're a scorer you become a wing generally, but wingers can be great defensively too.

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07-03-2013, 05:03 AM
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Canadiens1958
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Center Skills

Usually players are moved to a wing because they lack certain center skills - the quickness, movement, vision, defense, faceoffs, ability to adapt to various wingers or play against various centers, etc.

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07-03-2013, 05:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazea View Post
Maybe because centers usually have more defensive responsibilities and tend to be playmakers rather than goalscorers.
Bingo... even look at some all time great centers. Gretz played more like a RWer and Lemieux played more like a LWer in the defensive zone. Then they could get pucks coming out of the defensive zone, be the first in the offensive zone and make plays.

A pure centers job is to help out the defense, headman pucks and then to support. Some of all time greats that played a classic style were Trottier, Messier, Beliveau and Francis.

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07-03-2013, 08:58 AM
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tarheelhockey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Usually players are moved to a wing because they lack certain center skills - the quickness, movement, vision, defense, faceoffs, ability to adapt to various wingers or play against various centers, etc.
This is pretty much it.

Switching from wing to center is surprisingly difficult. You have to skate MUCH farther north-south on every shift, and there's a lot more east-west movement to boot. Your view of the ice has to be 180 degrees instead of 90 degrees. You have to be thinking about the opposing center getting behind you, as opposed to keying on a defenseman's pinch. It's just a whole lot more responsibility without the puck, and when you get the puck it's much a more cerebral situation. Time and space is at a premium down the middle of the ice, so you have to make quick decisions and good passes, while also being in a position to recover. That's before you even get into faceoffs.

Ovechkin is probably THE example of a guy who was born to play wing, given the way he plays the game. The wing favors players who dominate with pure athleticism -- north-south speed, a strong shot, a willingness to gamble with big hits. It also favors great forecheckers and grinders, who have to go lower into the offensive zone and spend more time on the boards.

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07-03-2013, 09:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by invictus View Post
I am not really sure if this is the right section, but here goes:

Why is it that talented wingers end up as wingers? I never played hockey growing up, so maybe I just have a misconception. However, it seems to me that the most talented kids would always tend toward playing center when they are young. Or is this idea way off?

For example, why is Ovechkin a winger? As a kid playing in Russia, wouldn't it have behooved his coach to put him as a center (assuming he stood out from the crowd then as now)? I just guess center is where talented kids get put because they can have a bigger impact on the game there, generally speaking. Am I wrong?

Any thoughts on this? I apologize if it seems stupid and simplistic.
The best kids growing up always play center in the same way that the best kids playing baseball growing up pitch, even though they aren't meant to be pitchers, because yes...they can have a greater impact on the game there as a youth. Doesn't mean anything for their future.

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07-03-2013, 09:30 AM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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I'm not entirely sure how modern Russians are trained, but in the old Soviet system (which is still at least somewhat influencial), the most talented offensive players played the wings, while the center was a more defensive position.

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Originally Posted by IU Hawks fan View Post
The best kids growing up always play center in the same way that the best kids playing baseball growing up pitch, even though they aren't meant to be pitchers, because yes...they can have a greater impact on the game there as a youth. Doesn't mean anything for their future.
This is true of the modern Canadian game, but it certainly wasn't always true. Until the early 80s, at the NHL level at least, it was pretty common for the best offensive players to play wing - Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, etc. Not to mention slightly lesser superstars like Ted Lindsay, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, Andy Bathgate, Frank Mahovlich.

Awhile ago I noticed that for whatever reason, Mike Bossy seems to have been the last all-time-great winger that Canada produced; after him, the best Canadian-trained forwards in the NHL have been almost exclusively centers. But Europe filled the gap; there were periods of time in the 1990s when every player who received a vote for all-star RW was a European.

So basically, I think the "best players should play center, not winger," is a fairly modern phenomenon (well, "modern" as in "the last 3 decades or so") and seems to be limited to the Canadian (or at least North American) school of thought, as far as I can tell.

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07-03-2013, 10:26 AM
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Centers

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post

This is true of the modern Canadian game, but it certainly wasn't always true. Until the early 80s, at the NHL level at least, it was pretty common for the best offensive players to play wing - Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, etc. Not to mention slightly lesser superstars like Ted Lindsay, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, Andy Bathgate, Frank Mahovlich.

Awhile ago I noticed that for whatever reason, Mike Bossy seems to have been the last all-time-great winger that Canada produced; after him, the best Canadian-trained forwards in the NHL have been almost exclusively centers. But Europe filled the gap; there were periods of time in the 1990s when every player who received a vote for all-star RW was a European.

So basically, I think the "best players should play center, not winger," is a fairly modern phenomenon (well, "modern" as in "the last 3 decades or so") and seems to be limited to the Canadian (or at least North American) school of thought, as far as I can tell.
Bolded, all played center at least into junior and/or at the start of their NHL careers.

After Mike Bossy, Canada continued to produce elite NHL wingers. Cam Neely, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Jarome Iginla, Martin St.Louis, Brendan Shanahan, Paul Kariya, Michel Goulet(somewhat of a Bossy contemporary). None of these played center regularly or at all on their way to the NHL.Martin St.Louis played with Eric Perrin at center from bantam onwards thru university.

Basically in the 1990s Canadian development turned to trying to create power wingers. Saw a bit of success - Iginla and to a large degree Shane Doan, Ryan Smyth, but the rest lacked skating Current group is pretty solid from Corey Perry down to the latest - Jonathan Drouin.

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07-03-2013, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Bolded, all played center at least into junior and/or at the start of their NHL careers.

After Mike Bossy, Canada continued to produce elite NHL wingers. Cam Neely, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Jarome Iginla, Martin St.Louis, Brendan Shanahan, Paul Kariya, Michel Goulet(somewhat of a Bossy contemporary). None of these played center regularly or at all on their way to the NHL.Martin St.Louis played with Eric Perrin at center from bantam onwards thru university.

Basically in the 1990s Canadian development turned to trying to create power wingers. Saw a bit of success - Iginla and to a large degree Shane Doan, Ryan Smyth, but the rest lacked skating Current group is pretty solid from Corey Perry down to the latest - Jonathan Drouin.
Eh, other than maybe Brett Hull or Paul Kariya before injuries, none of those guys were really generational talents though, not the kind of guys you'd think of as top 50 all time players; most of them not top 100.

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07-03-2013, 11:40 AM
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Top 50

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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Eh, other than maybe Brett Hull or Paul Kariya before injuries, none of those guys were really generational talents though, not the kind of guys you'd think of as top 50 all time players; most of them not top 100.
From your original list Bathgate and Moore(should be) were not top 50 all time.

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07-03-2013, 11:47 AM
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Darth Yoda
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Was'nt there just a time when Canadas sub-par performances in the WJC the second half of the nineties maybe started to show a bit? Could have been more amongst wingers though, dont know. The country always had talents, but perhaps europe took over there for a bit.

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07-04-2013, 08:55 PM
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It's a very good question , I'm sure there's a lot of different right answers for a lot of different players.Maybe Ovechkin simply preferred to play LW.Maybe he had a good shot very young and they wanted him to always be on the side of the ice which gave his shot the best angles.Maybe he was bad defensively.Maybe he sucked at faceoffs.Maybe he played all positions and decided later where to play etc...

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07-04-2013, 09:02 PM
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BenchBrawl
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Awhile ago I noticed that for whatever reason, Mike Bossy seems to have been the last all-time-great winger that Canada produced;
Wow! This is actually crazy , I never thought about that particular fact and I admit I had to verify it to believe it , but you're right.Many canadian wingers since then have been good or even great players , but none of them are "all-time great" a la Bossy or Lafleur.

EDIT: I looked very quickly and the last two 1st overall canadian wingers were Rick Nash (100% sure that he's not going to be an all-time great) and Taylor Hall (I haven't been following him very closely , how does he look right now? Can he become one of the top players in the league?).Canada produces a ridiculous amount of great centers though.


Last edited by BenchBrawl: 07-04-2013 at 09:11 PM.
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07-04-2013, 10:47 PM
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Bobby Hull supposedly wrote the photo captions for The Golden Jet. Regarding his time with the St. Catherines Teepees along with Stan Mikita, he says:

"Also, he was my right wing. I was a center. They hadn't figured out yet that Stan was too smart to be a right wing, and I was too dumb to be a center."

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07-04-2013, 11:05 PM
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I can tell you right now the exact reason:

Growing up, when you play center, you have to back-check hard and essentially be the 3rd dman in the defensive zone...

Being a winger, you get to focus a lot more on being offensive than defensive, get to float near the blueline in the defensive zone, and aren't forced to backcheck...

In my experience, all the try-hard's (see Gretzky, Lemieux, Crosby, Datsyuk) go for centre, and are willing to backcheck

Talented players that love scoring goals and don't wanna backcheck go on wing (see Bure, Ovechkin, Kovalev, Brett Hull, Kovalchuk, etc)

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07-04-2013, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ Man View Post
Bobby Hull supposedly wrote the photo captions for The Golden Jet. Regarding his time with the St. Catherines Teepees along with Stan Mikita, he says:

"Also, he was my right wing. I was a center. They hadn't figured out yet that Stan was too smart to be a right wing, and I was too dumb to be a center."
This quote follows the logic of my post

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07-05-2013, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Jafar View Post
Wow! This is actually crazy , I never thought about that particular fact and I admit I had to verify it to believe it , but you're right.Many canadian wingers since then have been good or even great players , but none of them are "all-time great" a la Bossy or Lafleur.

EDIT: I looked very quickly and the last two 1st overall canadian wingers were Rick Nash (100% sure that he's not going to be an all-time great) and Taylor Hall (I haven't been following him very closely , how does he look right now? Can he become one of the top players in the league?).Canada produces a ridiculous amount of great centers though.
Well, Hall played most of his junior time as a center and I, personally, think its only a matter of time until an NHL coach puts him back there.

He'll probably be playing at 6'1, 210 by his mid-20s, and he can carry the puck, skate like the wind, and has good vision. What coach doesn't want that in a center?

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07-05-2013, 02:43 PM
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Maybe a follow up post could be what wingers were talented enough to play center? Lafleur would be my first answer. He was not a great center but he did a lot of things well.

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07-06-2013, 07:51 AM
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Maybe a follow up post could be what wingers were talented enough to play center? Lafleur would be my first answer. He was not a great center but he did a lot of things well.
Mahovlich?

Its been discussed before why Jagr was never tried at center. Lack of interest in defense would be the main obstacle, IMO.

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07-06-2013, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
Your view of the ice has to be 180 degrees instead of 90 degrees. You have to be thinking about the opposing center getting behind you, as opposed to keying on a defenseman's pinch. It's just a whole lot more responsibility without the puck, and when you get the puck it's much a more cerebral situation.
This pretty much encapsulates it nicely. Vision. If you imagine a line as being a Flying Fortress, the Centre the Captain, he requires 180+ degree vision of the skys/ice surface, the Left & Right Wingers port & starboard gunners in turrets with somewhat less limited fields of vision, though there some are more than capable of seeing things full spectrum, 180. Guy Lafleur amongst others. Vision, hockey IQ.

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07-06-2013, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ Man View Post
Bobby Hull supposedly wrote the photo captions for The Golden Jet. Regarding his time with the St. Catherines Teepees along with Stan Mikita, he says:

"Also, he was my right wing. I was a center. They hadn't figured out yet that Stan was too smart to be a right wing, and I was too dumb to be a center."
Typical Bobby Hull self depreciating humour. Hull came into the NHl as a centre and was a pretty good one his first 2 seasons. Excellent playmaker I guess they finally realized that his incredible speed and shot was much more effective from the wing. Same thing with Frank Mahovlich.

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