Skip to content

What does the future hold for small players?

May 13, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT

Martin St. Louis AP

Like speedboats among freighters, the majority of undersized hockey players who made it to the NHL did so because they were quicker and more agile than their larger, more powerful counterparts.

But what does the future hold for those that hope to emulate the likes of Tyler Ennis, Jeff Skinner, Steve Sullivan, Cory Conacher, Brian Gionta, and Nathan Gerbe?

Because according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, the freighters of the NHL aren’t so slow and cumbersome anymore.

“The difference that I’ve seen in the last three years is, all the big players can skate like the little guys,” said Hitchcock, per Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.

And as if that wasn’t troubling enough for diminutive types, at least one general manager believes the way the game is played (and called) has started once again to favor the bigger player, as it did before the 2004-05 lockout.

“When I took this job, we decided on a style of play that resulted in great success,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis last week after his team was swept out of the playoffs. “And clearly, the landscape has changed and we have to address those changes. We don’t have a choice. It’s not something I necessarily agree with. But that’s what we face, and that’s what you have to do.

“We have to make the changes and adjustments necessary to compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s my intention to do it and recognize what’s going on and make sure we have a team that’s better equipped.”

Gillis knows better than anyone that the last two teams to win the Stanley Cup did it with size and strength, since both the Bruins and Kings beat Vancouver.

Not that Boston and Los Angeles are bereft of skill; obviously, they aren’t. But there’s no question they favor a heavier, more physical game.

The worry for Canucks fans is that Gillis is overreacting based on a small sample size. What if the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this year? Chicago finished the regular season ranked 30th in hits. Patrick Kane isn’t a giant. Neither is Jonathan Toews. The ‘Hawks are a great team because they have the puck all the time, and they know what to do with it.

Of course, Kane was drafted first overall, while Toews went third. They aren’t your typical players. Nor, for that matter, is Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, the league’s top scorer. The reason he’s such a great story is because not many small, undrafted players do what he’s done.

Perhaps Gillis feels that, absent a blue-chip draft position, getting bigger and stronger is his best option in an NHL where big and strong doesn’t have to mean big and slow anymore.

Latest Posts
  1. Under Pressure: Anaheim’s goaltenders

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    150802_FrederikAndersen Getty Images

    Andersen, Gibson & Khudobin have a combined 27 Stanley Cup playoff games on their resume.

  2. Bernier, Leafs agree on two-year, $8.3 million deal

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    Jonathan Bernier Getty Images

    That will eat up his first year of UFA eligibility.

  3. Anaheim Ducks ’14-15 Outlook

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT

    Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks - Game Five Getty Images

    Can they close to final gap between them and the Stanley Cup?

  4. Erik Haula signs two-year extension with Wild

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT

    Erik Haula Getty Images

    They avoided an arbitration judgment.

  5. Devils’ Zacha to skip Czech’s world junior evaluation camp

    Aug 1, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    2015 NHL Draft - Round One 2015 NHL Draft - Round One

    New Jersey is still working on getting the 18-year-old signed to an entry-level contract.

  6. Flyers’ Hakstol flew 4,000 miles to have dinner with Voracek

    Aug 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    Dave Hakstol Dave Hakstol

    The two met in the Czech Republic to get to know one another.

  7. Nill believes Stars have ‘two No. 1 goalies’

    Aug 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Jim Nill AP

    Lehtonen and Niemi will account for $10.4 million in cap space next season.

  8. No extension on the horizon for Flyers’ Brayden Schenn

    Aug 1, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Brayden Schenn Getty Images

    He’s heading into the final year of his two-year, $5 million deal.

  9. Jets partner with ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers

    Aug 1, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    ECHL_-_logo

    Winnipeg was affiliated with the Ontario Reign last season.

  10. Armed with new deal, Galchenyuk expects to have a ‘great year’

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT

    gal Getty Images

    He signed a two-year, bridge contract worth $5.6 million on Thursday.

  11. Arbitrator awards Marcus Johansson $3.75M contract

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Marcus Johansson Getty Images

    That’s close to the middle between his and Washington’s requests.

  12. Maloney: RFA Domingue will play in Europe

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Louis Domingue Getty Images

    The decision surprised Arizona’s general manager.

  13. Siegenthaler signs entry-level contract with Caps

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    Jonas Siegenthaler Getty Images

    The defenseman spent the 2014-15 campaign in the Swiss League.

  14. One month later, Mike Richards’ future remains murky

    Jul 31, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers Getty Images

    There is a key deadline approaching though.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. D. Stepan (2312)
  2. J. Toews (1729)
  3. L. Couture (1543)
  4. G. Bettman (1513)
  5. C. Wilson (1488)
  1. B. Gionta (1480)
  2. A. Chiasson (1430)
  3. N. Bonino (1381)
  4. E. Fehr (1351)
  5. A. Larsson (1129)