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Workhorse goalies, forwards from last season

Sep 1, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

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It’s Labor Day, so this seems like an appropriate time to consider hard work in hockey.

Sure, these players are all well-compensated for their efforts, but perhaps this will provide a little thematic entertainment. We took a look at the “hardest working” defensemen in this post, but now let’s consider goalies and forwards.

A few ground rules before you get too angry on your day off:

1. This is based on 2013-14 stats.

2. Quantity generally beats out quality in many cases, so players who logged 70+ games have a much better chance than someone who was injured but faced tough assignments when healthy.

3. By no means is this a comprehensive list and this isn’t meant to judge subjective things like “effort.” It’s mainly based on how a player was deployed. In other words, team styles and coaching in general made a big impact.

Got it? Let’s roll:

Anze Kopitar

At this point, leaving the Los Angeles Kings’ center off any “best forward in hockey” discussion is foolish. SB Nation’s Adam Gretz does a great job summarizing his all-around brilliance:

Since the start of the 2011-12 season with Kopitar on the ice at even-strength, the Kings have attempted 60 percent of the shot attempts (the third best mark in the NHL, behind only Kopitar’s teammate Justin Williams and Bergeron) and scored more than 61 percent of the goals. He’s also averaged more than two minutes of shorthanded ice-time per game over that stretch (tops among Kings forwards) and has 53 power play points.

Sean Couturier

Much like overall shorthanded time leader Braydon Coburn, playing for the league’s most penalized team probably inflates Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier’s PK numbers … but they still tower above other forwards expected to chip in at least some offense (sorry Manny Malhotra). Couturier’s only competition in total penalty killing time among forwards was Jay McClement, but Couturier logged more than four minutes of total ice time per game than the former Toronto Maple Leafs defensive specialist, giving him more all-around duties.

(Flyers fans are justified in smiling at the fact that his cap hit will only be $1.75 million for the next two seasons.)

Tomas Plekanec

It’s tempting to place Patrice Bergeron here being that he’s arguably the best two-way forward in the NHL (with a handful of others making a strong argument). Just look at this chart, which is one way of showing much opposing shooters struggle to score when Bergeron’s on the ice:

So consider that a mention of sorts, but the Boston Bruins probably share the defensive burden better than most (Bergeron averaged just under two minutes of shorthanded time per game, a healthy but not outrageous average). One might look to Boston’s hated rivals in Montreal for a guy who carries a remarkable workload for a quality scorer.

Tomas Plekanec wasn’t all that great at draws, yet he won the most shorthanded faceoffs in the league for a good reason: he was on PK duty a lot. Plekanec averaged 2:57 shorthanded time per game, not all that short of Couturier’s daunting 3:25 average. On top of that, Plekanec began only 38 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, which essentially places him alongside “defensive specialists.”

His offensive output of 20 goals and 43 points looks pretty solid considering all of that heavy lifting.

Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Ryan Getzlaf and other scorers under pressure

While Erik Karlsson carries a staggering amount of offensive responsibilities in Ottawa, there are plenty of forwards who are expected to score on a nightly basis. Sidney Crosby was involved in 42.9 percent of the Pittsburgh Penguins 242 goals while Claude Giroux (36.9 of Philadelphia’s tallies) and Ryan Getzlaf (33 percent of Anaheim Ducks’ 263 goals) weren’t far behind. Getzlaf boasted one of the better alternate Hart arguments when you consider his 2:07 shorthanded time per game combined with his second-best scoring output.

Semyon Varlamov

It’s easy to see why the Colorado Avalanche’s No. 1 goalie pushed Tuukka Rask in the Vezina voting, as Varlamov was crucial to his team’s surprising season.

Varlamov easily topped all goalies in save attempts (2,013) and saves (1,867) as Kari Lehtonen came in distant second with 1,888 attempts and 1,735 saves. Varlamov’s 63 games played wasn’t short of the largest workload, finishing just two contests behind Lehtonen. All things considered, it’s really impressive that Varlamov topped all goalies with 41 wins while generating an impressive .927 save percentage.

(In case you’re wondering, Rask made 1,568 saves with an outstanding .930 save percentage.)

With a nod to Ryan Miller absorbing buckets of shots in Buffalo, it’s hard to make an argument for any goalie’s job being tougher than Varlamov’s last season. Should the Avs be worried about the goaltending equivalent of the NFL running back “Curse of 370,” then?


Maybe even more than the defensemen list, omissions are likely here in part for space reasons (Ryan Kesler‘s an honorable mention, for one). Feel free to add some names to consider in the comments, then.

  1. lowenni - Sep 1, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    Was really surprised Tomas Plekanec didn’t get more consideration for the Selke last year, he really did a great job in a two-way role for the Habs last year. The rest of these guys aren’t really surprises–love the way Couturier plays for such a young guy, built to be a real hockey player.
    Also, I totally think Varlamov can continue his success from last season. It certainly wasn’t great defense that gave him a great year…that’s just his ability.

    • James O'Brien - Sep 1, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      Varlamov has the talent, he just has enough of an injury history that it’s a slight concern (interestingly, similar things could be said about Kari Lehtonen).

      Varlamov’s career games played per year:

      2008-09: 6
      2009-10: 26
      2010-11: 27
      2011-12: 53
      2012-13: 35
      2013-14: 63

      Not all his fault, mind you, but a lot of eggs in that one basket.

  2. greej1938l - Sep 1, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Just waiting for mcphilly to complain about something

  3. shaundre93 - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    He obviously doesn’t apply to the criteria of your list, but I feel as a B’s fan I gotta throw out Greg Campbells name. Shows up every season in phenomenal shape, absolutely gives 110% every second he’s on the ice, will drop the gloves with almost anyone, and will literally try to play through a broken leg. He sells out to block shots every chance he gets, gets a ton of PK time and D zone starts. Claude will regularly put him on the ice in lieu of Lucic or Reilly Smith for D zone draws. Again, I know he doesn’t qualify under this criteria, but players like Greg Campbell are the true “laborers” of the NHL.

    • James O'Brien - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:13 PM

      Interesting in hearing about these types of choices either way. Thanks!

    • hockey7515 - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      I agree he is one of the most dedicated players in the league, 11 minutes of ATOI does not make him a workhorse.

  4. nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Wow, a six-time NHL All-Star dies and nary a word so far on the NBC hockey blog. Sloppy work PHT.

    • Gigagigagilgamesh - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      LOL he was relevant about 40 years ago~
      Not a very well-known player…
      Here’s a tissue~

    • bolthead2589 - Sep 1, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      James O’brien, care to comment on this one?

  5. blomfeld - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    “The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general” … Friedrich Engels

    As an ardent, loyal and ‘values-driven’ fan of the reigning SC champion LA Kings, I’m now today convinced ‘more than ever’ that ours is a team of the people, by the people and for the people ! … Yes sir ! So again notwithstanding PHT’s childish ‘statistical’ pie chart above, the bottom line is that our ‘entire’ 20 man roster constitutes the NHL’s ‘hardest working’ players, be that Quick, Kopitar, Carter or whoever !


    TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)

  6. mnwildandcaps8 - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:15 AM

    Again Blom just go away

  7. phillyphanatic77 - Sep 2, 2014 at 4:29 AM

    Sean Couturier… on his way to becoming the next Bergeron. Albeit bigger/slower, but the insticts are there. O’Brien is right about his contract; signing him to that amazingly cheap bridge deal may be one of the best things that Holmgren ever did as a GM. He’s been playing against elite offensive talents in the NHL since he was a teenager, by 25 he could be an absolute two-way force. Once his offensive game catches up (could happen in 14-15) lookout. Love the future of the Flyers young core of forwards, just need the top D prospects to catchup.

  8. moxdawg4 - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Zach parise?

  9. anthj99 - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Ville Leino?

  10. paulerhythm - Sep 2, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    Kopitar will be a future HOF nominee when his playing days are over, that’s my prediction.

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