NHL All-Star Game 2011: Why Lidstrom Has the Better Team
So, last night was the All-Star game fantasy draft to determine which team each player would be on. And I'm going to admit I was pretty excited watching the captains make their selections. This new format is a great idea.
Even prior to the draft, I knew I'd be rooting for Team Lidstrom, but I was really curious would who draft the better team. As I watched it all unfold, pick after pick, I came to realize Lidstrom clearly had the better team. In fact, I knew after Round 6 of the draft.
Without getting too serious about it, I think Lidstrom did have some kind of strategy going into it. Yes, he had the advantage of not having to please the home crowd like Staal did, and even though Staal got the first picks, it seemed like Lidstrom was the one who put together a better team and really determined the direction of the draft.
In this slide show, I will prove why Nicklas Lidstrom selected a much better team than Eric Staal in the All-Star Draft.
1. Lightning Line: Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis
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There was no doubt in my mind that Steven Stamkos would go in Round 1 to either team. Honestly, I thought if Staal got the first pick, he would take Stamkos just to break up the possibility of a Stamkos/St. Louis combo.
Well, he didn't, and he's going to pay for it in the All-Star game.
I can just imagine those two being set up by some of the best playmakers in the game like Henrik Sedin or Brad Richards. That's a high scoring line; I wouldn't want to defend against.
I also knew Staal wanted Ward on his team. But to use the first overall pick on him? I highly doubt Lidstrom would have taken Ward in the early rounds—or even at all.
First of all, he's wasn't the best goalie of the six in the draft. And second, Lidstrom is a classy guy and would have respected that the crowd in Carolina would want Staal and Ward together.
When Staal announced he was taking "his boy" from the Hurricanes, I could see Martin St. Louis' eyes light up with joy. I'm sure he turned right to Lidstrom and said "I shouldn't even have to tell you who you should pick."
The combination of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in the All-Star game will be a huge asset to Nicklas Lidstrom, as the two are one of the highest scoring duos in the NHL.
2. Tim Thomas
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Of all six goalies that were included in the draft, this guy blows them all away. He sports a .945 save percentage, which, like they mentioned, is the best ever, and if it holds up, will be a new NHL record. He holds a mind-blowing 1.81 goals against average, also the best in the NHL.
Did I also mention he's tied for the league lead in shutouts?
Don't get me wrong. All six goalies in the draft are tremendous athletes and competitors, but Tim Thomas is a step above the rest. Those who watch him play, and I watch the Bruins on occasion, will know he makes a highligh reel save almost every night and gives his team a chance to win, no matter how much they're struggling.
WIth one of the best defenseman of all time in front of him, along with the reigning Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and the hard hitting, shutdown Shea Weber, I expect some phenomenal numbers from Tim Thomas on Sunday.
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The fact Lidstrom is on this team alone is enough for me to say it is better defensively. But I look at the defense Lidstrom was able to pick, and it blows my mind. I guess winning all those Norris Trophies gives you the ability to see other great defensemen.
Let's compare who the teams started with on defense: Lidstrom vs. Green. In Lidstrom you have, as I said, one of the best all-time defensemen, a guy who can produce offensively and command a team from the back end.
Then you have Green, who should just be a forward. His defensive abilities are average at best, and his offense is struggling this year.
You tell me who had the better defenseman to start with.
Then with his second pick, Lidstrom takes the reigning Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, and just like that, he had one of the potentially best defensive combos in the NHL.
Shea Weber gives Lidstroms defense some toughness on the back end, not to mention a monstrous slapshot to counterbalance the clapper of Zdeno Chara.
Dustin Byfuglien has developed into one of the league's best offensive defenseman and gives Lidstrom's team another big body to utilize.
I thought Keith Yandle was one of Lidstrom's best picks of the draft. Yandle is one of the leagues most underrated and underappreciated defenseman who is putting up incredible points in Phoenix and has all the characteristics of a Norris Trophy winner.
Lastly, Brent Burns is a tough shutdown defenseman who rounds off a very well-balanced defense for Team Lidstrom.
4. Perfect Blend of Playmakers and Scorers
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After Round 3 when the Sedins were drafted, I said to myself: "Wow, Lidstrom's team could win with that line right there."
Just imagine what a line of Henrik Sedin, arguably the games best set up man, centered for Stamkos and St. Louis, two of the games best scorers, could do. I really hope that's the line combination we see tomorrow night.
As you look at the rosters, you notice Team Lidstrom has some great playmakers: Henrik Sedin, Brad Richards and Jonathan Toews, along with Anze Kopitar and Matt Duchene who can dish some good passes.
Combine these playmakers with incredibly talented goal scoeres like the previously mentioned Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, but also guys like Danny Briere, Patrick Kane, Marty Havlat, Louis Eriksson, and Phil Kessel.
Then I look at Team Staal's roster, and I have yet to find a playmaker with the skills of a Henrik Sedin or a Brad Richards. Claude Giroux and Staal himself are the only guys who come remotely close.
Staal's team is full of goal scorer's but seriously lacks in the playmaking department, which will hurt their offensively focused team.
On the otherhand, near-perfect blend of playmakers and scorers on Team Lidstrom is a recipe for success. I cannot wait to see some of the plays these guys make and the goals that result from them.
5. Centerman Hog
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Not only is Lidstrom's team more equipped in the playmaking department, but it's also much deeper at the center position. Team Lidstrom has six centerman compared to Team Staal's four.
This gives Team Lidstrom tremendous flexibility in terms of line combinations. He can arrange his lines to ensure that all his playmakers don't end up on the same line, likewise with his goal scorers.
It also gives Lidstrom's team a huge advantage in the faceoff circle. No matter what, he'll always have two centers on two lines, meaning if one gets waved out, the other can step right in.
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This is the biggest advantage Lidstrom has, and it's the one Pierre McGuire would just not shut up about during the draft last, giving constant praise for Lidstrom's chemistry-based picks.
Like the selection of last year's Team Canada, Lidstrom's team seemed built around the idea of chemistry and familiarity.
Lets review who Lidstrom was able to grab in the fantasy draft:
Stamkos and St. Louis, who played with Brad Richards who also plays with Louis Eriksson. Jonathan Toews, who plays with Patrick Kane, who all used to play with Marty Havlat and Dustin Byfuglien, who used to play with Duncan Keith who played with Shea Weber. I think I made my point.
There's probably even more familiarity if you look deeper at junior careers, World Juniors and World Championship history.
I think it's evident Lidstrom wanted chemistry on his team. He made Patrick Kane swallow his pride and pick his rival teammate Jonathan Toews, who Kane swore would be playing against him at the All-Star game.
Lidstrom wasn't hesitant to take Stamkos with his first pick and was probably very pleased to get Louis Eriksson as late as he did. That, in my opinion, was his best pick of the draft.
It's going to be very easy for Team Lidstrom to be productive on the ice from the moment the puck drops.
Team Staal will not have that privledge. Their team is good, but it's chopped up and thrown together, like Team Canada's 2006 Olympic team. There's very little chemistry and familarity, full of strictly offensive defenseman and players whose styles just won't mesh. I think it will be extremely difficult for Team Staal to come up with effective line combinations.
And the Win Goes to...Team Lidstrom
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Ultimately, I think Lidstrom drafted the much better team. They're more balanced, have complementary playing styles, a more reliable two-way defense and the best goalie in the NHL.
This will be too much for Team Staal to overcome. They won't start playing well until perhaps late in the second period, and it will be too late by then. Team Lidstrom will have a significant lead.
It will be a very entertaining to watch it always is. I very much look forward to seeing how the new format will affect the actual game. Enjoy the rest of the All-Star weekend, and thanks for reading!