NHL Playoffs 2011: Whose Team Captain Is the Most Clutch?

Dickie GreenleafContributor IApril 13, 2011

NHL Playoffs 2011: Whose Team Captain Is the Most Clutch?

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    Sidney Crosby has still not been activated for the playoffs due to a concussion he received earlier in the season. Sid the Kid would be the easy pick for the "most clutch" team captain in the 2011 NHL Playoffs but he's hurt. So, who will fill the void? I'll take a look at all 16 team captains and rank them accordingly. The two things you need to win the Stanley Cup are a hot goalie and a team captain who rises to every occasion. Can your captain be the next Sidney Crosby?

16. Buffalo Sabres: No Captain

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    The Buffalo Sabres do not even have a team captain. Their last captain, Craig Rivet, was released in February! Expect this rudder-less ship to easily be sent home from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. 

15. Pittsburgh Penguins: No Captain

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    Captain Sidney Crosby is out. Head Coach Dan Bylsma is a fantastic motivator, but there's literally no chance of him scoring a game-winning goal in overtime. 

14. Montreal Canadiens: Brian Gionta

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    Brian Gionta is 5'7", one of the shortest players in the league. He's gritty, and he is very fast. He won a Stanley Cup in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils. However, in the past five years, he's never scored over 60 points in a season. He's also never been on an All-Star team. It's very unlikely that he can carry the Canadiens on his back past their first-round opponent, the Boston Bruins.

13. Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown

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    Dustin Brown just lost the Robin to his Batman when Anze Kopitar was lost for the season with a broken ankle. Not good news. The Kings have been the "young team with potential" for way too long. Brown has never scored more than 60 points in an NHL season. He scored zero points for USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics. If the Kings beat the Sharks in the first round, I'm betting it won't be because of this guy.

12. Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Richards

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    I don't understand how Chris Pronger is not the captain of the Flyers. Anyway, Richards has played in one All-Star game and was on the gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics. 

    Richards is definitely talented, but he has a reputation for living a party lifestyle. A rumor most likely based on the fact that he's never been as good as he was before he signed a 12-year contract extension for $69 million in 2007.

    The Flyers are currently the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, so the pressure is on Richards to perform well. We'll see.  

11. Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan

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    This poor guy has played his whole career with the Jets/Coyotes. Doan was once the Captain for Team Canada in the 2006 Olympics. That's quite a compliment if you don't count the fact that that team did not win a medal at the games. He did lose his captaincy and his role on the team two years later amid controversy that he called a referee racial slurs.

    Shane Doan has played in two NHL All-Star games. The Coyotes could easily beat the Red Wings in the first round, but don't look for Doan's leadership to take them any farther.  

10. Nashville Predators: Shea Weber

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    This guy is a beast at 6'4", 234 pounds. His shot is like a rocket launcher. Too bad he's stuck in Nashville. He scored six points in seven games as a defenseman while serving as assistant captain of the 2010 gold medal-winning Team Canada at the Olympics. Shea has played in two NHL All-Star games. He's never carried a team on his back to a title, but I do believe he's capable. The Predators could easily take out the Ducks in the first round. 

9. Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara

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    Zdeno Chara is 6'9" and just impossible to get past. Chara won the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) in 2009. He has played in five All-Star games. He was named to both the NHL First All-Star Team and NHL Second All-Star Team twice each. Chara even won NHL Hardest Shot Contest five times while currently holding the record at a terrifying 105.9 miles per hour.

    It's hard for a power defenseman to be more "clutch" in the playoffs than a forward, which is the only reason Chara is this low on the list. 

    Can you believe the Islanders and Senators ever traded this guy? No wonder the Islanders can never get out of the basement. 

8. San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton

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    "Jumbo Joe" doesn't score as many goals as you would imagine a 6'4", 230-pound center would. However, he is quite a gifted playmaker who frequently assists his wingers. Thornton has played in six NHL All-Star games, team captain in 2009. He led the league in scoring once, won the MVP once and was named to the First All-Star Team once. He also won a gold medal as a member of the 2010 Canada Olympic team.

    Joe is capable of anything, but it's more likely that he'll make the pass to the goal-scorer in overtime.

7. Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin

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    Ovechkin is arguably the NHL's best player but other than personal acclaim, he's never won anything. Well, he has won a gold and a silver medal at Hockey World Championships in 2008 and 2010 but those are not considered as valuable as a medal in the Olympics—which Ovechkin has zero. 

    His personal awards are bananas: five All-Star games; Rookie of the Year; two-time MVP; led the league in scoring once; and led the league in goals twice.  

    But until he wins a Stanley Cup or an Olympic gold medal, Alexander Ovechkin will always be considered second to his rival, Sidney Crosby.

6. Vancouver Canucks: Henrik Sedin

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    Henrik is another playmaker on the list. He's never scored 30 goals in a season, he gets most of his points assisting on his twin brother Daniel's goals. He won the Hart Trophy (MVP) last year the same season he led the league in scoring. He won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Henrik has played in two All-Star games and has been named to the First All-Star Team once. 

    Henrik is deadly but looks to pass first.

5. Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf

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    "Quack! Quack! Quack!" Gordon Bombay would be so proud of Ryan Getzlaf. Ryan's a two-time All-Star, he won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007 and had seven points in seven games for the gold medal-winning Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics. He may not be as dangerous as his teammate Corey Perry, but Getzlaf knows how to win.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning: Vincent Lacavalier

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    Vincent Lecavalier was predicted to be the "Michael Jordan of hockey" by the Tampa Bay Lightning owner on the day he was drafted. OK, not so much. However, Lecavalier has been a star. He's played in in four All-Star games, was named to a Second All-Star Team, led the league in goals scored, won a gold medal with Canada at the 2004 World Cup and won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. 

    With all the focus on phenom, Steven Stamkos, it could be the perfect opportunity for this salty veteran to show the NHL once again just how good he is. 

3. Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews

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    Jonathan Toews is only 22 years old. Yikes. He has already won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in the 2010 Olympics, and those were both in the same season!

    He's played in two All-Star games, was named Best Forward at the Olympics and won the Conn Smythe as Best Player in the Playoffs.

    The Blackhawks got off to a horrible start this season, and Toews literally put the team on his back and snuck them back into the playoffs. 

    No one will be surprised if Toews leads the eighth-seeded Blackhawks past the first-seeded Canucks

2. Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Even though he turns 41 years old in two weeks, Lidstrom is still playing at an elite level.

    There is no team captain more accomplished than Nicklas Lidstrom. He has won four Stanley Cups with Detroit. He has played in 12 All-Star games. Nine times he was named to the First NHL All-Star team. He won the Norris Trophy for Best Defenseman six times. MVP of the playoffs. Gold medal for Sweden in the 2006 Olympics.  

    With all those accolades who could possibly be the Most Clutch Team Captain in the 2011 NHL Playoffs?

    I'm sure this will spark much debate but I believe it's...

1. New York Rangers: Chris Drury

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    The most clutch. Period. YES. I just picked a guy who scored one goal this year in an injury-plagued season. When was that goal? Yep, the last game of the season when the Rangers had to win to make the playoffs. 

    "Captain Clutch" has not only been winning everything since he was a boy, he's been the reason. In 1989, he was the winning pitcher for Trumbull, CT when they won the Little League World Series. He won a national championship at Boston University in his freshman year. He won a Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche when he scored 11 goals in the playoffs. Throw in two silver medals in 2002 and 2010 for a never-favored US Olympic team. 

    He may not be the player he was, but in the playoffs, with the game on the line, he's one of the most dangerous players ever.  

     "You want a goal, you're in overtime—you want him." —Joe Sakic