NHL: 5 Most Overrated and Underrated Players
Every year in the NHL, there's the discussion that will inevitably take place. Fans begin separating the players into two categories: the one's who play great hockey, go unnoticed and earn their paycheck and the one's who always seem to be in the spotlight, make outrageous money and fail to bring their game to the level of their hype.
The underrated and the overrated, everyone has their own opinion of who belongs in which category. After a great 2010-2011 season, here's who I consider to be the five most worthy of each category.
Overrated: Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo is a name that constantly surfaces when discussing the best goaltenders in the NHL. His regular season statistics are more than impressive, he's helped the Vancouver Canucks become legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup and he's even captained his squad.
The fact that he's overrated isn't generated by a lack of skill, but rather an inability to win when he's most needed. Say what you will about the gold medal in Vancouver, but the final two wins for Team Canada were almost losses, as Luongo let Slovakia crawl back from a 3-0 deficit and let the United States tie the game up with seconds left.
The recent Stanley Cup playoffs tell the same tale, as twice Luongo let in at least six goals and was pulled several times for backup Cory Schneider. In Game 7, Luongo was nowhere to be found, letting in more than a few terrible goals, and he was eventually forced to watch Boston hoist the cup.
There shouldn't be any excuses for Luongo either. He's one of the biggest and most skilled goalies in the league, he plays on arguably the best roster in hockey and receives enough opportunities to prove he can handle the pressure.
Well, he hasn't so far, and he'll need to destroy his reputation of being a choke artist before talk of being one of the greatest goaltenders can solidify.
Underrated: Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu, younger brother of former Canadiens superstar Saku Koivu, has played his entire career for the Minnesota Wild and is now the face of the franchise.
In 2009, he was named the first permanent captain in franchise history and continues to lead the team on the ice and on the scoreboard, as he's led the Wild in points for three straight seasons.
Though he continually puts up big numbers, he's perhaps overlooked as one of the better players in the game due to the lackluster performance of the Minnesota Wild in recent years. Now with Devin Setoguchi, Koivu will be paired with another young star and the Wild should contend for a playoff spot next season.
Koivu has yet to appear in an NHL All-Star game, but one definitely lies in his future.
Overrated: Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk entered the league in 2001 as the first overall pick for the Atlanta Thrashers, teaming up with Dany Heatley and creating a duo of young superstars.
Though he was nominated for the Calder Trophy, has played in three All-Star games and tied for the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2004, things quickly turned sour for him in Atlanta.
Kovalchuk seemed to lack motivation and a drive to win, which made the announcement that he would become the team's captain in 2009 all the more bizarre.
He was eventually dealt to the New Jersey Devils, where his enormous re-signing last season now looks as if it's going to prevent the team from keeping superstar Zach Parise.
Kovalchuk makes entirely too much money for the season he had in 2010-2011, and though he may be one of the more talented players, his carelessness for the game and failure to produce in the post-season inevitably impedes him from living up to the hype.
Underrated: Tyler Ennis
Though Tyler Ennis has really only played one full season in the NHL, he's going to be a threat for the Buffalo Sabres for years to come.
In 2010-2011, Ennis appeared in all 82 games for the Sabres, putting up 49 points, fourth best on the team. He's a great stick handler, moves quickly up the ice and finds a way to put the puck in the net.
He was overlooked this past season, as Jeff Skinner, Michael Grabner and Logan Couture had great rookie campaigns and all received well deserved Calder Trophy nominations.
Ennis is the future in Buffalo and it's just a matter of time before he becomes one of the best in the game.
Overrated: Rick DiPietro
Drafted first overall in 2000, Rick DiPietro was supposed to be the answer between the pipes for a struggling New York Islanders franchise. Well, he wasn't and still isn't.
The worst part is that he's a very talented, very capable goaltender...when's he's healthy...which is never. He's played a total of 39 games over the past three seasons, suffering from knee injuries.
The reason he's overrated isn't just because he was picked first overall, but because there seems to be continual talk about him coming back healthy and becoming a superstar, which never takes place.
Throw in the fact that he engages in foolish goalie fights that render him even more injured, his absolutely unholy and unmerited 15-year, $67.5 million contract and a decade of hoping he'll bounce back, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of reasons why DiPietro shouldn't hang up his pads for good.
Underrated: Brent Seabrook
At only the age of 26, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook has already accomplished some of the greatest feats in professional hockey.
He's won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal, but rarely will his name pop up in a discussion about the NHL's elite blue-liners.
During Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup run, names Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien and Duncan Keith seemed to be repeated constantly on highlight reels, but Seabrook played just as much of a role.
The great thing about Seabrook is that he does the small, unnoticeable things that it takes to win hockey games. He never shies away from blocking a hard shot, he takes big hits and bounces back up and keeps the opposition from scoring when he's on the ice.
His defensive partner Keith may produce more offense and win Norris Trophies, but Seabrook plays an entirely different and equally important defensive game.
Overrated: Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf has recently become the poster boy for a struggling Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, as he was brought over from Calgary in a huge trade and soon after became their new captain.
Coming into the league, Phaneuf showed signs that he was about to become an elite player in the league. His name was thrown into Calder Trophy consideration with Crosby and Ovechkin and he's been a finalist for the Norris Trophy and a first team All-Star.
In 2009-10, Phaneuf's play began to slide and Calgary traded his large contract to Toronto, where he still seems to be finding his legs. His point totals have dropped off significantly in the past three seasons and he doesn't seem to be the same defenseman he was for the Flames.
Maple Leaf fans want so badly for Phaneuf to be the answer to their problems, the leader that will guide them back into the post-season and contend for the Stanley Cup. The optimism is great, but Phaneuf has to live up to his end of the deal, something he has yet to do in Toronto.
Underrated: Alex Pietrangelo
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will soon develop into an All-Star caliber player, as he played a great 2010 campaign that went seemingly unnoticed.
At 6'4" and over 200 lbs., he's a big presence at the point and recorded 43 points in 79 games, while leading the team's blue-liners in plus/minus.
During the 2011 IIHF World Championship, Pietrangelo was voted the best defenseman by the directorate, despite Canada's loss to Russia in the quarterfinals.
Names like P.K Subban and Drew Doughty come to mind when thinking of the NHL's next great crop of defenseman, but Alex Pietrangelo will be right up there next to them in the years to come.
Now with Erik Johnson out of St. Louis, it'll be up to Pietrangelo to become the foundation of the Blues defense and he will do just that.
Overrated: Alexander Ovechkin
Is Alexander Ovechkin a constant threat to score? Yes.
Is he responsible for millions of tears being shed around the globe after his impossible, Criss Angel-like goals? Yes.
Is he a team player and a true winner? Nay.
I don't care about how many times Ovechkin makes the highlight reel or his point totals in the regular season, he belongs on the list of NHL superstars who simply can't seem to win when it matters most.
It's not that his skills are overrated, but that his image as the greatest player today receives too much praise. Hockey is about more than just scoring goals, especially when you have a "C" on your sweater.
He's not captain material. Captains don't guarantee playoffs wins before they've happened, they don't take cheap shots and they don't put their own stats before the team.
There's no doubt that Ovechkin will go down as one of the most explosive players of all time, but his reputation as the total package as a hockey player is overestimated. He's a phenomenal goal scorer and point producer, but he needs to grow as a player in order to win championships and lead his team.
Underrated: Brenden Morrow
Brenden Morrow is one of the most complete hockey players in the NHL today. He has a knack for putting the puck in the net at clutch moments, possesses the heart of a lion and is willing to take on whatever role the team needs to win hockey games.
He's won a Stanley Cup and a gold medal in Vancouver, and he is one of the best captains in hockey. Though he's struggled with injuries in his career, it takes a lot to keep Morrow out of a game. In 1999, when Dallas won the cup, Morrow broke a bone in his ankle during a playoff game and returned to finish the game.
Morrow is the total package. He scores goals, he plays gritty, aggressive hockey and his dedication to his team and the game of hockey is seemingly unmatched throughout the league. He's played his entire career in Dallas and one might assume that when he retires, he'll be wearing a green and gold jersey.