Ranking the 25 Most One-Dimensional Scorers in the NHL

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst ISeptember 4, 2013

Ranking the 25 Most One-Dimensional Scorers in the NHL

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    So far I have looked at the franchise cornerstones and hardest hitters around the league, and now it's time to move onto one-dimensional scoring machines whose games revolve around their offensive ability.

    For this list, I am looking at players who just have one style of play (in this case scoring and/or playmaking) which dominates their game, not necessarily one skill like skating or passing.

    These are all players who are very good at scoring or creating scoring, so it is not necessarily a slight towards them. But these offensive threats just do not have the same level of competency in their own end.

    Here are the 25 most one-dimensional scorers. 

    All Corsi and Fenwick statistics can be found at HockeyAnalysis.com. They are advanced metrics that help to quantify a player's defensive capability based on how many goals were allowed when the player was on the ice vs. the expected amount of goals allowed.

Honorable Mention: Ilya Kovalchuk

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    I had to include Ilya Kovalchuk here because he really personifies everything about this list. He was an unbelievable offensive talent who was a below-average defensive player.

    If Kovalchuk had not left for the KHL this offseason, he would have been a lock for the top three on this list.

25. Sam Gagner

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    Sam Gagner has been a solid offensive weapon for the Edmonton Oilers for the past six seasons. The center can both finish and create scoring, although he has had a few potentially big seasons cut short by injuries.

    Gagner has not been good defensively, however, which is evident by his a negative plus/minus in five seasons and career minus-48 player.

24. Matt Moulson

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    Matt Moulson is a bit of a late bloomer who scored at least 30 goals for three straight seasons until 2013, when he managed 15 in the lockout-shortened season. Yet his career plus/minus is an abysmal minus-15, which makes one question his defensive prowess. 

23. Mike Ribeiro

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    Mike Ribeiro has been one of the most consistent point-producers in the entire NHL over the past decade, but he has really stayed out of the "elite" discussion because of his lack of two-way ability.

    The veteran center is weak in his own end and can be a liability at times. His effort is inconsistent, and he does not attack the puck along the boards or take the body. Ribeiro's minus-12 rating since 2008 is very representative of this, as is his negative HARD ratings over the past couple seasons.

22. Scott Hartnell

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    Scott Hartnell really came on in 2010-11 and 2011-12 as one of the best power forwards in the league, which was reinforced by a monster 37-goal season in 2011-12.

    But Hartnell's skating ability is suspect, and he just is not responsible at all in his own end. He takes bad penalties and turns the puck over far too often.

    He also had a dud of a 2013 season, registering just 12 points, which kept him lower on the list.

21. Mike Green

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    Mike Green has flown under the radar the past couple seasons because he has sat out a lot due to a number of injuries. But he remains one of the best offensive defensemen in the league.

    In 2008-09 and 2009-10, he scored 73 and 76 points, due largely to his passing ability and unbelievable shot.

    But he can be a liability defensively, which is not what you want from a top-pairing blueliner. His recent injuries are what keep him out of the top 20.

20. Teemu Selanne

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    A true ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne is still one of Anaheim's best forwards into his 40s. He just announced that he will return for his final season, which is great news for fans around the league.

    But he has never been known as a defensive player. He starts in the offensive zone a lot, doesn't kill penalties and just isn't physical enough to be much of a presence defensively.

19. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall pick three years ago and has the potential to become one of the premier setup men in the league.

    But the center was given added responsibility in 2013, his second NHL season, and he struggled mightily. He can be soft on the puck and just does not have the two-way ability to take a lot of defensive zone draws, which could limit his development.

    His disappointing sophomore campaign (both offensively and defensively) kept him from climbing higher on this list, although he really does have outstanding potential.

18. Joffrey Lupul

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    When healthy, Joffrey Lupul is a dangerous offensive threat. The veteran winger has bounced around the league but found offensive success wherever he went.

    The main thing that keeps him from being mentioned with the best wingers in the game is his lack of defensive ability. He has been literally one of the bottom 10 or 20 players in the entire NHL in HARD+ stats over the past couple years. 

17. James Neal

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    James Neal has become one of the best offensive forwards in the league. He uses his size and speed well to help score goals and create offense on a line with Evgeni Malkin.

    But that same size and speed seem to do little else other than make him throw around his body carelessly and rack up the most penalty minutes on the team in 2011-12.

    He isn't responsible in his own zone at all, which is reflected in his negative HARD statistics from 2013.

16. Thomas Vanek

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    Thomas Vanek is a good leader with fantastic hands and an uncanny ability to score goals. He has been one of Buffalo's most consistent forwards over his career.

    But Vanek is not very physical. He often gets out of position and looks to cherry-pick and break out offensively.

    His defensive game has improved a little over the years, but it is still much worse than it could be.

15. Alex Semin

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    Over his seven years in Washington, Alex Semin racked up the points and developed into a premier offensive weapon who had a reputation for being lazy defensively.

    Then he was signed by Carolina, and his teammates and the media started praising him for his "renewed" two-way game. What it really came down to was more consistent effort, which was nonexistent while he was a Capital.

    But the fact is that his HARD+ stats were still way negative in 2013, and he is a far cry from being a complete player.

14. Michael Grabner

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    Over the past three seasons on the New York Islanders, whom he was traded to after one year in Vancouver, Michael Grabner has really developed into one of the better goal scorers in the league.

    But in the past two seasons, Grabner has just 17 total assists and a plus/minus of minus-14.

    Grabner has finished with a negative CORSI HARD rating in the past two seasons, and in 2011-12 he was a dismal 675th out of 738 players who played over 100 minutes, which is what ultimately lands him in the top 15.

13. Rick Nash

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    Rick Nash has been a good forward for the New York Rangers since being traded from Columbus, but his value has really been on the offensive end.

    This is an excellent article that helps put some advanced metrics into focus with Nash, and it concludes that his value is really only on offense and not defense. His career plus/minus rating of minus-55 does not do him any favors there.

12. Marian Gaborik

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    Marian Gaborik is undoubtedly an elite offensive talent, but there is a reason the Wild didn't re-sign him and the Rangers traded him midseason.

    He just does not give anywhere near as much effort on the defensive end.

    His coach has to shelter him by starting him in the offensive zone, and he never plays on the penalty kill or at the end of a game when they are protecting a lead.

11. Jeff Skinner

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    Jeff Skinner burst onto the scene as a rookie three seasons ago, registering 63 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy at just 18 years of age.

    The smallish winger's offensive game is without question, but defense was never his strong point. That showed especially in 2013. He was put on a line with center Jordan Staal, meaning he played tougher minutes every night and finished with a plus/minus of minus-21.

10. Martin St. Louis

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    It sort of pains me to rank Martin St. Louis this high, because he really is a tremendous player, competitor and all-around person who has found all sorts of offensive success despite his diminutive size.

    But that size makes it extremely difficult for St. Louis to have significant defensive responsibilities. He usually comes up short (see what I did there) on the defensive end.

    Case in point: Despite leading the league in scoring in 2012-13, St. Louis had a negative plus/minus rating. That's astonishing, to say the least.

9. Kris Letang

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    Kris Letang is the next defenseman on this list because of his incredible speed and offensive talent coupled with an underwhelming defensive game. 

    He has a risky style of play which often leads to him getting burned, which has happened in the past couple playoffs, particularly this past one. His penchant for totally imploding defensively is what lands him inside the top 10.

8. Jeff Carter

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    Jeff Carter is big, he skates fast, and he scores goals. And that is really about it.

    He has never had a season with more assists than goals, and this most recent season he scored 26 goals yet managed just seven assists.

    Carter's plus/minus tends to fluctuate based on the situations he plays in and his linemates, and his HARD+ ratings have done the same because he doesn't play his hardest on both ends of the ice each night.

7. Phil Kessel

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    Phil Kessel has developed into both an outstanding passer and scorer, and he really is dangerous every time he steps out onto the ice.

    But pretty much every time he steps onto the ice, he's in a situation that allows him to focus on offense, and his defense has been criticized in the past. His HARD+ statistics have been almost dead last in the league over the past couple seasons. 

6. Daniel Sedin

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    Daniel Sedin is a sometimes overlooked winger who racks up both goals and assists in bunches, greatly benefiting from his twin, playmaking center Henrik.

    His defensive game is very ineffective, however. He is not very physical and does not really battle on the boards or around the goal like many other wingers do. He and his brother benefit from a lack of time spent in the defensive zone, which I highlight on the (spoiler alert) next slide. 

5. Henrik Sedin

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    Henrik Sedin is one-dimensional not just as a player but as a forward. He doesn't score many goals. He has only scored more than 20 goals twice in his career, but he's almost always at the top of the league in assists.

    Sometimes the best indicator of a player's defensive capability is how often his team uses him for faceoffs in their own zone, and Sedin's ridiculous 2-to-27 ratio explains a lot by itself.

    His reliance on assists and worse defensive ability is what puts him ahead of his brother.

4. Erik Karlsson

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    The biggest reason Erik Karlsson is in the top five is because we haven't seen a defenseman as electric as him offensively in a long, long time.

    He is an incredible skater and deft puck-handler with a knack for generating offense.

    But look at his Norris Trophy-winning season when he scored 78 points: He had just 60 hits and only had the 17th-most penalty kill minutes on his own team. 

3. Patrick Kane

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    Patrick Kane is a dynamic offensive talent who really put himself into the "elite" discussion with his performance in the 2013 playoffs.

    He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the final MVP. He showed the extent of his abilities, creating offense, setting up his teammates, and finishing his own chances as well.

    But he rarely starts in his own end, and his defensive effort and effectiveness has been questioned, for good reason. 

2. Alex Ovechkin

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    Alex Ovechkin is arguably hockey's most polarizing star. He's an enigma of sorts with his over-the-top style of play, yellow laces on his skates and quirky interviews.

    But his ability to score is unquestioned, although it often seems like that is about all he does. He is not a great passer, doesn't back-check at all, and often just seems to tune out when the puck isn't on his stick.

    There is just no excuse at all for this (although it is hilarious for any non-Capitals fan), and while that one instance seemed to make the Internet rounds, there are unfortunately plenty of other similar examples that just haven't gone viral.

1. Steven Stamkos

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    Could it be anyone else? Steven Stamkos is the best pure goal scorer in the league, and his speed and absolutely blistering yet accurate shot makes him a threat every shift.

    But he rarely starts shifts in his own zone, does not hit much, has an average faceoff percentage, and is not an elite playmaker yet.