Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Traced Marian Hossa's Career To Find Out The Best Lineups He's Played With

As is often the case in this space, I saw a tweet this afternoon and it spun me down a rabbit hole of learning new things.  Today, it was actually two tweets:

Marian Hossa started in the NHL in 1997 at age 19. For reference, stop me if you've heard this before, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov were both born in 1997 and they made their NHL debuts last week at age 19.

Hossa spent 7 seasons in Ottawa to start his career, and is working on his 8th season in Chicago right now. In between, he spent time in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. He's totaled 1240 games, 500 goals, 593 assists, and 620 penalty minutes.

And, one would think, he's played along some incredibly talented teammates over the past two decades. Bang, that's where we're heading right now. Let's put together the best lineups that Hossa has ever been a part of.

I'm giving myself some leeway here and combining teams that were largely similar into one mega-team, so bear with me. Let's dive in.

1997-2001 Ottawa Senators

Winger: Shawn McEachern (4 seasons, 309 games, 116 goals, 227 points)
Center: Alexei Yashin (3 seasons, 246 games, 117 goals, 254 points)
Winger: Daniel Alfredsson (4 seasons, 238 games, 73 goals, 207 points)

Defense: Wade Redden (4 seasons, 311 games, 36 goals, 134 points)
Defense: Jason York (4 seasons, 305 games, 21 goals, 103 points)

Goalie: Ron Tugnutt (3 seasons, 129 games, .910 save percentage)
Goalie: Patrick Lalime (2 seasons, 98 games, .911 save percentage)

The biggest cheat here is the goalie situation, because Tugnutt basically passed the torch to Lalime during the 1990-2000 season. The second biggest cheat here is I didn't actually include Hossa.

But the most important part of this whole section is I didn't realize that Alexei Yashin's time in Ottawa was such a dumpster fire. Take it away, Wikipedia:
Yashin's relationship with the Ottawa Senators reached a new low after the 1998–99 season. Yashin refused to honor the final year of his contract and demanded a raise (he would have earned $3.6 million that year, compared to other star centerman like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic who made $6–7 million).When the Senators refused, he demanded a trade. The Senators refused to trade Yashin, instead stripping him of his captaincy and handing it to Daniel Alfredsson. When Yashin still refused to report, the Senators suspended him for the rest of the 1999–2000 NHL season.  
Yashin attempted to sign with a team in Switzerland, but the IIHF suspended him from playing internationally until the dispute was resolved. After the season, an NHL arbitrator refused to grant Yashin the free agent status he claimed to have earned, instead tolling his contract for another season on the grounds that Yashin owed the Senators the final year of his contract if he ever returned to the NHL.  
Yashin returned to the Senators for the 2000–01 season. Despite being jeered by the crowd in every NHL arena, including Ottawa, Yashin had a solid regular season offensively. Yashin had a poor series and did not attend the final team meeting, held after the Senators' early playoff exit.
2001-2004 Ottawa Senators

Winger: Alfredsson (3 seasons, 233 games, 96 goals, 229 points)
Center: Radek Bonk (3 seasons, 218 games, 59 goals, 168 points)
Winger: Hossa (3 seasons, 241 games, 112 goals, 228 points)

Defense: Redden (3 seasons, 236 games, 36 goals, 122 points)
Defense: Zdeno Chara (3 seasons, 228 games, 35 goals, 103 points)

Goalie: Lalime (3 seasons, 185 games, .906 save percentage)

Bonk replaced Yashin in this lineup after Yashin was traded to the Islanders for Chara. Does Radek Bonk probably get a bump in the history books because of his time spent with these other great players? Probably. But he has a first ballot Hall Of Fame hockey name.

2005-2008 Atlanta Thrashers (RIP)

Winger: Ilya Kovalchuk (3 seasons, 239 games, 146 goals, 261 points)
Center(?): Hossa (2.5 seasons, 222 games, 108 goals, 248 points)
Winger: Vyacheslav Kozlov (3 seasons, 245 games, 70 goals, 192 points)

Defense: Niclas Havelid (3 seasons, 240 games, 8 goals, 67 points)
Defense: Greg de Vries (2 seasons, 164 games, 10 goals, 59 points)

Goalie: Kari Lehtonen (3 seasons, 154 games, .944 save percentage)

Admittedly, the defensive pickings on these teams were slim. De Vries signed with Nashville before the final season of this group (and he was admittedly overpaid, which is why he got included in the Hossa-To-Atlanta deal in the first place). Hossa only had one year of Toby Enstrom in Atlanta, and he had less than a full season's worth of games with Alexei Zhitnik and (haha, get ready) Braydon Coburn.

And oh by the way, Age 22-24 Kari Lehtonen was a bit better than the current version, right?

2007-2008 Pittsburgh Penguins

Winger: Petr Sykora (1 season, 81 games, 28 goals, 63 points)
Center: Evgeni Malkin (1 season, 82 games, 47 goals, 106 points)
Winger: Ryan Malone (1 season, 77 games, 27 goals, 51 points)

Defense: Sergei Gonchar (1 season, 78 games, 12 goals, 65 points)
Defense: Ryan Whitney (1 season, 76 games, 12 goals, 40 points)

Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (1 season, 35 games, .921 save percentage, 14-6 record in the playoffs)
Goalie: Ty Conklin (1 season, 33 games, .923 save percentage)
Goalie: Dany Sabourin (1 season, 24 games, .904 save percentage)

I left Crosby out because I hate his guts he missed most of the games during Hossa's tenure. I also left Hossa out because he played just a dozen regular season games before the playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That Malkin line really carried the Pens, but this was a season where Pittsburgh was led by a 21 year old Russian with 102 points in 82 games and a 20 year old Canadian with 72 points in 53 games. Era-adjusted inflation aside, that's fucking absurd.

This team also had 19-year-old Jordan Staal, 20-year-old Kris Letang, and 22-year-old Alex Goligoski. It's almost embarrassing that they only won one Cup before Overpaid Free Agents Kessel/Hagelin arrived, New York Yankees style.

2008-09 Detroit Red Wings

Winger: Pavel Datsyuk (1 season, 81 games, 32 goals, 97 points)
Center: Henrik Zetterberg (1 season, 77 games, 31 goals, 73 points)
Winger: Marian Hossa (1 season, 74 games, 40 goals, 71 points)

Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom (1 season, 78 games, 16 goals, 59 points)
Defense: Brian Rafalski (1 season, 78 games, 10 goals, 59 points)
Defense: Niklas Kronwall (1 season, 80 games, 6 goals, 51 points)

Goalie: Chris Osgood (1 season, 46 games, .887 save percentage, 15-8 record in the playoffs)
Goalie: Ty Conklin (1 season, 40 games, .909 save percentage)

I couldn't decide between Rafalski and Kronwall and it seems like Mike Babcock couldn't decide between Osgood and Conklin. This team is a real doozy, in that it also featured Chris Chelios, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Darren McCarty in one last-ditch effort to win another Cup.

As the legend goes, Hossa joined them after losing to them the previous season when he was in Pittsburgh. So, naturally, the 2009 Stanley Cup was won by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Life's funny sometimes.

2009-2015 Chicago Blackhawks

Winger: Patrick Kane (6 seasons, 414 games, 159 goals, 415 points)
Center: Jonathan Toews (6 seasons, 419 games, 165 goals, 383 points)
Winger: Patrick Sharp (6 seasons, 408 games, 148 goals, 347 points)
Winger: Marian Hossa (6 seasons, 397 games, 147 goals, 337 points)

Defense: Duncan Keith (6 seasons, 444 games, 44 goals, 287 points)
Defense: Brent Seabrook (6 seasons, 449 games, 45 goals, 204 points)

Goalie: Corey Crawford (5 full seasons, 261 games, .917 save percentage)

2015-2017 Chicago Blackhawks

Winger: Patrick Kane (1 season and change, 86 games, 47 goals, 112 points)
Center: Jonathan Toews (1 season and change, 84 games, 28 goals, 59 points)
Winger: Antemi Panarin (1 season and change, 84 games, 32 goals, 80 points)

Defense: Duncan Keith (1 season and change, 71 games, 9 goals, 47 points)
Defense: Brent Seabrook (1 season and change, 85 games, 15 goals, 54 points)

Goalie: Corey Crawford (1 season and change, 61 games, .923 save percentage)

You can really run this whole dynasty as one group, because those six skaters and Crawford could be surrounded by a bunch of 11th graders and they'd probably still win at least two Cups. That 2009-10 team included guys named Versteeg, Brouwer, Ladd, Campbell, Byfuglien, Madden, and Hjalmarsson.

I chose to split the dynasty here for two reasons: Patrick Sharp and Artemi Panarin. Those are the two major changes that affect the Hawks roster. Sharp leaving (and Hossa's gradual age-related decline) open the door for another top winger, and Panarin is almost certainly that guy for the foreseeable future.

Going forward, Hossa's signed with Chicago through the 2020-21 season. His salary drops to $1 million (with a cap hit of $5.275 million), so he's prime trade bait if Chicago looks to move him to one of the fabled "cap floor" teams. There's also the potential that the Hawks could get hit with some cap recapture penalties if Hossa retires before 2021, similarly to how Shea Weber can really fuck Nashville if he retires early.

This latest version of the Blackhawks core will likely be the one Hossa ends his career with. He's a no-brainer Hall of Famer, and it's not a coincidence that he's played alongside some of the league's best players over the past 20 years.

He's a five-time All-Star and a three-time Stanley Cup Champion. He's in the top 50 of the all-time goals list and the top 60 of the all-time points list. He's first among active players (and 13th all-time) in shorthanded goals. His career similarity scores bring up names like Robitaille, Messier, Shanahan, and Richard.

Thanks, Marian Hossa, for scoring such a monumental goal against the Flyers and sending me down this journey of reliving your career. It's been fun. 

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