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Is Fleury HOF'er?; Karlsson, Perron, Gallant on Evolution of Forechecking

March 12, 2018, 6:13 PM ET [24 Comments]
Sheng Peng
Vegas Golden Knights Blogger •Vegas Golden Knights Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT


Marc-Andre Fleury goes for his 400th career win tonight against Philadelphia.

He'll become just the 13th netminder to reach that milestone:

View post on imgur.com


(* denotes Hall of Famer)

But will this achievement make Fleury a sure-fire Hall of Famer?

Wins, of course, have become a somewhat devalued stat since the advent of the shootout in 2005-06. Simply, there are more of them to be had these days.

Next, let's compare major accomplishments between Fleury and the other members of this exclusive club who have yet to be honored.

Martin Brodeur
• 4-time Vezina Trophy winner (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008)
• 9-time Vezina Trophy finalist (1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010)
• 3-time NHL 1st All-Star Team (2003, 2004, 2007)
• 4-time NHL 2nd All-Star Team (1997, 1998, 2006, 2008)
• Calder Memorial Trophy winner (1994)
• 3-time Stanley Cup winner (1995, 2000, 2003)
• 2-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2002, 2010) (2002 as starter, 2010 as backup)

Roberto Luongo
• 3-time Vezina Trophy finalist (2004, 2007, 2011)
• 2-time NHL 2nd All-Star Team (2004, 2007)
• 2-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2010, 2014) (2010 as starter, 2014 as backup)

Curtis Joseph
• 3-time Vezina Trophy finalist (1993, 1999, 2000)
• 1-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2002) (2002 as backup)

Henrik Lundqvist
• 1-time Vezina Trophy winner (2012)
• 5-time Vezina Trophy finalist (2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013)
• 1-time NHL 1st All-Star Team (2012)
• 1-time NHL 2nd All-Star Team (2013)
• 1-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2006) (2006 as starter)

Chris Osgood
• 1-time Vezina Trophy finalist (1996)
• 1-time NHL 2nd All-Star Team (1996)
• 3-time Stanley Cup winner (1997, 1998, 2008) (1997 as backup)

Marc-Andre Fleury
• 3-time Stanley Cup winner (2009, 2016, 2017) (2016 as backup)
• 1-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2010) (2010 as backup)

Brodeur is a first-ballot guy, Luongo and Lundqvist are looking good, while Joseph, Osgood, and Fleury seem to be along the fringes. The difference is, Flower may have a lot of career left. But at this point, his induction is highly questionable.

***

Justin Bourne of The Athletic recently wrote about how forechecking has evolved over the years -- younger players are emphasizing stick forechecking over the more physical variety:

One of those trends I've noticed is just how differently forwards check these days compared to a decade ago, and what an advantage it can be for those who do it well. And boy, some young players are doing it well. Years ago forwards would scream in on the forecheck and smash into the defender and hope to separate them from the puck. That's how you knew who the best forcheckers were, right? They were the guys who rattled the glass the most.

Today though, it's all about refined stick work. The real model here is a guy like Marian Hossa who was so good at getting underneath opponent's sticks and nabbing the puck like a fox stealing an egg from a nest.

Think William Karlsson as opposed to Ryan Reaves. Here's the 25-year-old Swede working Drew Doughty behind the net:

View post on imgur.com


Speaking of Karlsson, I spoke with him, David Perron (who's been in the league for a decade), and Gerard Gallant (who played throughout the '80s) about this change.

HockeyBuzz: Can you talk about how effective you and the Golden Knights have been on the forecheck this year? In particular, players have been effective with the stick forecheck.

Of course, it's a league-wide thing, right? Physical forechecking isn't as prominent anymore.


Gerard Gallant: We're not a big, physical team. I think our forecheck is effective because we're quick, we put pressure on people, try to separate the puck from the body.

When you've got William Carrier in the line-up and he finishes checks a lot harder than most of our players, I think it's a good mix.

Guys like Marchessault, I don't expect them to run people over. I expect them to put pressure and separate the man from the puck.

William Karlsson: It's just reading the game. Whatever I see, I try to adjust myself.

I don't really have the size to do [physical forechecking] anyway. It's hard to hit people all the time. So you save energy as well.

David Perron: We play with our speed. Basically, your stick [on the forecheck] can really influence where the puck is going to go almost more than your body.

There needs to be a threat with your body where if they hang onto the puck too much, they put themselves in a bad spot, and you're going to finish. But it's not about killing guys anymore.

HB: What's changed about the game? Why has forechecking evolved like this?

GG: Everybody finished their checks back then. But the game is so much faster now.

WK: The league is faster and probably smarter than it used to be. More skilled guys nowadays. That's the future of hockey.

DP: You hear less coaches say finish your hits every time you're out there.

It goes back to the Detroit Red Wings, when they had four lines of skill players and everybody was trying to bully them. Eventually, [opposing] teams adapted to that and played the same way against [Detroit] instead of trying to bully them.

[The Red Wings] would just take hits and keep playing and always end up winning games. So teams started changing their ways.

HB: Will, in particular, you've been very good in this area this year. How did this skill develop for you, and who did you learn from?

WK: I've always been pretty good at it. It's always been there with me.

You always knew that Pavel Datsyuk had a strong stick. He didn't go and kill people, he went to lift their stick, and grab the puck. He kind of showed the way for younger players. Maybe that's the reason why the league is what it is.

***

Stats as of 3/11/18, courtesy of Corsica, Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, and Sporting Charts.

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