Thursday, May 24, 2007

European Leadership

We Canadians are fueled by icons like Don Cherry, who says that Canadian hockey players are the best and have the most heart. But now especially we are seeing more widespread hunger and desire from European players to win the Stanley Cup. I never used to give teams with a European captain a chance in the playoffs until now.
The emergence of Daniel Alfredsson is bringing to the forefront a European's ability to lead a team to the Holy Grail.
But let's face it, the whole concept of Canadian greatness in team leadership, and especially wearing the "C", to a large degree is tainted to begin with. Gloating that only one non-Canadian captain in NHL history has raised the Cup is pointless(Derian Hatcher with the Stars in 1999).
It comes down to percentages. There has always been a larger amount of Canadian players in the NHL. The Canadian content in the NHL was massively abundant pre-1990, and that number has significantly decreased since then. Especially now, you can see the playing field slowly levelling out when it comes to team captaincy.

Here is a breakdown of captaincy and nationality from this season:

Canadians: 14 (Mellanby, Crosby, Lecavalier, Brind'amour, Niedermayer, Marleau, Morrow, Iginla, Drake, Foote, Smith, Aucoin, Doan, Sakic)
Swedes: 5 (Naslund, Sundin, Alfredsson, Lidstrom, Norstrom)
Americans: 3 (Clark, Drury, Rolston)
Finnish: 3 (Koivu, Jokinen, Timmonen)
Czechs: 1 (Elias)
Russians: 1 (Yashin)
Slovaks: 1. (Chara)
3 teams had no captain, correct me if I'm wrong.

That is the most spread out it has ever been.

We still hold the monopoly when it comes to the odds of one of our own meeting Gary Bettman at center ice to accept the Cup based on the above numbers. But that monopoly is fading. Had the Wings beaten the Ducks the theory would have taken a huge hit, with 2 Swedish captains in the Final. It's just a matter of time. Hell, Alfredsson is the first European captain to make an appearance in the Finals in NHL history. He is leading the race for the Conn Smythe trophy right now. A European! A Swede even! Heaven forbid! Times are changing.

Like Jibblescribbits had discussed a couple of weeks back, it takes European players a while to adjust to the North American style of play. Whenever they do, they are terrific all-round players. Look at Alfredsson, Lidstrom and Elias now. They have been around for a lot of years and are great leaders.
As well, if the current obstruction rules remain and the game is built more on speed and skill, there will be a lot more Europeans coming front and center and into the spotlight.

Canadian players are not always the best. There's just been a lot more of us playing in the NHL and for a lot longer period of time.
What I am trying to say is that it's one thing to be a proud Canadian, and to be proud of what Canadian hockey players have accomplished, but it's another thing to have your head buried in the sand.

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At May 25, 2007 at 9:12 a.m. , Blogger Jibblescribbits said...

Excellent Post and thoughts. (of course I am biased with the link to my own blog in there :) ).

I think having a Euro captain win the cup will be a good thing. Obviously they are excited about hockey ('94 Olympics and the reaction anyone on that team gets in Sweeden.) Maybe if Alfredsson gets to be the first to hold the cup over his head even more Swedes will get excited about the Stanley Cup.

At May 25, 2007 at 9:41 a.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

It will definitely change some people's thought patterns!
Maybe 20 years from now there will be a Swedish Don Cherry screaming: "That guy was a Canadian too yet. See that? He turtled before Anders Jerksson could even hit him!"

At May 25, 2007 at 10:06 a.m. , Blogger James said...

Toronto fans have known a euro can captain a team to moderate success for a while (yay maaaaaats), but nice to see alfredsson taking it to the next level. Even though he had a terrible dirty hit on Tucker a couple years back and no call! WHERE'S THE CALL!@#

Ok, I'm alright..

I've always divided european players into two groups, the nordic types (Swedes, finns) and the slavic types (czechs, russians).

On the list of european captians, the only ones that make me go "huh??" are Yashin and Chara. Possibly sad-sack Naslund too. Standouts like Koivu, Elias, Norstrom, Lidstrom and of course Sundin would all be 100% capable of leading their team to the cup as well as alfredsson, I feel. Moreso than Dallas frigging Drake, anyway!!

At May 25, 2007 at 10:45 a.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Alfredsson is taking a phenomenal and DEEP team into the Finals. A lot of the time a captain is only as good as his supporting cast. Even when captain Sakic won 2 Cups, those Avs teams were stacked.

Success also depends on the structure that a coach brings.

This is also why there shouldn't be a lot of over-analysis on captaincy.

James, I feel your pain with that hit by Alfie on Tucker. He almost fucking killed him! And then he scored right afterwards. Bastard! Alfie's gotten away with 2 major boarding calls now. He must be a nice guy to the refs or something.
Oh well, I have forgiven him for that. Maybe you should too! :)

At May 25, 2007 at 2:34 p.m. , Blogger Jibblescribbits said...

Agreed, a little too much emphasis is placed on captain, even thought there is some importance of it.. it's why Marleau in San Jose is taking a lot of heat in the offseason.


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Waiting For Stanley was created in June 2006.