What Kind of Player Goes to State

Submitted by Seth on January 27th, 2009 at 4:28 PM

I made a list of MSU players who went on to the NHL in order to analyze a comment by one fellow poster in the wake of this weekend's gooning.

These are the players I saw in college (sorry, the only green I ever saw Bob Essensa in was those ridiculous 99-00 Phoenix 3rd jerseys)

Justin Abdelkader: Young, big guy called up to help with Red Wings' cup run at end of the season. A future checking liner or perhaps Holmstrom role player once he learns to make better use of his size, since his speed and skills aren't on par with Detroit's loaded front six.

David Booth: Speedy scorer who is coming alive this year on Florida's top line. Big, physical forward does a lot of one-on-one. Not a great team player.

Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour: A great player, one of the best defensive centers in the NHL during his prime. Big workoutaholic who played smart hockey and was used on big, bruising scoring lines (replacing Lindros in Philly during his many concussings, and the famous BBC line), but the Big Bod was never much of a checker.

Anson Carter: At his height, thought to be a perfect checking wing for a 2nd scoring line. Journeyman whose game was based on size and checking

Steve Guolla: No single part of his game really stood out.

Adam Hall: Disappointing power forward who hasn't reached his tremendous upside -- Nashville fans say it's cause he was afraid of the front of the net.

Shawn Horcoff: Strong positional player, hard-working, good skater, decently sized, but not enough vision to become elite and shies away from contact.

Duncan Keith Good skater for a defenseman with Top Four potential. Great offensive instincts. Playes a finesse game and gets pushed around.

John-Michael Liles: Young, small offensive defenseman for Colorado who doesn't shy away from the rough stuff. Only limited by his size, and his speed isn't top-notch either. Basically Jason Woolley Part II.

Kip Miller Hobey Baker winner now in AHL. Solid game, hard-worker, but played much smaller than his frame.

Ryan Miller Unflappable goalie and rising star for Buffalo. Dominates some games. Great work ethic.

Rem Murray Big (for his time) forward who was a checking liner pulled into scoring line duties on bad teams because he was more defensively responsible.

Jim Slater Young gunner who plays with a lot of grit. Average size but plays bigger (sometimes out of control). Could bloom late, and speed makes him viable on a scoring line.

Bryan Smolinkski Great faceoff guy, was at one point a big playmaker. Versatile but goes on long droughts and never made good use of his size.

Mike Weaver Physical defenseman, mostly a backup because he isn't very positionally sound.

Peter White Just remember he got in a fight with teammates. Don't know where he is now. Another big guy, though not really tall, who didn't use his size (sensing a trend here).

Jason Woolley Good sized generally offensive defenseman who at his best was Buffalo's powerplay quarterback. Had good speed and size when he was younger, but played a finesse, passing game.

Mike York Superfast small playmaker who plays bigger than he is, good two-way player, but gets worn down and goes on long scoring droughts at the end of seasons.

What did I see?

1. How many ways can hockey scouts call guys soft? This is by no means true for all of them, but it seems the MSU guys in the NHL are a Who's Who of relatively big guys with a strong work ethic who are afraid to use their bodies. The typical State forward is Adam Hall, a high-drafted power forward who falls short of his expectations, but works his ass off in the weight room and has great natural ability. This seems to be the opposite of the players from Red Berenson's squads who are now lighting up the NHL: relatively small, mediocre speed guys who can pass the puck like nobody's business.

2. MSU hasn't produced an NHL enforcer since Mike Cummins (and he was never a top goon). This doesn't say State isn't about enforcers; their goons just didn't go to the NHL. However, I think it does show that State's program looks for size and speed first. Now, if you're going to pick a style of play for those bodies, you wouldn't be the Red Wings. You'd want to be the late-'90s Flyers. They, too, got a rep for being bruisers. But if we're going to make that comparison, I think both teams are more "bangers," i.e. they play a game that emphasizes crashing the boards and crashing the net -- a power forward's game. This is a totally legitimate hockey strategy that has been tried and true in North America since the first "Oh, shit, this stuff's slippery, eh?" I would posit that these two classless turds represent an anomaly.

Perhaps (thankfully Kampfer is okay so we can joke about this) it was nothing more than Little Brother rage. I mean, it must totally suck to get beaten again and again by the guy for whom your entire sense of self-worth is tied to beating.

What it wasn't, at least in my opinion, was a program-wide commitment to goonism a la Bad Boys on Ice.

Comments

Yinka Double Dare

January 27th, 2009 at 4:45 PM ^

"Duncan Keith Good skater for a defenseman with Top Four potential. Great offensive instincts. Playes a finesse game and gets pushed around."

Top Four in the league or just on a team? He's the Hawks #1 defenseman if you ask most of the hardcore fans (and one of the two assistant captains, so he has his teammates' respect as well). Excellent defensively and now a solid contributor on the offensive end as well. Could stand to be a little more physical with guys parked in front of the net but that's really the only flaw, and he's not exactly huge (6 foot, 190 or so). Should have been an all-star, but having a less-deserving teammate get voted to start pretty much guaranteed he wasn't going.

Yinka Double Dare

January 27th, 2009 at 6:29 PM ^

Obviously plus/minus isn't a perfect stat, but he was +30 last year for a team that missed the playoffs, and is at +23 this season (2nd in the NHL among defensemen).

I think you have to watch him against teams besides the Red Wings -- for whatever reason he doesn't seem to play well against the Wings, whether it be matchups, confidence/intimidation, who knows. If that's all you really see of him, then I can see why you think of him as you do. If you watch him all the time, he's pretty friggin good already, and still getting better.

Edit: I should mention the entire defense has generally looked like crap against the Wings, and since the Wings lead the NHL in scoring, it isn't like the Hawks are alone in that department. The Hawks are 4th in the NHL in GAA though, so their defensive abilities aren't exactly chopped liver.

grsbmd

January 27th, 2009 at 6:56 PM ^

Campbell is definitely the better offensive defenseman, but there's no question Duncan Keith is the better all-around defenseman. Campbell made the all-star game this year, but only because of fan voting. If it weren't for fan voting, Keith would have been in Montreal and Campbell would have been taking a weekend off. (the only reason Keith didn't get selected is because there were already 3 Blackhawks on the team)

jfs52

January 27th, 2009 at 4:51 PM ^

i think this current uproar was more about the two players and the response of the school to this specific incident than state over time.

i think really the proof of that is that over time state wins. you can't appeal to the lowest common denominator all the time and have a long history of winning. so no, i don't think anyone can reasonably say that state has a long standing committment to hooliganism.

more proof: ferris state, which quite obviously does. rough teams that aren't any good.

jfs52

January 27th, 2009 at 4:52 PM ^

i think this current uproar was more about the two players and the response of the school to this specific incident than state over time.

i think really the proof of that is that over time state wins. you can't appeal to the lowest common denominator all the time and have a long history of winning. so no, i don't think anyone can reasonably say that state has a long standing committment to hooliganism.

more proof: ferris state, which quite obviously does. rough teams that aren't any good.

WCHBlog

January 27th, 2009 at 8:55 PM ^

I think you're a little off in the analysis here. This year's version of Michigan State is obviously an entirely different animal than what you saw from Ron Mason's teams in the late '90s.

The big problem is that Rick Comley's recruiting has been terrible and it's starting to produce some really ugly results. They've had to resort to 1. Guys that come leagues no one really scouts(It worked well for Leveille. Perlini? Not so much.) 2. Older, less skilled retreads from the NAHL(Congrats on beating out Bentley and Army for those guys). 3. Guys that other schools looked at and passed on. 4. Guys with issues that made teams back off.

The first three are why they're in last place right now. The fourth is why this incident happened. Everyone knew about Conboy's past history. Doc DelCastillo(not exactly known his high character anymore) committed to him at UNO, and once DelCastillo was gone, it was decided that UNO probably wasn't the best place for him. But State was in a position that they were desperate enough for quality players that they took a chance on him anyway, and they ended up getting what they paid for.

If MSU was still bringing in great players and putting together quality, deep teams like they were in the past, it's pretty unlikely something like this would have happened.

Wolverine In Exile

January 27th, 2009 at 9:49 PM ^

Mason's teams were known as hard checking, but exactly as you said, more in a Philly Legion of Doom way. The team this year (and I would contend the signs were there last year) that Comley has assembled is more Slapshot Chiefs. I started following M hockey when I was about 12 or so in the early 90's (go Denny Felsner), and I always remembered Mich St as being the physical skilled team playing power hockey in contrast to Red's attempt to recreate Scotty Bowman's flying frenchmen teams in Montreal (and later Detroit). Both teams were tough, but State played a style that emphasized it, where UM played a game that didn't shy away but would go for the deke instead of the dump and chase. In the waning days of Mason v Red, it was really Colorado v Red Wings late 90's vintage. Physical team with physical forwards relying on an above average goalie vs a skilled skating team with at times soft goalteding.

Comley's problem is that he's at a school that should be able to recruit both sides of the border with high skill physical players, but he has only been able to reel in guys who could play for Northern's checking lines. If Lerg wasn't there the last two years, I doubt he's even close to a winning record over this period. Comley reminds me of Mike Dubose or (gasp) Frank Solich.

In another analogy, Comley was given the keys to the van from "The A-Team" but decided to give the wheel to some questionable characters and now has a replica of Kelso's love van from "That 70's Show".