Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pronger or Niedermayer for the All-Decade Team? Sleek chimes in...

Hey, CLSers. It's Earl Sleek, resident Duck fan at Battle of California, here to offer my thoughts on James' All-Decade Team. Specifically, Who gets to play alongside Nick Lidstrom -- Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger? In a lot of ways, this is really a Coke vs. Pepsi debate -- no real wrong answer -- but I'll offer some perspective from a guy who's watched a lot of them the last couple of years. Perhaps if I'm convincing enough, we can leave Nickleback Lidstrom on the sidelines (kidding, of course).

Sadly, I didn't make this picture. Credit to Hodge from Waiting For Stanley... ages ago.

I've decided to do a point-counterpoint format, as I apparently like arguing with myself. SN is the Niedermayer supporter in me, and CP is the Pronger advocate.

SN: In the 2007 postseason, when the Ducks won the cup, captain Scott Niedermayer won the Conn Smythe trophy. He scored the OT-winner to eliminate the Canucks, an OT-winner to even a series with Detroit, and the biggest goal of Anaheim's postseason -- the last-minute game-tying goal in G5 against the Red Wings, which ironically enough, deflected off Nick Lidstrom's stick. Pronger wasn't around for G5s against the Red Wings or the Senators thanks to his elbows, but Scotty led the team to victory each time.

CP: Sure, Pronger's elbows disqualified him from trophy consideration, but quite simply: nobody was better than Chris Pronger in the 2006 or 2007 postseasons -- he arguably could have won back-to-back Conn Smythes. Sure, Niedermayer scored some big goals, but in the 2007 postseason, in all situations, Scotty was on the ice for 24 GF and 26 GA. Pronger, in all situations, was on the ice for 32 GF and 15 GA. In the Ducks' toughest playoff series, the Red Wings didn't score an even-strength or a power-play goal when Pronger was on the ice.

SN: Leadership matters, though -- remember when Alfredsson shot a puck at Niedermayer and he did nothing? That story could have unfolded quite differently had hot-headed Pronger been the target. And that's the other aspect to the story: while Pronger has had good results, he's always been paired with a veteran. Scotty, on the other hand, has been shepherding first- and second-year partners around and still keeeps his head above water. He probably hasn't played with a veteran since his days back with Ken Daneyko.

CP: Sure, leadership matters, but so does training camp. Anyways, since we know that we're talking about being Lidstrom's partner, let's talk about skillset. Pronger definitely brings a nasty edge that Lidstrom lacks, and with Pronger's booming cannon (something that Scott Niedermayer doesn't have in the least), a Pronger-Lidstrom combination would be murder for opponents on both ends of the ice. Perhaps literally.

SN: You're definitely right about the shooting -- that's not Scotty's specialty at all. But mobility and puck-smarts definitely would make a Lidstrom-Niedermayer pairing a joy to watch. Niedermayer would run goal-line to goal-line, disrupting defensive coverage like crazy and letting Lidstrom anchor and orchestrate from the blue line. Defensively, they might not own the front of the net as well as Pronger would, but there's no out-racing Scotty. And they wouldn't take many penalties, either.

CP: That's it. Get over here where I can stomp you.

So, I dunno. Scotty's got more cups, Pronger's got a Hart, I really could go either way on who really deserves it. I think what probably decides it for me is the notion of partnering with Nick Lidstrom. Certainly both candidates would make an awesome pairing with the Swedish Hockey Robot, but I think in the end I'd go with Scott Niedermayer. The two cup-winning captains would be dazzling, I have to think.

But I'm only 56% convinced. What say you, comments section?


jamestobrien said...

I'll save my opinion for the early part of next week, but good stuff Sleek. It's definitely a close call.

(And even though a Stompy joke was inevitable, I absolutely laughed.)

MattM said...

Pronger. AS you said Sleek, he could have won back-to-back Conn SMythes. He didn't but that has very little to do with his level of play in either run.

People also might argue that Pronger's penalties are too much of a negative, but I think that's overstated. He seems to have been given free reign to indulge his douchebaggier tendencies, getting suspensions and such, but Niedermayer actually took 17 PIM more in their first year together in Anaheim. Besides, I refuse to hold stomping on Ryan Kesler against him. I would probably do that too.

The biggest arguments for Niedermayer are that he's won 4 cups to Pronger's one and that he's simply a beautiful player to watch. I have to say I'm not terribly concerned with the aesthetics of their play. As far as the team success, well, give St. Louis Brodeur for those years and see which one would have the cups.

I think it helps Niedermayer a lot that people generally view defensive prowess as something you have to see in a player, not something you can calculate. I think this might be your line from sometime last year, but Niedermayer impresses the eye, Pronger impresses the spreadsheet. I'm a spreadsheet guy, so Pronger.

jamestobrien said...

Careful MattM ... the Contrarian Goaltender probably wouldn't agree with your Brodeur in St. Louis argument.

MattM said...

Possibly James, but I think even he would concede that Brodeur beats the hell out of Roman freakin Turek.

Besides, Brodeur there really just is a proxy for team factors beyond the dman in question's control determining which one has more rings.

jamestobrien said...

Well said, Matt. The name Roman Turek alone makes me laugh now. I guess that makes me easy.

MattM said...

Thanks James. I will always fondly remember Turek's years in Calgary. Of course, I'm an Oiler fan.