by Forechecker on 10/02/08 at 12:53 PM ET
Great offensive performers in the NHL often come in pairs; think Wayne Gretzky & Jari Kurri, or Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr. When it comes to today’s prominent goal-scorers, however, which ones are the most dependent on a particular playmaker to set them up? To answer that question, I dug through the goal-scoring details from the 2007-8 season and took a look at the leading snipers, to answer the question of who fed them a Primary Assist most often…
When I examined this issue for 2006-7, the Sedin twins were the most intertwined players in the league, just barely ahead of Slava Kozlov & Marian Hossa. As Kozzie’s production tailed off in 2007-8, however, the Sedins again led the way, this time by a wide margin. The table below represents the top 20 scorers with at least 20 goals last season, ranked by their reliance upon a specific player for Primary Assists:
|Scorer||Goals||Top Assist Man||1st Assists||Reliance|
|Daniel Sedin, VAN||29||Henrik Sedin||18||62.1%|
|Jonathan Cheechoo, SJS||23||Joe Thornton||11||47.8%|
|Shawn Horcoff, EDM||21||Ales Hemsky||10||47.6%|
|Henrik Zetterberg, DET||43||Pavel Datsyuk||20||46.5%|
|Petr Sykora, PIT||28||Evgeni Malkin||13||46.4%|
|Brenden Morrow, DAL||32||Mike Ribeiro||14||43.8%|
|Jochen Hecht, BUF||22||Jason Pominville||9||40.9%|
|Joffrey Lupul, PHI||20||Mike Richards||8||40.0%|
|Brad Boyes, STL||43||Paul Kariya||17||39.5%|
|Bill Guerin, NYI||23||Mike Comrie||9||39.1%|
|Andrei Kostitsyn, MTL||26||Tomas Plekanec||10||38.5%|
|Tomas Plekanec, MTL||29||Alexei Kovalev||11||37.9%|
|Milan Michalek, SJS||24||Joe Thornton||9||37.5%|
|Dany Heatley, OTT||41||Jason Spezza||15||36.6%|
|Marcus Naslund, VAN||25||Daniel Sedin||9||36.0%|
|Martin St. Louis, TAM||25||Vincent Lecavalier||9||36.0%|
|Jason Arnott, NSH||28||J. P. Dumont||10||35.7%|
|Vincent Lecavalier, TAM||40||Martin St. Louis||14||35.0%|
|Tomas Holmstrom, DET||20||Henrik Zetterberg||7||35.0%|
|Brendan Shanahan, NYR||23||Scott Gomez||8||34.8%|
One interesting thing that jumps out of this table is how little player movement one sees from this group. Only two scorers on this list (Marcus Naslund and Brendan Shanahan, highlighted in pink) are no longer with their team from last season, although with Shanny there’s still a possibility of a return since he’s a free agent. This makes sense, of course; if a duo is working well together there is natural resistance to breaking them up.
Note, also, the two lines highlighted in green; Tampa’s dynamic duo of Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are doing both ends of this work for each other. And if there is any doubt as to what Joe Thornton means to the San Jose Sharks, just ask Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, both of whom rely upon Big Bird to feed them the puck.
So as we get ready to launch this 2008-9 NHL regular season, keep an eye on your favorite team to see if preseason line combinations threaten one of these productive pairings. If they do, feel free to let the head coach know he’s taking a big risk!
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