by PuckStopsHere on 02/04/09 at 03:22 AM ET
Historically in the NHL, right wing is a higher scoring position than left wing. The right winger is often seen as a sniper while the left winger is seen as a grinder. I don’t think there is any meaningful reason for this. There is no asymmetry built into the game of hockey that forces a strong difference between left and right. European systems have not followed suit. There have been a few top snipers who play left wing. Currently, the NHL has Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Thomas Vanek and others who are top snipers who were produced in Europe. Oddly, there is a lack of top scoring right wingers in the NHL this season. I don’t know that it is a meaningful trend, but it is a clear one from the scoring race.
Here are the top ten right wingers in the scoring race:
Position in Overall Race
|Martin St Louis||TBL||51||18||30||48|
Ten right wingers in the top 41 scorers in the league are quite reasonable. Essentially there are no defencemen scoring at that level, so that leaves the three forward positions to split the top scorers. Centre will have the highest number of players because it is in a better position to control the play from the centre of the forward line and talented younger players will preferentially be funneled into that position. The story is at the top of the list. The top scoring right winger is ninth in the league (Jarome Iginla) and second is 15th (Marian Hossa). There are only two right wings in the top 20 scorers in the NHL right now. That is a surprisingly low number.
I do not think this is likely a meaningful longterm trend. I think it is just a current fluke. There is no right winger having a top season this year. Last year, Jarome Iginla was third in scoring in the league. This year he is lower in the standings. Other players who have had top scoring seasons on right wing in the past like Alexei Kovalev, Daniel Alfredsson and Martin St Louis are starting to age and their numbers are likely in decline. Another top right winger of the recent past, Jaromir Jagr is out of the league. Nobody has stepped forward to take their place. There are candidates in players like Patrick Kane, Devin Setoguchi and Corey Perry, but they are yet to have a season where they were one of the league’s top scorers.
Only Jarome Iginla and Ales Hemsky on this list are above a point per game. That is remarkably low for right wingers. Hemsky is well down the list for having missed time with a concussion.
Historically right wing has been the higher scoring wing. Is that changing? Is that a European influence on the NHL? Or is this just a one or two season fluke that will soon disappear?
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