Power Forwards - On The Rise Or A Statistical Blip?

He stands, or charges, alone.

With six newcomers to the power forward list, the 2010-11 total grew to 17, a five-year high.  The previous high came in 2008-09 with 13 players on the list.  I've looked at the mythical beast for the past few years and found that it's Ovechkin and some big guys that can sometimes put a solid season together and make the list.  But with so many newcomers and such a large list for 2010-11, has that changed? 

As I've done with each look, I set the minimums for the position at .3 goals per game (25 goals over an 82-game season) and 1.5 hits per game.  For the reasoning, check the article behind the "mythical beast" link above.

The following charts detail each player by season that met the minimums.  All of the charts are sorted by goals per game.

06-07 Power Forwards

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07-08 Power Forwards

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08-09 Power Forwards

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09-10 Power Forwards

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10-11 Power Forwards

10-11_power_forwards_medium

  • Alex Ovechkin is a machine.  He the only man to make the list for five years in a row and can wear the undisputed crown as the best power forward in the league.  He scored 32 goals while shooting only 8.7%. 
  • Erik Cole makes it back to the list for the third time as did Dustin Brown.  Cole is aging but effective and may have one more of these seasons left in the tank for the Canadiens.  Brown is at the very top of the second-tier of players of this type.
  • A couple of surprising names on the list are Blake Comeau and Brandon Dubinsky.  I think both Islanders' fans and Rangers' fans are going to choke on their Cheerios when they see this because neither player gets much love from their fans and both take heat for being soft.  It will be interesting to see the explanations.
  • Though Milan Lucic is regarded by fans as the prototypical young power forward, he made the list for just the first time in his four-year career.  He needed a 17.3% shooting percentage to make it, taking the fewest shots of anyone on the 10-11 list.
  • The Stars traded power forward James Neal but he was replaced by Jamie Benn in only his second NHL season.
  • Ryane Clowe returns to the list for a second time, again buoyed by an above-average shooting percentage.  The Sharks shipped Devin Setoguchi, also on the list for a second time, to the Wild, meaning Clowe remains alone in San Jose.
  • Chris Kunitz makes the list for a second time, giving the Penguins Kunitz and Neal with multiple appearances on the list and Jordan Staal who fits the physical mold.  Staal would likely be on this list if he weren't shouldering so much of the defensive load in Pittsburgh.  The league has always played up Ovechkin vs. Crosby and Caps vs. Pens, but these three might redefine the Capitals - Penguins rivalry.

Near misses:

  • Ryan Malone fell off of the list due to injury - he only appeared in 54 games.  Aside from that, his shooting percentage fell from a career average of 15% to 9.4%.
  • Shane Doan missed the list for a second straight season, but this time by only two goals.  He still hits, but his shooting percentage, not his shot rates, has fallen off the last two seasons
  • James Neal missed making the list for the third time in a row by just two goals.  He had 1 goal on 52 shots after being traded to the Penguins.  If he stays healthy, it's a safe bet that he'll be on the list in 2011-2012. 
  • Ryan Callahan only missed this list because he didn't qualify with enough games played.  His combined numbers, 3.73 H/G and .383 G/G were among the very best on this list.
  • Evander Kane missed the list by two goals and suffered an 8% shooting percentage.  He's a good bet to find a home on this list a number of times in the next five years.
  • David Booth was healthy but fell short of the list by two goals, it would have been his second appearance, his first coming in 07-08.
  • Ryan Getzlaf missed making the list for a third time by only two goals.
  • Mike Richards fell off of the list after making it three straight years.  With Richards and Brown together in Los Angeles, I'd expect him to find his way back to the list next season.

The five year standings:

* indicates consecutive running years on the list

Alexander Ovechkin 5 *****
Dustin Brown 3 *
Erik Cole 3 *
Mike Richards 3
Ryan Malone 3
Shane Doan 3
Bobby Ryan 2 **
Brenden Morrow 2 *
Chris Kunitz 2 *
David Backes 2 *
Devin Setoguchi 2 *
Ryane Clowe 2 *
James Neal 2
Mike Fisher 2
Ryan Getzlaf 2
Blake Comeau 1 *
Brandon Dubinsky 1 *
Danny Cleary 1 *
Jamie Benn 1 *
Johan Franzen 1 *
Milan Lucic 1 *
Ryan Kesler 1 *
Alexei Ponikarovsky 1
Andrei Kostitsyn 1
Chuck Kobasew 1
David Booth 1
Guillaume Latendresse 1
Jonathan Cheechoo 1
Michael Ryder 1
Rick Nash 1
Rod Brind'Amour 1
Steve Ott 1
Tuomo Ruutu 1

 

I have a running conclusion about the traditional Power Forward and it still holds:

A roster fix via the vaunted "power forward" is nearly impossible. The players in this mold are extremely rare and the ones that do actually exist come with a heavy cap number. Their trade cost is just about priceless. Beyond that, the guys that fit this mold aren't necessarily dynamic scorers...

...there were 56 "power forward" seasons by 33 different players during the last five seasons. Only 10 of those players broke the 30 goal mark and the other 23 players averaged 24.2 goals per season.

These types of seasons have a very low rate of repeatability.  The players that aren't named Ovechkin depend on high shooting percentages to accumulate goals.  When those percentages regress, those forwards drop from the list.  Put simply, the traditional "power forward" is almost a myth.

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