Saturday, August 17, 2013

The 2013 Caps Circle List

Introducing another very official matter from the brains at Caps Circle, the list.

Ominous, no? This is basically just a ranking of the Top 10 players in the game. Kind of like TSN's Top 50, except this may actually make sense.

Let's jump right into it:

Honorable Mentions

  • Patrick Kane: After a few years where he was underwhelming, he stormed back into the Top 10 discussion with a stellar regular season and playoffs which helped Chicago capture the Stanley Cup.
  • Erik Karlsson: He made a stunning recovery from the gruesome injury he suffered against Pittsburgh, but wasn't 100% in the playoffs, as the Pens showed. He is still one of the best defensemen in the game, but the injury and uncertainty about defensive ability keeps him out of the Top 10. 
  • Taylor Hall: May very well be on his way to becoming the best left wing in the league now, with Alex Ovechkin making the transition to right wing. Greatly overshadowed last year by Chris Kunitz (and apparently Ovechkin- see 2013 All-Star Teams), Hall finished 9th in the league in scoring last year.
  • Claude Giroux: One of the toughest cuts, Giroux did not play up to his potential last year, and the freak golf accident which is going to threaten his training dropped him from the Top 10.
  • Phil Kessel: This guy always has a knack for getting criticism, but he was instrumental last year in taking Toronto to the playoffs.
  • Eric Staal: Perhaps the most underrated player in the league, Staal is one of the most dangerous players in the NHL, and playing with a revamped team next year may help his cause.
  • Jonathan Quick: He had a down year last year, but is still one of the best goaltenders in the league, mostly because of how dangerous he becomes in the playoffs.
The 2013 Caps Circle Top 10

10. Shea Weber
Call him a dirty player, but Weber is one of the top shutdown defensemen in the league. When paired with Ryan Suter, they made one of the most formidable defensive pairings in the league, and next year, when he is paired with first round draft pick Seth Jones? Watch out NHL. Add to this his rocket slap shot, and Weber, like him or hate him, is one of the best defensemen in the league today, and one of the best players going into next year.

9. John Tavares
He had his breakout year last year, almost single-handedly leading the New York Islanders to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Despite having limited offensive weapons surrounding him (Brad Boyes, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo), he was among the top goal-scorers in the league, and was named a Hart Trophy finalist, an award many people think he should have won. This coming year, the Isles will continue to improve, and when highly-regarded prospect Ryan Strome comes in, you will have a tandem to rival all tandems in the league.

8. Pavel Datsyuk
Datsyuk is one of the hardest-working players in the league. There is a reason he is a perennial Selke Award finalist/winner, as he may be the best defensive forward of our generation. He is also perhaps the most skilled player in the league, as his many flash goals show. He also has playmaking ability which can rival those of almost anybody's in the league. Add to that he is a capable center, and Datsyuk is without a doubt one of the best players in the league.

7. Zdeno Chara
Chara is the best defenseman in the league. There. I said it. He is probably the toughest defenseman in the league to go up against, as his height and sheer brute force, combined with an uncanny speed and knack for knowing what is going to happen next, make a virtually impenetrable wall for forwards to go through. Add some good offensive talent to that as well, and Chara is definitely one of the best players in the league and the best defenseman in the league.

6. Jonathan Toews
Toews is perhaps the least known best known player in the league. Chicago fans regularly cite Eastern Conference bias when talking about why Toews is not usually in the discussion for Top 5. Well, now he is in the discussion, after several stellar years and a fantastic playoff performance culminating in being named a 2nd Team All Star, but just misses out on the Top 5. He is still one of the best centers in the game, definitely Top 5 there, and we could just be seeing him improve as Patrick Kane begins to bounce back.

5. Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist has established himself as the best goalie in the NHL right now. He won the Vezina two years ago and was a finalist last year, and has become well known for his big saves, great reflexes, and overall outstanding athletic ability. Caps fans know him as the man who has stolen two series from the Caps in the past two playoffs, especially this last year, where he didn't give up a goal for the last 120 minutes of play in the series. Without him, the Rangers would be absolutely dead right now, but King Henrik has single-handedly turned the Blueshirts into contenders and is the best goaltender in the game today.

4. Evgeni Malkin
He signed a monster contract extension with the Pens, and for good reason: he is one of the most dangerous players in the league. He can pass, shoot, dangle; he is like a more dangerous version of Pavel Datsyuk. If he wasn't playing on the best team in the league, he may have been higher, but there is still no arguing his impact on the team and on the league as the second-best Russian in the league right now.

3. Steven Stamkos
Many people think he is the most dangerous scorer in the league (of course, those of us in DC know that is false). Whether he is or not, there is a reason Stammer has the most goals over the last 5 years than anybody in the NHL. His 60 goal season last year was just the second in the league since 1996, when Jaromir Jagr scored 62. Plus, when Jonathan Drouin comes up, the St. Louis-Stamkos-Drouin line will be insanely scary. Stamkos is pretty much the only person right now saving Tampa Bay from the league basement. Well, that and Calgary.

2. Alex Ovechkin
May the argument start again: who is the best player in the world? Right now, it's not the Great 8, but considering how he does in the next few years, he could be. Ovechkin had monster bounce-back year last year, winning his 3rd Hart Trophy for MVP and his 4th Maurice Richard Trophy for goals scored. Reunited at last with Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin could well be on his way to the best years of his career, and when Evgeny Kuznetsov joins the Caps later this year or next year, the Caps will just have too many options, making Ovechkin and the Caps all the more dangerous.

1. Sidney Crosby
Well who did you expect? Crosby is currently the best player in the world, and is playing on the most dangerous team in the world. There is no telling how this will change with Ovechkin's resurgence, but right now, there is unfortunately no contest. 

So here is the 2013 List. What do you think? Put your thoughts in the comments.

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