First Line Forwards

first line

There are thirty teams in the NHL. Each team has one first line, with three forwards on it; ergo there have been ninety first-line players since the lockout. Defining a first-line player is difficult, but the most obvious requirement is offense. With that in mind, I went and researched the top ninety players by points per game since the lockout at Hockey-Reference.com.

I’ve bolded all players in the Northwest Division:

1.    Sidney Crosby: 1.37 PTS/GM
T2.  Alexander Ovechkin: 1.29 PTS/GM
        Joe Thornton: 1.29 PTS/GM
4.    Evgeni Malkin: 1.26 PTS/GM
T5.  Daniel Alfredsson: 1.17 PTS/GM
         Pavel Datsyuk: 1.17 PTS/GM
         Jason Spezza: 1.17 PTS/GM
8.      Dany Heatley: 1.15 PTS/GM
9.      Marc Savard: 1.12 PTS/GM
10.   Ilya Kovalchuk: 1.11 PTS/GM
T11. Marian Gaborik: 1.10 PTS/GM
          Jarome Iginla: 1.10 PTS/GM

          Henrik Zetterberg: 1.10 PTS/GM
T14. Marian Hossa: 1.07 PTS/GM
          Vincent Lecavalier: 1.07 PTS/GM
          Joe Sakic: 1.07 PTS/GM
17.   Daniel Briere: 1.05 PTS/GM
18.   Teemu Selanne: 1.03 PTS/GM
T19. Martin St. Louis: 1.00 PTS/GM
          Eric Staal: 1.00 PTS/GM
          Mats Sundin: 1.00 PTS/GM

T22. Olli Jokinen: 0.96 PTS/GM
          Henrik Sedin: 0.96 PTS/GM
          Paul Stastny: 0.96 PTS/GM

          Steve Sullivan: 0.96 PTS/GM
T26. Nicklas Backstrom: 0.95 PTS/GM
          Simon Gagne: 0.95 PTS/GM
          Daniel Sedin: 0.95 PTS/GM
          Alexander Semin: 0.95 PTS/GM
T30. Patrik Elias: 0.94 PTS/GM
           Paul Kariya: 0.94 PTS/GM
          Ray Whitney: 0.94 PTS/GM
33.   Martin Havlat: 0.93 PTS/GM
T34. Ales Hemsky: 0.92 PTS/GM
          Brad Richards: 0.92 PTS/GM
          Alex Tanguay: 0.92 PTS/GM
37.   Ryan Getzlaf: 0.91 PTS/GM
T38. Patrick Marleau: 0.90 PTS/GM
          Rick Nash: 0.90 PTS/GM
40.   Andy McDonald: 0.89 PTS/GM
T41. Jason Arnott: 0.88 PTS/GM
          Tim Connolly: 0.88 PTS/GM
          Pavol Demitra: 0.88 PTS/GM
          Patrick Kane: 0.88 PTS/GM
T45. Scott Gomez: 0.87 PTS/GM
          Anze Kopitar: 0.87 PTS/GM
          Alexei Kovalev: 0.87 PTS/GM
T48. Rod Brind’Amour: 0.86 PTS/GM
          Mike Cammalleri: 0.86 PTS/GM
          Michael Nylander: 0.86 PTS/GM
          Derek Roy: 0.86 PTS/GM
T52. Shane Doan: 0.85 PTS/GM
          Mike Ribeiro: 0.85 PTS/GM
          Cory Stillman: 0.85 PTS/GM
           Jonathan Toews: 0.85 PTS/GM
T56. Alexander Frolov: 0.84 PTS/GM
          Brendan Morrow: 0.84 PTS/GM
T58. Saku Koivu: 0.83 PTS/GM
          Ryan Smyth: 0.83 PTS/GM
T60. J.P Dumont: 0.82 PTS/GM
           Slava Kozlov: 0.82 PTS/GM
T62. Patrice Bergeron: 0.81 PTS/GM
          Thomas Vanek: 0.81 PTS/GM
T64. Brian Gionta: 0.80 PTS/GM
          Jason Pominville: 0.80 PTS/GM
          Brendan Shanahan: 0.80 PTS/GM
67.   Daymond Langkow: 0.79 PTS/GM
T68. Andrew Brunette: 0.78 PTS/GM
          Jonathan Cheechoo: 0.78 PTS/GM
         Chris Drury: 0.78 PTS/GM
         Shawn Horcoff: 0.78 PTS/GM
         Kristian Huselius: 0.78 PTS/GM
          Zach Parise: 0.78 PTS/GM
T74. Maxim Afinogenov: 0.77 PTS/GM
         Brad Boyes: 0.77 PTS/GM
         Milan Hejduk: 0.77 PTS/GM
         Vaclav Prospal: 0.77 PTS/GM
         Bobby Ryan: 0.77 PTS/GM
T79. Jason Blake: 0.76 PTS/GM
         Mark Recchi: 0.76 PTS/GM
          Mike Richards: 0.76 PTS/GM
          Brian Rolston: 0.76 PTS/GM
          Justin Williams: 0.76 PTS/GM
T84. Erik Cole: 0.75 PTS/GM
          Mike Modano: 0.75 PTS/GM
86.    Robert Lang: 0.74 PTS/GM
T87. Jamie Langenbrunner: 0.73 PTS/GM
           Markus Naslund: 0.73 PTS/GM
T89. Keith Tkachuk: 0.72 PTS/GM
          Todd Bertuzzi: 0.72 PTS/GM

This of course, is a strictly offensive metric; certain players with defensive shortcomings should be knocked down the list while players with a stronger game are correspondingly elevated. Still, everyone will have their own opinion on these guys, but one thing is for sure: since the lockout, these 90 players have been the ones most effective at putting up points.

Calgary Flames
11. Jarome Iginla: 1.10 PTS/GM
22. Olli Jokinen: 0.96 PTS/GM
48. Michael Cammalleri: 0.86 PTS/GM
67. Daymond Langkow: 0.79 PTS/GM
89. Todd Bertuzzi: 0.72 PTS/GM

Edmonton Oilers
34. Ales Hemsky: 0.92 PTS/GM
68. Shawn Horcoff: 0.78 PTS/GM

Vancouver Canucks
19. Mats Sundin: 1.00 PTS/GM
22. Henrik Sedin: 0.96 PTS/GM
26. Daniel Sedin: 0.95 PTS/GM
41. Pavol Demitra: 0.88 PTS/GM

A couple of points of interest jump out here. Starting in Calgary, the Flames are obviously very well represented with offensive firepower; they actually have two players in the top-thirty, and five players who would qualify as first-liners (based solely on offensive production).

The Oilers are a little short; their younger players haven’t shown an ability to jump up to the top line yet. Hemsky’s right on the cusp of being a top-thirty forward offensively, but the real surprise here is how Shawn Horcoff ranks. Often ridiculed as a third-line forward with little offense, his offensive production alone puts him on a first-line pace since the lockout. The clear missing piece is a scoring left winger to play with the two of them.

Vancouver looks the strongest by this measure; they have fewer players in the top-90 than Calgary, but they have three in the top-thirty. The Sedin twins are perpetually underrated, even by Canucks fans, and if Mats Sundin can recapture his form from the past few seasons they’ll be in excellent shape for a deep playoff run.



  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    Also are those same people going to adjust their stance when his salary goes down.

    No, they will use the cap hit.

    Using the 7 million dollar mark is just wrong as you said. The only number that matters is the 5.5 million.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Perhaps it's because the fans would like their team to be successful.

    Relying on a 19 year old to lead you out of the wilderness is a bit of a stretch and the results can clearly be seen by checking the standings.

  • RCN

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I do find it amusing that seeing two names in the the top-90 scorers in the NHL, Oilers fans chose to attack the second name rather than wonder why there isn’t a third.

    Speaking for myself, there are three reasons;

    1) A top 1st line center is the most critical position to fill. As I already mentioned.

    2) Based on how this team is currently put together, it should be easier to move parts in and out to get another top winger.

    3) In a cap world, it may be more realistic to match up pairs than put together trio's.

    He is being paid as Hemsky's go to guy so looking at the LW position is as much about Horcoff's lack of production and a need to get it from somewhere else as it is the hole that exists there.

    They are hancuffed at center because of the contract.
    The Oilers made their committment and until (I say it's impossible, but we will see) Horcoff provides full value for that contract, his position will continue to be scrutinized regardless of who is in that third spot on the top line.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    I don't think Ruff is an idiot, some players fit and some players don't. Its a team that already has Vanek, so what could they possibly do with Kotalik? Just like I think we underutilize O'Sullivan, he would be a perfect fit to play in Calgary to take place of Cammalleri. You can only play 12 forwards at a time but you need the right blend. We have a gaping hole on LW, and no Penner is not the answer. He's had 2 years to get his stuff together, Kotalik has had 19 games, some on the 2nd line, I think he's worth another look, if barring a significant upgrade.

  • RCN

    Shawn Horcoff's cap hit for next year ranks 25th among forwards right now. Free agency will undoubtedly bump that further down (at a guess, Cammalleri, Havlat, Hossa, Gaborik, Koivu, Sundin, Sedin, and Sedin will all eclipse his contract) probably into the 30-35 range. So he is being overpaid relative to offensive production.

    But I would argue, rather forcefully, that the issue isn't Horcoff's production – if there is an issue it's how much cap space Horcoff takes up. And it's fine to argue that he's being overpaid, because that's plausible.

    But he's also clearly a first-line forward by league standards, based solely on his offensive production, and I'd say he's a top-fifty forward when you add in defensive ability (i.e. there's no way in hell Daniel Briere is a top-twenty forward).

    You can argue that having Horcoff isn't enough, and you'd be right. But to argue that the Oilers are in trouble because Horcoff shouldn't be used in an offensive role, period, is inaccurate IMO.

  • RCN

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    But to argue that the Oilers are in trouble because Horcoff shouldn’t be used in an offensive role, period, is inaccurate IMO.

    I consider the 2nd line to still be an offensive role so I am not discounting that Horcoff can contribute in that regard, I just don't think he is the guy for THE offensive role.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    I guess we could try Reddox, hell we could try anybody really, but Kotalik possesses a very good shot and likes to use it, thats a start. To me it sounds like you want Kovalchuk, I do too, but until then, Kotalik is here and available.

    Try not to get too wrapped up in the numbers, just because one player doesn't produce for one team, doesn't mean he won't produce for another.

  • RCN

    Dan wrote:

    Try not to get too wrapped up in the numbers, just because one player doesn’t produce for one team, doesn’t mean he won’t produce for another.

    That's true. But when he doesn't produce for one team over the last four seasons, it's hardly a given that he'll produce for his new team.

    Past production isn't a sure-fire indicator of future production, but it is the best indication that we have. And Kotalik doesn't rate well in that light.

    Yes, he's got a great shot. But it seems to me that his skating isn't great, and his awareness in all three zones could be better. He hasn't looked great on the cycle either, and while he has some size I do wonder about his grit/puck retrieval over an 82-game schedule.

    All things being equal, I'd only bring him back if one of the powerplay defensemen is getting dealt, and then I'd slot him in on the second line. Otherwise I'd prefer someone like Tanguay or Kovalev, or even just running Penner/O'Sullivan one-two on left wing.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    i wouldn't give him any more than a one year deal. Keep him hungry. We could get Tanguay or Kovalev, but I'm thinking they are looking for multi year deal and are a little too flaky for my liking and have already tasted big money. At least with Kotalik, I sense some loyalty from him, at least we have a read on him and he seems like he's really licking his chops at the thought of playing with Hemsky.

    Kotalik is like Sykora, but with less flash and more grit.

  • RCN

    Rick wrote:

    Jonathan Willis wrote:
    I do find it amusing that seeing two names in the the top-90 scorers in the NHL, Oilers fans chose to attack the second name rather than wonder why there isn’t a third.
    Speaking for myself, there are three reasons;
    1) A top 1st line center is the most critical position to fill. As I already mentioned.
    2) Based on how this team is currently put together, it should be easier to move parts in and out to get another top winger.
    3) In a cap world, it may be more realistic to match up pairs than put together trio’s.
    He is being paid as Hemsky’s go to guy so looking at the LW position is as much about Horcoff’s lack of production and a need to get it from somewhere else as it is the hole that exists there.
    They are hancuffed at center because of the contract.
    The Oilers made their committment and until (I say it’s impossible, but we will see) Horcoff provides full value for that contract, his position will continue to be scrutinized regardless of who is in that third spot on the top line.

    I seriously don't get this, expectations are so out of whack for 5.5 million "if he provides full value for that contract" based on scoring #'s vs where he lines up in the centers cap hit, he likly wont even need 70 points/year over the next couple of years to provide "full value".

    These are not unrealistic expectations for him.

  • RCN

    Dan wrote:

    I had a problem with the money, but now Ive moved and accepted it. But if your trying to tell me that,
    73 pts – 79 gms
    51 pts – 80 gms
    50 pts – 53 gms
    53 pts – 80 gms
    is first line production and its accepted, thats a bit much for me to take.

    Interpretation of Dan's Response:

    "I know the facts show he is in the top 30 of points producing centers. But Damn you I like to live in a Fanatasy world. like most who can't accept the truth.

    Puts his fingers in his ears.
    LAH la la la la la la la!

  • RCN

    If you insist on complaining about the contract, you should be complaining that they didn't take advantage of the cap loop hole that TB and Det have used and given Horc an extra three years at 1 million per (with no intentions of playing them) bringing his hit down to 4 million.

  • RCN

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    Perhaps the question isnt, “Does Horc produce on a 1st line level?”
    Maybe the question should be, “Does Horc produce on a playoff bound 1st line level?”

    I am sure you Know that the oilers were one of four teams ho had there first three lines outscore the other teams players at even. We actually had 10 players.

    Winning at even was not our problem. We missed because of special teams.

  • RCN

    SkinnyD wrote:

    @ Ogden Brother:
    How do they do that? Are they ‘option’ years or something like that?

    If they retire (and I'm assuming thiers a handshack agreement that they will, the hit (and salary) comes off the team payroll. If they refuse to retire, you've salary to hid in the AHL (only being paid one million) or to trade to a team with an internal cap far lower then the actual salary cap.

  • RCN

    All I know is that I'm watching the Springfield Falcons play the Flames last night and Cammalleri puts his 38th and 39th past us.

    Cammalleri plays on the Flames second line and he's got almost as many goals as both Horcoff and Hemsky. That in my mind is the real problem. We don't actually have a first line.