By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) During Monday’s transition segment on 670 The Score with Dan McNeil, Matt Spiegel, Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers, the topic of starting an NHL franchise came up. Boers said that Jonathan Toews would be one of the five players he’d choose if he were to start a team. That got my wheels spinning.
After much consideration, I present to you my franchise, position by position.
Center – Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
This was an incredibly difficult decision between Toews, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa’s Steven Stamkos. There’s no one in the league with the offensive game Crosby offers. Toews is right around a point per game for his career (.91). Crosby is at 1.4 points per game, which is obviously significantly better. Stamkos is the best goal scorer in the league — he’s an absolute sniper. The only player close in that department is Alex Ovechkin. But when building a franchise, there are things more important than points.
Toews offers the total package in a hockey player. His commitment in the defensive zone, face-off prowess and leadership abilities give him the slight edge over Crosby and Stamkos. Crosby’s health is also a huge concern. His concussions have threatened his career before, and some feel he’s a hit away from never playing again. Yes, Toews has had concussions of his own, but they haven’t been as serious as what Crosby has suffered.
Left Wing – Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
In 2012, the Avalanche made Landeskog the youngest captain in league history, at 19. In his relatively short NHL career, he’s put up solid, if unspectacular, numbers. On paper, this may not look like the right pick, but it’s important to remember just how bad the Avalanche have been since he came into the league. Landeskog hasn’t maxed out his offensive upside just yet, but watching him in the Olympics and this season, he’s ready to bust out.
Honorable mention goes to Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, who has been terrific since entering the league in 2010. I give Landeskog the slight edge because of his leadership, and frankly because I just like him more. Hey, it’s my column. I can do what I want.
Right Wing – Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
I know. Lame to pick two Blackhawks, right? Well, I challenge you to find a better option at right wing. Kane is the best. He’s won two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and the Calder Trophy. He was also putting up MVP-type numbers on a line centered by Michal freakin’ Handzus.
Phil Kessel is the only other possible choice, but I’ll take Kane based on his playoff experience and success. I also need to consider marketing when building my franchise. Kessel’s face isn’t going to move sweaters at the Blackhawks Store. Kane’s the pick …hands down.
Defense – Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
I love Weber, almost to a creepy level. He’s the total package: a big, physical, shut-down, puck moving bad ass mo-fo. Remember when he shot a puck through the net during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games? Remember that? That was awesome.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRdKNO_JubY]
Defense – Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings
Every team needs an offensive defenseman. In a toss-up between Doughty and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, Doughty wins because of his slight edge in defensive play. Yes, he’s turnover prone now and again, but more often than not, he’s making the right, safe play.
Goaltender – Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay Lightning
This is the move that could get me fired. Bishop has been absolutely phenomenal this season. He’s third in wins (28), second in save percentage (.933), third in goals against average (1.98) and second in shutouts (four). The concern for Bishop is that he’s only posted those elite numbers once. His other career numbers have been just OK. I’ve seen enough to believe and take the risk making Bishop my franchise goalie.
Montreal’s Carey Price, who just won gold with Team Canada, was a close second. His track record is better, and he’s done it in the highest of high-pressure markets. I just feel like Bishop could be the best in hockey someday soon.
If only every NHL general manager had the first six players he desires. Here’s the question, though: Does this line match up to the Blackhawks top line? It’s pretty close, isn’t it?
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.