Jim Rutherford is well on his way of building a new Pittsburgh Penguins team. I like his vision of building a roster that is strong down the middle. Having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Rutherford really doesn’t have another choice, but I like that he considers this a key thing in winning the Stanley Cup.
Centermen are generally the smartest hockey players; they see big portions of the ice and play a part in every aspect of the game. Therefore, there is no accident that most of the greatest hockey players of all time played as centers. What differ them from all the other hockey-crazed kids growing up is their mind. Their hockey awareness is just so big that it can’t fit into another position on the ice, even as such an early stage in their careers. The center position allows them to be as involved as their skill demands. Defensemen do also have a good look of the ice, but they usually just see it from one side: a defenseman never gets the opportunity to see the game from the opponents’ side, simple because they almost always are skating backwards. Wingers a too locked into the sides of the ice, which gives them a more static view of the game.
In order to win the Stanley Cup, your great centers need to be stars and your good ones need to be character players. And all of them need to be leaders. One big aspect of winning in the playoff is the penalty kill. I always feel much more comfortable having a center as a leader of that four man group, face-offs being one of the reasons. You don’t need a great power play to win a Stanley Cup, sometimes not even a good one. But it certainly doesn’t hurt having two great centermen setting up goal-scoring opportunities in the man advantage.
Just ask any GM whom their first choice would be if they got the chance to build a team from scratch. All of them would pick a center and it would be one of these names: Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Kopitar, Tavares, Stamkos, Datsyuk, Bergeon.