Does experience win Stanley Cups?
In the comment section of another post a reader going by the name of DB and I had a discussion about the importance of experience on a teams chances of winning, in particular in relation to San Jose who has a relatively inexperienced defense. In order to try to get an idea of how important experience was I took a look at the rosters of the last 4 Stanley Cup champions (Carolina, Tampa, New Jersey and Detroit). I then looked at every skater (goalies not included) on those teams that played 10 or more playoff games during their teams run to the Cup. For all those players I then looked at how many regular season games those players had played up until and including the regular season of their playoff run. Here is what I found:
-There are 75 players which qualified for consideration
-13 of those players had played 1000 or more games (17.3%)
-26 players played between 500 and 1000 games (34.7%)
-27 players played between 240 and 500 games (36%)
-Just 9 players played fewer than 240 games prior to their cup run
That means just 9 players (and only 2 defensemen) had played the equivalent of 3 full regular seasons or less in the NHL prior to winning their Stanley Cup. Those players are (with their games played) Jiri Fischer(187), Eric Staal(163), Mike Commodore(147), Brian Gionta(91), Dmitry Afanasenkov(85), Pavel Datsyuk(70), Chad LaRose(49), Andrew Ladd(29) and Eric Perrin(4). Only Carolina had more than 2 players with fewer than 240 games played (they had 4) but one of them is a superstar player (Staal) and another played in game 7 of the Cup finals the previous season.
So if not having rookies, second, or third year players in your lineup is important to winning the Stanley Cup, which teams have the best chance at winning this season? Well, Calgary looks to be in the best shape with only Dion Phaneuf qualifying as young and inexperienced but we all know how good he is. Pretty much every other team will have at least 4 or 5 youngsters in their lineups. Ottawa will have Meszaros, Preissing, Kelly, Vermette, Eaves, McGratton, and Schubert all with under 240 games at seasons end. Buffalo will have Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Gaustad, Peters, Paetsch and Paille, the Rangers will have Prucha, Hossa, Hollweg, Ortmeyer and Tyutin, while Philadelphia will have Carter, Richards, Meyer, Umberger, Baumgartner, Jones and Eager. Carolina will have Ladd, LaRose, Commodore, Hutchinson, and probably another forward but at least most of those guys have the playoff experience. New Jersey has lots of experience but a good chunk of it might have to be traded away to get under the cap which will open up spots to youngsters. Edmonton is currently depending on a lot of young defensemen, Vancouver will have a lot of youth in their lineup as well, as will Nashville, Anaheim and San Jose. Dallas doesn’t look too bad with Miettinen, Jokinen and Daley as the only main young players in their lineup.
So, all in all, if I had to pick a Stanley Cup favourite for next season it would be the Calgary Flames. But then, that is who I would have picked even before going through this exercise.