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Posted On Sunday, 10.16.2011 / 7:00 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Who are the greatest power forwards of all time?

Former NHL head coach and player Barry Melrose starts a new gig this season: He will be blogging for NHL.com throughout the 2011-2012 campaign. 

There is a certain criteria a player has to fulfill to meet my definition of a great power forward. He has to be a frontline player, he has to be very physical and he has to fight. A power forward to me is not just a big guy who scores goals. He is a big, mean, nasty, physical, tough guy to play against as well as being a very good hockey player.

My guys will have a lot of penalty minutes, they have a lot of goals, but they were also the type of guy the other team didn't like to play against. Here are my five best power forwards to ever play in the NHL:

5. Wendel Clark

Wendel Clark played 793 NHL games for the Maple Leafs, Nordiques, Islanders, Lightning, Red Wings, and Blackhawks, racking up 330 goals and 1,690 PIMs. (Photo: Getty Images)
During the early 1990s, Wendel was probably one of the three toughest forwards in the NHL. He was scoring 40 goals a year, he was one of the best fighters in the League -- he was just a real physical presence out there. If you look at his numbers he played 793 games, he's got over 300 goals and he's got close to 1,700 penalty minutes. He could hit, he could fight and he could score goals.

I coached against him in 1993 when I was with L.A. and Wendel was with Toronto and Wendel was their best player. We stopped Doug Gilmour, we stopped Dave Andreychuk, but we just couldn't stop Wendel. It seemed like he scored every game against us. Gilmour got a lot of ink, Andreychuk scored a lot of goals, but to me, Wendel was the heart and soul of that team. I will always remember late in Game 1 of our playoff series against the Leafs in 1993 when Gilmour came across the middle and Marty McSorely hit him with a great check. Wendel came in and he and Marty had what I think was the last great fight in the playoffs. It was late in the game, they already had it won, but here's Wendel still sticking up for his teammates fighting one of the toughest guys in the NHL.
 
4. Clark Gillies

Wendel's got more goals than Clark, but Clark's got the Stanley Cups. I think that means something. Look at his numbers: close to 1,000 games, over 300 goals, close to 400 assists and over 1,000 penalty minutes. If anyone knows the 80s and followed that Islanders team -- they had Bossy and they had Trottier and they had Potvin, but they were playing against those Philly teams and most nights Clark Gillies would have been the MVP. He was big, he was tough, he was good enough to play with Bossy and Trottier and he could fight anyone in the NHL to a standstill. Because he has more Cups than Wendel, I have him at No. 4.

Back then we said he "kept the flies off Bossy and Trottier". Opponents knew that if anybody did something to them they'd have to answer to Clark and that's what a power forward does. He's a deterrent. He was as tough as anyone in the NHL, but he was also an excellent hockey player. It's not just enough to be a tough guy. You have to be an excellent hockey player, too. Clark Gilles certainly was.
 
3. Cam Neely

Obviously Cam's numbers aren't as high is they normally would be because he was struck down by injuries, but he played over 700 games, he's got 395 goals, 299 assists and more than 1,200 penalty minutes. For a few years he was arguably one of the best players in the NHL. He was scoring 50 goals a year, he was maybe the toughest guy in the NHL, he had a rocket of a shot, and he might have been the best fighter in the NHL for the period of time he was in the NHL. Just a great, great hockey player. Without a doubt, he was one of the scariest guys in that era to play against.

If he stayed healthy his numbers, and the Bruins' would have been even more impressive. Don't forget, of the 726 games he played, he was probably on one leg for half of those. He was hurt and he was not 100 percent for most of his career. He still scored more than a goal every two games. If you put him at 1,000 games, he's got 600 goals. This guy was a great goal scorer, and on the list I have, he was probably the best fighter. If these five guys fought, I would have to say Cam Neely would probably be at the top of it.
 
2. Brendan Shanahan

Brendan Shanahan is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup (1997, 1998, 2002), World Championship (1994), and Olympic gold medal (2002). (Getty Images)
In more than 1,500 games, he was durable, he scored 656 goals, had 698 assists and almost 2,500 penalty minutes. This guy did it over a long period of time. He fought everybody, his numbers are fantastic, he won Stanley Cups -- just a complete, complete player. He might not have been as tough as Neely, but he may have been a better goal scorer. He was also a great passer, tallying more assists than he did goals. What's more is that he came in as an 18-year-old, and he did it from Day 1.

As for his current job as the League's disciplinarian, I think how he played and what he went through on the ice give him a better understanding of what is going on on the ice with fighting and hitting. He's been there. He's done it. He knows what's going through the minds of tough guys and why they're fighting at that point of the game. He can tell when a fight is done on purpose or when it's done as a tool by the coach. I think Brendan, his career and what he went through as a player and how he played will make him better qualified for that job than a lot of people would have been.
 
1. Gordie Howe

This may be a surprise, but I think this guy was the first great power forward. More than 1,700 games, 801 goals, over 1,000 assists, but I don't know if people realize that he's got close to 1,700 penalty minutes. And he was big. In Gordie's era when he first came in, hockey players weren't very big. They'd be 5'7", 5'8", 5'9" ... Gordie was 6'2". I played against Gordie when he was in his 50s in Houston. The first thing that struck me when I saw Gordie on the ice was how big he was. He was still nasty and shifty. I can't imagine what he was like in his 20s. He was big, he was mean, he would fight, obviously he was one of the greatest goal scorers we've got in our sport and he was a great passer. If you look at power forward in the dictionary, there's probably a photo of Gordie Howe next to it.

You watch film of back in those days and he towered above guys. You see him going to the net and the D can't handle him because he's so big, so powerful and had a rocket of a wrist shot. I played against Gordie and I know. You knew where he was at all times -- and you did that because it was for your own safety.
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Posted On Friday, 10.14.2011 / 12:34 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose breaks down the best players at each position

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Posted On Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 8:56 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's first 'Mullet of the Week' winner

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Posted On Monday, 10.10.2011 / 12:10 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Dynamic Duos: Who's better than Datsyuk-Zetterberg?

Former NHL head coach and player Barry Melrose starts a new gig this season: He will be blogging for NHL.com throughout the 2011-2012 season. Plus, Melrose will be appearing as an analyst for NHL Network during every League-wide NHL event, starting with today's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic announcement at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

To start off each week, look for "Melrose Monday" on NHL.com. Melrose will look ahead at the biggest days on the NHL calendar that week. "Melrose Monday" starts today with Barry's unique take on the Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 2


Let's take a look at the best five forward pairs in the League for this Monday's blog entry. We'll count down my picks:

5. Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos combined for 76 goals and 190 points for the Lightning in the 2010-11 season. (Photo: Getty Images)
Their games are perfect for the new rules in the NHL. Both of them can fly. One is a right-handed shot and other is a left-handed shot. That doesn't happen too often.

Both Stamkos and St. Louis have great vision on the ice — which is even more difficult to defend when they move at such great speed. I think St. Louis might be the most underrated player in the entire League.

It's tough for young players to come into the League and play at a high level early. Some elite players are great at 19, but it took Steven a little while to get going. It was about a half-year of adjustment for him. I will tell you this: Playing with and learning from St. Louis is the best thing that has happened to Stamkos.

St. Louis is such a warrior. Things have never come easy for him. He was placed on waivers by Calgary and cleared. He has made himself into a great player. He is what hockey is all about. People have told him he is not good enough for the NHL and he has proved them wrong.
 
4. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

I know what you are thinking: If these two are No. 4, let's see who is 3-2-1. Probably the only reason Zetterberg and Datsyuk rank only No. 4 is their age. They both are getting hurt a little bit more.

But this is an unbelievable pair when they are healthy and on the ice. They are best defensive pair of the top 5, with Datsyuk winning multiple Selke awards as the League's best defensive forward. They are amazing stickhandlers and they have won Cups. They are ultimate professionals.

Datsyuk has the best hands in the NHL and both Datsyuk and Zetterberg play a physical style of play.
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Posted On Friday, 10.07.2011 / 9:56 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Top five 2011 offseason moves

NHL Network's Barry Melrose breaks down his top five offseason moves.

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Posted On Monday, 10.03.2011 / 9:21 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Under Pressure: 5 Players Feeling the Heat

5. Roberto Luongo, G, Vancouver Canucks: Luongo was outplayed by Tim Thomas in the Final. He was pulled from games [and passed up for starts] earlier in the playoffs. So is the year that Luongo shows he is as great as we thought he could be or does he show he is one of most overrated goalies?

I think he has lost the invicibility tag. He has a lot of flaws in his game. We can see that now.

Goaltenders feel the most pressure of any position. If a forward makes a mistake, the defensemen can pick him up. If a D-man makes a mistake, the goalie can make up for it. If the goalie makes a mistake, the puck is in the net. Plus, the goalie plays the entire 60 minutes. Luongo will be feeling the pressure in goal this season.

4. Dany Heatley, LW, Minnesota Wild: Heatley had a terrible regular season and playoffs last year. Now he’s going to Minnesota. The Wild gave up their best player to get Heatley.

Heatley is going to a hockey place, where everybody knows you. I think that will be good for Dany. He has to respond to the pressure and I think he will. Minnesota need goals. Look where Heatley played his best–in Ottawa, another hockey place where everybody knows you. Some guys need the fear of pressure of performing. Heatley is one of those guys.
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Posted On Monday, 10.03.2011 / 3:00 AM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Under Pressure: 5 Teams with Most to Gain/Lose

5. Chicago Blackhawks: Did this team learn from last season, when it went from winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 to being very lucky to make the playoffs? This year we find out which is the real Chicago Blackhawks team – the Cup contender or simply a playoff team?
 
I think the Blackhawks learned a lot from last year. They picked up grittier players during the offseason. They found a goalie in Corey Crawford, who is coming off a stellar season.  They have great young talent. We'll see if they can return to Stanley Cup winning form.
 
Brad Richards
Center - NYR
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 77
SOG: 272 | +/-: 1
4. New York Rangers: The Rangers front office decided the team needed a scorer, so they signed Marian Gaborik. There was the Wade Redden thing before that. The team throws money at its problems. That's a list: the top five Rangers acquisitions that didn't work out.
 
Now the Rangers have signed Brad Richards for a ton of money, figuring he is a forward who has won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy. Richards will play with Gaborik.
 
It's time for the Rangers to quit finishing as an also-ran. I like the way this team has been built from within. It has one of the best goaltenders in the world. We will find out if Henrik Lundqvist is as good as he is billed. It is easy to be good as a goalie. The great goalies win.
 
People are always saying the Rangers need to score goals in front of Lundqvist. This team can score goals.
 
3. Philadelphia Flyers: This is a team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. The Flyers lost their top goal scorer and traded away another top scorer. They gave the team to Chris Pronger. It's his team and his locker room now. We will see how that turns out.
 
I like the Max Talbot pick-up. I think Philly will be better with him and Pittsburgh (a division and conference rival) is going to miss him, maybe more than realized. Brayden Schenn is a young player everybody agrees was the best player not in the NHL last year. He will have some pressure on him because he was traded for Mike Richards, the captain.
 
You can't say this is a team without a goaltender. Ilya Bryzgalov is a winner. I like this team a lot.
 
There's tons of pressure on Pronger. There was clearly tension in the locker room last season. Now Pronger gets control.
 
Brent Burns
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 46
SOG: 170 | +/-: -10
2. San Jose Sharks: Every year, San Jose is one of the most talented teams. The Sharks made some big changes during offseason, especially getting Brent Burns. He's a big defenseman who will play a ton of minutes.
 
Pretty soon the Sharks will have to win. Side by side, who's better on paper – San Jose or Boston? You would have to say San Jose, right? Well, this team has never even been to the Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks have to show they can win and will be feeling the pressure this season.

1. Washington Capitals:
The Caps situation is very similar to San Jose. This is the most talented team in the NHL, yet last spring the Caps lost four straight to Tampa Bay.
 
They made a lot of changes, picking up veterans players for the playoffs, but the core is the same. The core will be feeling the pressure.
 
Washington acquired a veteran goalie, so there are no excuses about the goaltender, a lot like the Flyers. If this team doesn't make the Final, heads will roll.  Talent-wise, on paper, this is the League's best team. But it hasn't come close to getting in position to win a Cup.
 
Alex Ovechkin wants to be recognized as the greatest player in the world. But Sidney Crosby has a won a Stanley Cup. Crosby has won a gold medal. Ovi will be feeling the pressure to win. No one wants to be the Best Player Not to Win a Stanley Cup.
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Posted On Monday, 09.26.2011 / 3:20 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Winter Classic commentary

Former NHL head coach and player Barry Melrose starts a new gig this season: He will be blogging for NHL.com throughout the 2011-2012 season. Plus, Melrose will be appearing as an analyst for NHL Network during every League-wide NHL event, starting with today's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic announcement at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

To start off each week, look for "Melrose Monday" on NHL.com. Melrose will look ahead at the biggest days on the NHL calendar that week. "Melrose Monday" starts today with Barry's unique take on the Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 2.

Barry's take on the Winter Classic:


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Posted On Monday, 09.26.2011 / 3:15 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Why NHL fans should tune in to HBO's '24/7"



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Quote of the Day

He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice