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.
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. Steven 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.
3. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
took the MVP and scoring title in 2010, while twin brother Daniel duplicated the feat in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)
What separates the Sedins from not being the League's top pair is not having won a Stanley Cup … yet. They take turns winning the scoring title and contending for or winning the MVP award.
They look exactly alike, right down to their playoff beards. They are fun to watch. I think they are telepathic. It's like watching those old "Star Trek" episodes. You remember those aliens who were telepathic and the crew on the Enterprise had to deal with that? The Sedins are telepathic, I really believe that. They always know where the other brother is on the ice.
I watched them closely during the seven games of last year's Stanley Cup Final. Their passing was phenomenal in that series.
The Sedins also show a lot more bravery than some fans identify with them. Are they hitters? No, but they take a check to make a play. That's an effective way to play physical, too.
2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Why are they ahead of the others in these rankings? They have won a Cup. Toews has a won a gold medal and played at a high level in the Vancouver Olympics.
I love Toews' determination and professionalism, especially at such a young age. I love the passion and creativity of Kane. He is the most creative player with the puck in the NHL. I love that Joel Quenneville
allows Kane to play that way.
Kane hates to dump the puck into the zone. He wants to beat the defenseman. I love that Kane tries to throw it through the defenseman's legs and most fans love it, too.
I know that these two don't play together all of the time, but Quenneville puts them together on the power play and late in games when he needs a goal. I know he is trying to turn Kane into a center this season to make two strong lines for Chicago. It's a reward to let Kane and Toews play together. As a coach, you see these guys are really hungry and playing particularly hard on a given night, you read that as a coach and let them play out there together. It's a carrot for the top players.
1. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
What's not to love about this pair? Getzlaf and Perry have everything. These guys are great all-around players and they are both twice as big as Stamkos and St. Louis. That's rare. They have won a Cup already. They have both won a gold medal and Perry has won a Rocket Richard trophy for most goals. They are both still young.
Look at their skills. They can both fly. They are great stickhandlers and move well without the puck. Both have great shots, so they don't always have to be in front of the net to score.
And they are mean. Both players can be nasty. They hit people and aren't afraid of getting in a scrap.
This pair is the total package: Size, meanness, they play great defense. Getzlaf is a go-to guy on faceoffs.
People will say the Sedins are physical enough or that Stamkos and St. Louis are too small. What fault can you find with Getzlaf and Perry?
Getzlaf and Perry have benefitted from the Ducks' style of play. Randy Carlyle
lets Getzlaf and Perry attack and forecheck. Anaheim plays an aggressive, abrasive style, which really suits both players' games.
These two came up together, both are Western kids. They were put together right off the bat. Sometimes two great players just come up together … look at Gretzky and Kurri. Sometimes magic just happens that way.