Saturday, January 26, 2008

How the game has changed
Intro: Enstrom's rise in Atlanta

Watching Enstrom play this season, it’s almost impossible to fathom that 30 teams and hundreds of scouts could have been this wrong about a guy. Few outside the Thrashers organization and Enstrom’s immediate family had even heard of him prior to this season. And even those who knew him had no notion the little defenseman who could would come in and put together a season worthy of consideration for the Calder Trophy.
That's no exaggeration.

Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom have received all of the Calder talk, 60 per cent of the way through the season, but Enstrom should be right in the mix.

For one, he leads his team and is 25th overall in the league in ice time per game, and is on pace for a 47-point season on the blue line. Defensively, he's also been strong, playing top-pairing minutes with Niclas Havelid against top competition, and Atlanta's goals against when he's on the ice is essentially the same as when he's not.

Where he excels is in driving the team's offence, as his team's goals for per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 time is 2.73 when he's playing and 1.87 when he's not. He's also been on the ice for about 80 per cent of the team's goals on the power play and plays big minutes on the penalty kill.

But the thing that really stands out with Enstrom is his size. He's listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but even a quick glance at a game or photos reveals that's just a little generous.

As the result of the rule changes prior to 2005-06, defencemen in the NHL are getting smaller in general, with the number under six feet tall (like Enstrom) rising from the few to a sizable portion of blueliners this season.

Under 6' Under 6'1
2000-01 8.25% 17.46%
2001-02 9.57% 19.47%
2002-03 8.97% 18.94%
2003-04 7.95% 19.54%
2005-06 10.24% 24.57%
2006-07 12.08% 25.17%
2007-08 13.53% 27.07%

Enstrom's playing in tonight's YoungStars game, but he really should be on the ice tomorrow, showcasing the speed and skill that have helped him star in the NHL as one of the league's new little men.

The NHL's smallest defenders:
Kris Russell, Columbus - 5 foot 10, 168 pounds
Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta - 5 foot 10, 175 pounds
Magnus Johansson, Florida - 5 foot 11, 180 pounds
Mike Weaver, Vancouver - 5 foot 9, 182 pounds
Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay - 5 foot 11, 184 pounds
Ian White, Toronto - 5 foot 10, 185 pounds
Cory Murphy, Florida - 5 foot 10, 185 pounds
John-Michael Liles, Colorado - 5 foot 10, 185 pounds
Kyle Cumiskey, Colorado - 5 foot 10, 185 pounds



At 2:26 p.m., January 26, 2008, Anonymous Sergica said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:44 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger The Forechecker said...

The Falconer made a trip up to Nashville during the preseason when the Thrashers came to town, and he told me to expect great things from Enstrom (who I'd never heard of in the slightest).

There's another young Finn who would fit just outside your list of small defenders, who has played a huge role in the Predators climb back into the playoff picture, Ville Koistinen. He's listed at 5'11" 190#, but I doubt both those numbers. Since earning a regular spot just after Christmas, he's been a very good even strength player and ignited a woeful power play before Shea Weber returned.

Despite having 8 defensemen on the active roster, and Koistinen being the only one who can go back to Milwaukee without clearing waivers, he's getting 18-20 minutes a night now.

At 5:52 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Francis Bouillon's too thick to make the smallest players list? 5'8", 190 lbs. Anyways, he's noteworthy because he's already played over 400 NHL games and has limited offensive skill and is very physical (good skater, too).

Obviously, Rafalski at a listed 5'9", 191 lbs is still the standard for pint sized blueliners. Why he isn't in the All-Star Game is beyond me... particularly since Scott Niedermeyer is now there.

At 5:58 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...


Brian Rafalski was asked, but he declined as he had already made plans with his family, and it was too late for him to want to change them. It was announced in the pregame to a Red Wings game earlier.

And I knew he was small, but seeing him on the ice he looks positively diminutive. I think it's because he has such a light build it makes him look even smaller than he is.

At 7:03 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger The Gate To The Groin For Yannick Bertrand said...

Few outside the Thrashers organization and Enstrom’s immediate family had even heard of him prior to this season.

Has he been locked up in a basement his whole life?

At 11:59 p.m., January 26, 2008, Blogger Black Dog said...

Its true what that guy is selling in Costa Rica.

Here is a question - why do teams not post a guy's actual height and weight when he's a smaller guy? I've never really gotten that. So he's 5'9 instead of 5'11 - who cares?

And James - I also like this blog is fantastic, is really good written. Congratulation..

At 2:14 a.m., January 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Minnesota's D Petteri Nummelin has grown few inches from his old 5'9 days.

Nummelin dominates at World Championships year after year but Lemaire won't play him in his natural position as right D.

Strange but who can arque with Jacq after all those rings.

At 8:43 a.m., January 27, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...

Its true what that guy is selling in Costa Rica.

First time spam ever made me laugh out loud - a hockey blog in January, it just seems too cruel to think about something like that between snow shoveling excursions.

I don't know why they never list a true height, but maybe it's a guy thing. So many men I know refer to themselves as "about six feet" when they are around five foot nine as though being short is some kind of masculine character flaw. I don't get it.

(But I'm five foot two, so what the heck do I know about height!) :)

Playing the game according to the preconceptions of the dinosaurs making decisions, I suppose.

At 9:07 a.m., January 27, 2008, Blogger Black Dog said...

Baroque - it is to laugh, one of my buddies always says he's 6' but he's 5'11 and a half.

He says he's close enough so he just rounds it up. Besides telling him that he is an ass I also point out to him that your height, like your weight, your birthday, the number of kids you have, the amount of money you make - these are all sort of, you know, exact numbers. Saying that you are 6' will never make you 6' just like saying I am 30 isn't going to magically make it so.

And shame on you James for removing that spam - that was funny stuff.

At 12:53 a.m., January 28, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

You know, I'm also 5'11" and a half. For a long time, I took pains to describe myself exactly that way, because I too found it silly the way any guy over 5'9" would describe himself as 6'.

But I noticed from other people's reactions that I was being even sillier. People who ask my height just want to know roughly how tall I am, not precisely where I cross some invisible boundary. I am roughly (or "almost") six feet, and there's nothing inaccurate about that description.

This is probably way off topic, so here's another way to describe my height: too small to be an NHL defenceman, when combined with my lack of speed and talent. Those are the only three things (well, plus my occasional and inexplicable tendency to pass up the middle) that kept me out of the big leagues...

At 8:50 p.m., February 01, 2008, Anonymous Steve said...

Are those the smallest defenders? Isn't Trevor Daley about 5'8 and isn't Rafalski about 5'2?


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