Does Size Matter?


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As GMs make select their draft picks, sign free agents and conduct their trades, they have any number of considerations. Well, for some teams, bulking up is a priority.

The Anaheim Ducks made no bones about seeking out larger players over the summer. Their top draft picks were all over six feet tall and 200 pounds — and they’re not defensemen. They traded for top center Ryan Kesler, who tops out at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds. They also signed left wing Dany Heatly, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound behemoth. Their other summertime acquisition, Clayton Stoner, features the same dimensions.

The Ducks now have only two players under 6-foot. Anaheim currently boasts a 4-1-0 record.

The Colorado Avalanche, of course, didn’t approach off-season acquisitions with size in mind so much as speed. Nonetheless, they boast a team on which all but four of their regular players are 6-foot or taller and hover around the 200-pound mark. The “small guys” are star center Matt Duchene (5-foot-11, 200 pounds), scrappy center Daniel Briere (5-foot-9, 174 pounds), irascible center Max Talbot (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie (5-foot-10, 195 pounds). Except for Danny B, those are still fair-sized hockey players, and Danny B makes up for size with sheer guts.

The Avs also have a few bruiser-sized guys — Patrick Bordeleau (6-foot-6, 225), Jan Hejda (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Erik Johnson (6-foot-4, 232 pounds). Nick Holden is a little light, 210 pounds, but he’s a respectable 6-foot-4. The Avs also have power forwards such as captain Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla who play bigger than they are.

Make no mistake, the Avalanche are still a speedy team, but in some cases (Johnson, MacKinnon) size + speed = juggernaut.

Who cries that size really does matter? Teams who aren’t big enough. Enter the Minnesota Wild.

Apparently the Minnesota Wild’s hockey style has changed overnight from being defensive-minded and slowing teams down to being “built on speed.” Indeed, apparently their speedsters are so fragile as to warrant needing extra protection from the referees, in Yeo’s view. After their first loss of the season, against those Ducks, he said:

"“I just felt in the game there were times where our speed was very frustrating for them and creating a lot of momentum for us, and there were times where they started to do things that should have warranted power plays for us.”"

Yeo claimed that the lack of calls early in the game didn’t provide a deterrent to the larger Ducks from picking off his players. He said that with total lack of irony. Small, speedy Colorado rover, Tyson Barrie, has been too classy to respond. I will follow his lead and leave that argument there.

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  • However, it is true that the Wild have suddenly become a small team. They have no players over 6-foot3, 220-ish (except goalie Darcy Kuemper) and only three skaters at that dimension. On the contrary, eight of their 24-man roster are under 6-foot, two of them at 5-foot-10 and one a diminutive 5-9, 176 pounds — a defenseman, no less.

    That’s particularly notable because, as pointed out, GMs make their own decisions when changing the decision’s roster. And two of the three bruisers who joined the Ducks came from Minnesota.

    So, does size matter as much as speed, skill or toughness? Well, they’re all a part of hockey. If you look at a player like Nathan MacKinnon, is there any doubt that he’s speedy and skilled? Of course not — he outskated a speed skater over the summer, and it’s just a matter of time before his sniper’s hands take over again. He’s 6-foot, though, and added 15 pounds of pure muscle over the summer — and he’s learning how to scrap from Cody McLeod. That’s the ideal hockey player.

    Other players fall in somewhere on the spectrum. Someone like Bordeleau knows his role isn’t about speed and skill. Someone like Barrie now knows he has to watch his back — and add a bit of scrap to his game.

    So, in hockey, as in life, size only matters if you can’t get the job done without it.