I'm here today to address a grave injustice in the league today. Sergei Gonchar gets no respect.
I'm not sure what more this guy has to do to get the kind of respect that other top notch defensemen seem to enjoy. Throughout his career, he has constantly been overlooked. Despite being the leading defensive scorer on several occasions, he has yet to get consideration for the Norris Trophy. He's one of the top defensive scorers over the past decade, but still no respect. Even in Pittsburgh, fans just don't seem to appreciate what Gonchar brings to the table. Perhaps he's overshadowed by a number of flashy forwards and a goaltender, but fans shouldn't underestimate the importance of #55.
To see how important Gonchar is to the Pens, you just have to watch how well they've faired over the past two seasons with and without him in the lineup. Last season, with Gonchar on the shelf for the first half of the season, the Pens seemed destined to miss the playoffs altogether. His return coincided completely with the miraculous rebound the Pens enjoyed. This season showed more of the same, as the Pens struggled without him on the blueline. Despite having Malkin, Crosby, Staal, and various other quality options up front, the Penguins power play goes nowhere without Gonch carrying the puck. He may be the best in the league and carrying the puck into the zone and setting up the power play.
It's time that fans and hockey pundits come to terms with just how good this guy is. So, don't be a hater. Take a moment to tell a friend just how good Sergei Gonchar really is. [End of Rant].
[Wait… not done yet]
Here are a few other guys in the NHL who are underappreciated and underrated:
Marc Savard - One of the best setup guys in the game. Started his career off slowly in a small market, so he never gets attention.
Chris Osgood - Whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong in Detroit in the past decade (which isn't much), and never given a lick of credit for the Wings success.
Patrick Marleau - Has taken the heat for the Sharks playoff mishaps just because of a letter on the front of his sweater. During several of those choke jobs, Marleau was the only thing going in San Jose.
[Done with Rant]