Souray...or Stralman?

Yes, sorry, I know you're probably as tired of the Sheldon Souray talk as I am.

But, I had an interesting thought the other day. Looking at what he's supposed to bring (big shot, PPQB, scoring from the blue line), I had to admit that he sounds a lot like someone we already have on the team....Anton Stralman.

Then, looking at the stats of both players, I found something interesting...

Obviously, the two players are the product of different eras - when Souray came into the league in 1997 (after being drafted in '94 and returned to Juniors for the next three years), the clutching and grabbing era of Hockey was in full swing, while Stralman is a literal product of the lockout, drafted in 2005.

Both, however, split time in their early careers between the AHL and NHL clubs, and both showed a good bit of scoring talent in their junior careers - Souray in the WHL, Stralman in the Swedish Juniors and later in the Swedish Elite League.

As each stepped into the NHL, though, neither showed a great deal of offensive punch. In fact, Souray's average points from his rookie year in '97 to 2002, before missing the 2002-2003 season due to injury, was only 8 points, and his +/- ranged from a +18 in his rookie year with New Jersey, to a painful -11 in 2000-2001 in Montreal.

Meanwhile, in Stralman's first two NHL seasons with Toronto (splitting time with the Marlies, but he played at least a half season in the NHL each season), Stralman delivered 9 points and -10 in 2007-2008, and 13 points and a -2 in 2008-2009.

For Souray, success started after his "lost" year in 2002-2003. In 2003-2004, the light came on, and he delivered 35 points (15G,20A) and a +4.  In the following years, with the exception of the lockout, when he has played at least half of an NHL season, he has posted at least 30 points, with a career high of 64 points (26G, 38A) in 2006-2007...but at the cost of a -28.

(And it can't be overlooked that he did, in fact, suffer seriously shortened seasons in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.)

That means that it basically took 8 years as a professional hockey player (not counting his lost season) to develop his offensive skills.

Meanwhile, Stralman seems to have had that "lightbulb" moment at a much faster pace than Souray, tallying his first 30+ point campaign in his third NHL season. Though his -17 isn't something to be thrilled with, either, if he can maintain (or improve) on his point production, it seems that the young Swede has the potential to provide a similar (or better) level of offensive production much earlier in his career, and with a much lower risk of losing major time to injury.

Money is also an area of concern - not only is Souray a higher salary and cap hit, should the team acquire him, even if they dumped salary in the form of Mike Commodore, Chris Clark, or others, his paycheck will be consuming cap space and dollars that otherwise would be used to re-up or extend the team's RFAs as they come off entry level or stopgap deals - including Stralman, who will be looking for a raise next summer, particularly if he puts up another 30 point season.

The only areas I see a clear advantage for Souray between the two are size and strength. Souray has 2 inches and 40 pounds on the younger player, and while it's certainly possible that Stralman may add some additional muscle over the next few seasons, it's doubtful he will put on quite so much bulk.

That same strength advantage fuels Souray's record setting slap shot, capable of clocking over 100 MPH - a fearsome weapon for any team, but one that Stralman, too, may well develop in time. The young Swede's shot is already quick and accurate, it's simply a matter of adding power as he develops his strength with the help of new S&C coach Kevin Collins.

(For that matter, I'm also not sure the Jackets regularly break out the radar gun for their d-men, or if they've ever released that info to the public on the occasions where they do. Given some of the impressive "BANGS!" and reverberations of the glass when Stralman shoots wide in games or practices, though, I wouldn't be shocked to find he's dispensing a fair bit of heat as well.)

Leaving aside the money questions, leaving aside the ages, the choice becomes this: Do you want a veteran defenseman who, when healthy, has become a consistent scorer with a powerful shot, but frequently ends up a defensive liability, or a less experienced blue-liner who has shown strong talent and a potential to put up just as many points, and the belief that by working with him as he develops, he can correct his defensive lapses and continue to contribute offensively?

Do you choose the known quantity on his way down? Or buy in on the ground floor, and see just how high the stock can climb?

I know how I feel about that choice. What about you?

Who would you rather keep for the next two years - Anton Stralman, or Sheldon Souray?


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