While it's difficult to not improve a failing faceoff crew, it's a lot harder to keep a good faceoff corps together. Skill-testing question: what do five of the ten-best teams since 1997 have in common?
Not surprisingly, Rod Brind'Amour played on five of these teams. Brind'Amour combined exceptional faceoff skills with sufficient talent at even-strength and on special teams that he could play enough minutes to take over 2000 faceoffs in three separate seasons. Brind'Amour headlines the best faceoff crew, the 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes:
When Todd McLellan took over the head coaching job of the San Jose Sharks, he immediately focused on improving the Sharks' faceoff performance. In his second season, the acquisition of Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol has given them one of the all-time best faceoff percentages through sheer consistency:
The 2003-04 Anaheim Ducks were similarly consistent up-and-down the lineup, though they didn't quite have faceoff takers with Malhotra and Nichol's level of skill:
Jason Krog, minor-league superstar, remains an underrated potential pickup. The 1997-98 Dallas Stars, on the other hand, were powered by the top of their faceoff crew:
The 2000-01 Washington Capitals made use of legendary faceoff man Adam Oates and got reasonable performance from the rest of their centers:
Honorable mention certainly goes to the 1997-99 Philadelphia Flyers, who had Eric Lindros, Mike Sillinger and Rod Brind'Amour - three of the 25-best faceoff men we've seen over the last 15 years - all taking faceoffs for two seasons.