Hossa understood two-way hockey during Hall of Fame career, Olczyk says

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Eddie Olczyk, color analyst for the Chicago Blackhawks since 2006, got a great view of Marian Hossa from the broadcast booth in 2009, when Hossa joined Chicago, until Hossa had to quit hockey in 2017 because of a progressive skin disorder. As coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2003-06, Olczyk was on the opposing bench from Hossa, who played for the Ottawa Senators (2003-04) and Atlanta Thrashers (2005-06).

Here, Olczyk shares his thoughts on Hossa, who will go into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 15, in a special testimonial for NHL.com.

We’ve had some incredible all-around players, but Marian Hossa is certainly in the conversation for being a difference-maker, whether or not he had the puck.

That’s saying something for a forward. Pat Foley and I talked a lot about it on the broadcast: When an opponent got the puck, he had three options, and all of a sudden here comes ‘Hoss’ and now Hoss has the option. He just has that uncanny ability to be able to angle and pressure and pursue because of his speed and size. His technique was superior when you put it all together.

Seeing him up close and personal when I was still in the League, then coaching against him when I was in Pittsburgh, then seeing him in Chicago, it was pretty amazing to see the development not only the mental but the physical. He was such a powerful player. He always made players around him better and was somebody to look up to, someone to idolize. You talk about a pro’s pro. Very rarely he ever got knocked off his feet and his awareness on the ice was just amazing. It was almost like he was the eyes for the guys that he was on the ice with and never really put himself in any bad spot. He was a cerebral player and it just awesome to watch him night in and night out for as many years.

 

[RELATED: Hossa’s journey to Hall of Fame defined by consistency, reliability]

 

For Hossa, I think it was the understanding of how important two-way hockey is in success. His athleticism, his skating ability, always allowed him to be able to excel. But just the work ethic and hockey sense and his smarts, that comes from maturity, it really does. It comes from experience and understanding how he’s going to be able to make an impact. He evolved as a player that had the wiliness and want to be that 200-foot player.

If he was worried about the offensive numbers and wanted to err on the side of offense, Hoss probably could’ve picked up another 250-500 points in his career if he chose to conserve more energy on the defensive side and err on the side of aggression instead of knowing that there’s a time and a place. So both of the skilled offensive players will always err. Don’t get me wrong, you need those guys to win, those guys that play on the offensive side the majority of the time. They’re smart enough and skilled enough to take advantage of it. But Hoss was one of those guys who chose to play a certain way and was such an impactful player, and I think that’s huge that he could have an impact on the shift, whether he had the puck or not.

There are very few forwards, I want to emphasize forwards, who could really be a difference-maker like that. Offensive players, they cheat offensively. It’s the anticipation, so sometimes they win and sometimes they lose and nobody’s going to say anything about it because they’re the offensive guys and they get paid the big money to be able to do it. But there’s no doubt in my mind that his numbers, with the skill and speed he had, if he was wired a different way, he could’ve easily averaged another 20 points a year in his NHL career. You start looking at that add another 300 points to his career, you sit there and say, “Oh my gosh, talk about all-around players in the history of the game, this guy’s in the team photo. He’s in the Mount Rushmore of all-around forwards who have ever played the game.”

I know he didn’t win the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh (in 2008) and with the Detroit Red Wings (in 2009), then he comes to Chicago and they finally win in 2010, then they go on and win again in 2013 and 2015. You talk about the guy who really solidified everything, I don’t know how you can’t look at him and not say he was the guy who really, really brought it all together in Chicago.

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