July 13, 2013

Ziggy Palffy

In terms of pure hockey talent, few can match the skill set of the Slovakian Sensation Ziggy Palffy.

Some nights he was downright brilliant. With a quick first step and shifty skating, he was deceptively fast. He would never win a head-to-head race but with great anticipation he could gain a well-timed step on most defenders.

More impressively he could handle the puck at top speed and through traffic as he danced his way into scoring position. He was an elite intellectual play with great vision. He was a true game breaker largely because he had the brash confidence to try moves that only the best players in the world could pull off.

He was a great playmaker, too. In fact, early in his career he was guilty of looking for the pass a little too much. But he developed a true sniper's mentality as he matured. He was a truly dynamic player. When Ziggy zagged, the crowd stood their feet.

Though he was short and slight, the long haired Palffy played with an edge that allowed him to thrive in NHL wars.

While all the previous kind words truly describe one of the best players of the dead-puck era, Ziggy Palffy had some consistency issues. It was suggested he coasted too often during games. He was all too willing to be a perimeter player at times, greatly reducing his effectiveness. It also greatly effected his team's performance, particularly in LA. The bench seemed to follow Palffy's lead. When he was playing with spirit and determination, the Kings followed in suit.

The 26th overall draft pick of the New York Islanders in 1991, Palffy did not come to North America until 1993-94. He really established himself as a Long Island fan favorite by 1995-96. He put together impressive seasons of 87, 90 and 87 points. After a injury shortened 1998-99 season the cash-strapped Islanders traded Palffy with Bryan Smolinski to the Los Angeles Kings for Olli Jokinen, Josh Green, Mathieu Biron, and a first round draft pick.

Palffy continued his all star show out west, starring on a line with fellow Slovak Josef Stumpel and Kings legend Luc Robitaille. He had 5 strong seasons in LA, though he was increasingly missing time with a nagging and chronic shoulder problem.

In 2005-06 Palffy moved on to Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins, signing a 3 year, $13.5 million dollar deal. But he shocked the hockey world when he retired half way through the season due to his bad shoulder.

Palffy completed his career with 329 goals and 384 assists for 713 points in 684 games over 12 NHL seasons, very impressive numbers for the "dead-puck era." Yet he was always over-shadowed by the likes of fellow right wingers like Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne and Pavel Bure.

Palffy did return to hockey in 2007, playing three seasons in his native Slovakia. He was also part of Slovakia's 2010 Olympic team.

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