Tuesday’s Tirade: Jared Cowen’s Height Is Not A Skill


Today is the second edition of Tuesday’s Tirade, and I will discuss Jared Cowen and his height. Cowen is listed at 6’5″, which of course is very tall even for a hockey player. There’s no question that being tall is an advantage in hockey. It gives you a longer reach for battles against your opponents, makes it easier to knock others down, most likely gives you a harder shot, and sometimes it can simply make you more intimidating.

There’s a definite bias for taller players in the NHL, and when there’s a tall player that appears to skate well and have lots of skill, it’s very exciting to draft them. That’s what the Ottawa Senators saw when they picked Cowen, as he was a top defenseman in the WHL, and was a big reason for the Spokane Chiefs success. He never racked up the points in the WHL, with a career high of 48, but clearly his size was seen as something that could translate to the NHL.

They say you can’t teach size, and that’s true. Cowen had that going for him, but the problem is he hasn’t developed the skills that translate into being a quality top-4 defenseman (and I don’t think he ever will). He had a much easier route to the NHL than other players, but his size means moot point if he doesn’t do anything with it. It also doesn’t help that he has produced a negligible amount of offense, so he hasn’t done much for the team at all in any area.

More from SenShot

Cowen had a solid rookie season, but ever since then he has been a train wreck, to put it lightly. He couldn’t even get ice time over Mark Borowiecki and Eric Gryba down the stretch, as he was scratched in 28 games this season. There’s nothing that shows he’s been an effective defenseman in his career, and the eye test makes him look worse.

Some people mention that he’s only 24 years old, and that’s true. Maybe he has some room to grow, but for his case I severely doubt it. The only reasons he is still being given a chance is because of his draft position, and his size. Teams don’t give up on top ten picks early on, even if they don’t see much in the player. It makes the team look bad, no matter how bad the player has been. It’s been six years since he was drafted, and by now they should know what they have in him.

The second reason is continually brought up by GM Bryan Murray, and I find it quite puzzling. Here is what he said in regards to Cowen at the end of season press conference:

"“He’s a 6’5” defenceman. Young. Going to be a real good player in the National Hockey League and you have got to be careful. We look around at trades that are made sometimes of young players – you do it to acquire something real good. I’m not saying that any player on our team couldn’t be traded for something that is better from our point of view, but I’m going to be careful with Jared Cowen. (We’ll) get him healthy and I expect he’ll come to camp next year and be a better player.” Quote from The 6th Sens"

Murray always brings up his height, and I’m not sure if he actually sees that as a positive, or if he’s trying to build up his value so somebody will take him and his contract. I really hope it’s the latter, because if Murray still sees something in Cowen then I don’t know how much I trust him and the rest of management. It is true that it’s risky trading young players but Cowen is heading into his fifth season and he hasn’t shown any improvement since his rookie season.

In fact, I’d argue he’s gotten worse. So why bring up his height all the time? It’s not just Murray who does this, it’s some people in the media that are also wary of trading him just because big defensemen have value. The problem is Cowen isn’t even good at being “big.” Sure, he can make the occasional big hit, but he always gets beat by quicker players to the puck.

Big defensemen are supposed to shut the other team down, not give up the fifth most shot attempts per 60 on the team. He also had the 6th worst corsi relative on the team, not a good sign for a “promising” young player.  If Cowen can’t even use his height to his advantage, don’t talk about it as if it’s a skill. Cowen being tall is a fact, but it doesn’t make him a good hockey player.

Dec 29, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen (2) fights with Buffalo Sabres right wing

Patrick Kaleta

(36) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Someone like Victor Hedman is 6’6″, but he is one of the best defensemen in the league. The difference is he’s extremely good with the puck, has an amazing shot, and can keep up with other teams forwards. Cowen can’t really do any of those things. At least if he was producing a solid amount of points, then his size could be a bit of an advantage. But I really can’t think of one reason why it has helped his game.

If anything, the other teams see how big and slow he is, and gives the opponents confidence that they can beat him. Could he eventually become a solid NHL regular? Yes perhaps. But I would bet that he’ll spend his career mostly on the third pairing still not playing to his potential that was bestowed upon in at the draft.

If you want to talk about something positive that he does in his game, do not mention his height if you can’t back that up. Having a great shot and scoring goals because you are tall is a skill, but pure height means nothing. Now stop using that as a reason to not give up on him as a player.

Next: Predicting The Contracts Of Ottawa's Forwards