Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Top Stay-At-Home Defensemen

Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber were announced as Norris Trophy candidates on Monday. As they are every year, these are some of the top offensive-minded defensemen in the game; Lidstrom finished second among defensemen with 62 points, Weber was tenth with 46 and Chara was 19th with 44. Should Weber or Chara win it, it will be the first time since 1983-84 someone won it while scoring fewer than 50 points when Rod Langway had 33. He remains the only true defensive defenseman to win the award as all others have had the offensive edge to their game.

Some feel there should be an award for best defensive defenseman, something I would be for as they are seriously underrated. Players such as Kevin Lowe, Adam Foote, Scott Stevens (later on in his career) and Vladimir Konstantinov were instrumental to their teams' success. They award the top defensive forward, it only makes sense to reward those who are supposed to be concentrating on the back end. Here are the top defensive defenseman on each team, the guys who contributed less than half a point per game and still made a major impact on their team.

Anaheim Ducks - Toni Lydman
Lydman only had 25 points, but still finished second among defensemen with a plus-32. His rating was 14 points higher than the next closest Duck, Lubimir Visnovsky who had 68 points this season. His 141 hits were second on the team and his 178 blocked shots were sixth in the league. Of his 22:10 played per game, 3:43 was spent shorthanded.

Atlanta Thrashers - Ron Hainsey
No Thrashers defenseman had more combined hits and blocked shots this season as Hainsey had 51 and 173 respectively. He was the only member of their defense to have a positive plus-minus rating at plus-3.

Boston Bruins - Dennis Seidenberg
Seidenberg only finished at a plus-three, but he made thing very difficult for opposing players.
He led the Boston blueline with 161 hits and 174 blocks and was third with 12 steals. Only Chara played more shorthanded than Seidenberg's 2:14.

Buffalo Sabres - Tyler Myers
Myers overcame a terrible start and was a plus-15 from Jan. 21 to the end of the season. At 6-foot-8 he is able to take up a lot of room in the defensive zone, which is why he plays 2:41 shorthanded each game. His 98 blocks were fewer than last year, but he played more physical raising his hit total to 107.

Calgary Flames - Robyn Regehr
If there was an award for best defensive defenseman, Regehr would be nominated every season. He was 13th among defensemen with 180 hits and was second on the Flames with 143 blocks. He finished 19th in the league among D-men with 3:12 shorthanded time on ice per game. Jay Bouwmeester played more, but Regehr played way more physical while finishing with a slightly better plus-minus.

Carolina Hurricanes - Tim Gleason
No defenseman on the Hurricanes was more physical than Gleason who had 215 hits and 141 blocked shots while playing 20:57 per night, 2:43 of which is spent shorthanded. He finished the season with a minus-11 rating, but with only 16 points and Carolina finishing 18th in the league in goals for/against ratio, that is a respectable total. 

Chicago Blackhawks - Niklas Hjalmarsson
In only his second full season Hjalmarsson led the Hawks blueliners with 166 blocks, was second with 32 steals and was fourth with 46 hits. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were the only other defenders to play more than 2:00 a game shorthanded. 

Colorado Avalanche - Adam Foote
In his last season, Foote was still one of the best defensemen for the Avs. That may not mean as much as it did 10 years ago, but no one who played more than half a season killed of penalties as much as Foote who was out there 2:50 per game. Colorado had the second worst plus-minus ration in the league at minus-40, but Foote at a minus-nine with only eight assists wasn’t at fault for that.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Jan Hejda
Hejda was a force this season with 152 hits and 158 blocks; he also won 100% of his draws (he only took one, but still…). Of players who finished the year in Columbus and played at least 41 games this season, Hejda was second in total and shorthanded time on ice and plus-minus, while only accumulating 28 PIM.

Dallas Stars - Stephane Robidas
Robidas was 14th in the league with 3:17 shorthanded ice time per game and always played against the other teams’ top lines. He also ranked fourth in the league with 216 hits and was second on the team with 135 blocks. 

Detroit Red Wings - Brad Stuart
This could have easily gone to Kronwall, but Stuart has been very reliable and underrated all season. He out hit Kronall (131 to 113) and played more shorthanded (3:32, seventh among all D-men, to 2:55). Stuart’s plus-4 rating was one point shy of Kronwall’s mark even though he had 17 fewer points.

Edmonton Oilers - Theo Peckham
Pechkam’s minus-5 rating was the best of any Oilers defenseman who played a full season. He was a bull, finishing eighth among all defensemen with 196 hits while piling up 198 PIM. 

Florida Panthers - Mike Weaver
The only full-time Panthers blueliner to finish the year with a positive plus-minus, Weaver led the team in blocked shots (132) and takeaways (47, 12th among D-men). Almost 16% of his time on ice was with the Panthers down a man (3:15 of 20:48 per game).

Los Angeles Kings - Willie Mitchell
Though he missed 25 games to injury, Mitchell was outstanding on the back end, playing 3:24 shorthanded per game (11th in the league). He had 35 hits, 85 blocks and 12 take aways. Those numbers prorated over a full season become 50 hits, 122 blocks (second on the team) and 17 takeaways.

Minnesota Wild - Greg Zanon
Zanon led all Wild D-men in hits (169, 36 more than Brent Burns) and blocks (212, 80 more than Nick Schultz) by a wide margin while playing the third-most minutes (21:32). He is also the only one to spend over three minutes (3:02) killing penalties.

Montreal Canadiens - Jaroslav Spacek
The Canadiens had different defensemen lead them in almost ever category, but Spacek was their most consistent. In 59 games Spacek led the Habs blueliners with a plus-nine. He also had the most take aways per game (0.51).

Nashville Predators - Kevin Klein
Klein was a wall in the defensive zone, leading all Nashville blueliners with 173 blocked shots, 60 more than captain Shea Weber. He also finished third with a plus-nine and played on the penalty killing unit more than any other Pred (3:10).

New Jersey Devils - Anton Volchenkov
Lo and behold! A Devils player actually finished with a positive plus-minus. Volchenkov actually finished fourth with a plus-three. Had he played a full season, he would have been in the top-25 in hits and blocks. 

New York Islanders - Andrew MacDonald
Picking the best Islanders defenseman is a bit of an oxymoron, but MacDonald had a solid season. He led the Islanders backend with a plus-nine rating, 160 blocks and 49 steals while leading them with 23:24 per game in his first full season.

New York Rangers - Dan Girardi
Getting a puck past Henrik Lundqvist is hard enough, but opposing shooters have to get it past Girardi first. One of only two players this season to combine for over 400 hits and blocks, Girardi got in the way of a league-high 236 shots, 24 more than Zanon, while also registering 195 hits. He was 18th in the league playing 3:12 shorthanded a game.

Ottawa Senators - Filip Kuba
The Senators choice is just like the Islanders, no choice is wrong mainly because no choice is right. He only had 23 hits in 64 games, but 104 blocks (133 over a full season) and 22 steals (28) and was second on the team with 2:29 shorthanded per game. 

Philadelphia Flyers - Andrej Meszaros 
Meszaros experienced a revival in Philly this year after two miserable years in Tampa. He delivered 189 hits (11th among NHL D-men) and blocked 139 shots. He led the league in plus-minus for most of the year finishing in a tie for fifth (plus-30) with teammate Matt Carle, Adam McQuaid and Daniel Sedin. 

Phoenix Coyotes - Adrian Aucoin
Aucoin's steady presence allowed Keith Yandle to develop into one of the highest scoring blueliners in the league. His plus-18 paced the team and he added 134 hits, tops among their defense. He was called on nearly threes minutes each game to kill penalties.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Brooks Orpik
One of the most physical players in the league, Orpik had 194 hits in just 63 games, prorated to 253 over a full season which would have led all D-men. At 3:44, he averaged just two seconds per game less on the penalty kill than Zbynek Michalek.

San Jose Sharks - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Pickle had 147 blocks and 30 steals this season while finishing second among Sharks defensemen with a plus-14. Only Dan Boyle played more each game and no one played more shorthanded. 

St. Louis Blues - Barret Jackman
Jackman was the only defenseman to play an entire season with the Blues and finish with a positive plus-minus (plus-3). He had 78 hits and 114 blocks in only 60 games, he would have been in the top-20 in blocks had he played a full season. He values is clearly in the defensive zone as he played 2:49 per game shorthanded and 0:02 on the power play.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Mattias Ohlund
Ohlund was a calming presence on a shaky Tampa blueline. He led their defense with 135 hits and had 136 blocked shots. A big reason he was a minus-seven was he only had five points and Lightning goaltending was terrible early in the season.

Toronto Maple Leafs - Luke Schenn
The other player with 400 combined hits and blocks, Schenn led the league's D-men with 251 hits and added 168 blocks. Only Dion Phaneuf played more overall and no one was on the ice with a man disadvantage more often. 

Vancouver Canucks - Kevin Bieksa
In just 66 games, Bieksa posted a plus-32, good for second overall. He was second on the team with 104 hits and third with 93 blocks, while leading with 50 take aways. He played the fourth most minutes on the Vancouver blueline (22:28) and third most shorthanded (2:40).

Washington Capitals - Karl Alzner
This was difficult as there was plenty of capable defenders in America'a capital. Alzner finished second to offensive-minded John Carlson with a plus-14. One of only two defenders to play all 82 games, Alzner had 98 hits, 132 blocks and 24 take aways while playing exactly one period a game. 

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