Who's the Best Defenceman in Hockey?
Assuming each of the 30 teams in the NHL carry 7 defencemen, there are 210 blueliners playing in the NHL. Which one is the best? Well here is who I think are the top 10 defencemen in the NHL today.
1. Niklas Lidstrom – defensively he is so smart. he cuts off angles with his quickness. Is a master at the stick check and great at tying up sticks of the opponents. there are few blueliners who are better positionally than Lidstrom. He knows where he needs to be. Offensively he can rack up 60 plus points a year. he has a huge shot at the point and is one of the best quarterbacks for the powerplay. he is also great at the outlet pass and will be able to show that skill even more with the redline taken out.
2. Scott Niedermayer – there may not be a better skater in the NHL than Nieds. He uses that asset well on defence rarely getting caught behind the play as he can make up ground with his great speed. he can play with a bit of sandpaper if needed but mainly uses his speed and quickness to take care of his own end. Perhaps the most dangerous defenceman on offence in the league. he is one of the few around who can go end to end and he joins the rush with regularity. He is a terrific passer and though not the biggest shot from the point, he gets the puck on net which causes a big problems when there are rebounds.
3. Chris Pronger – when he is on his game there may be no better defensive defenceman than Pronger. his combination of size and mobility is unmatched. he makes opponents pay dearly for venturing into his zone. he will either punish you for standing in front or paste you against the boards. he is also a bigtime offensive contributor. great a quarterbacking the powerplay he has a heavy shot and is a wonderful passer out of his zone. he can change a game with a big goal or a devastating hit.
4. Rob Blake – He may be slowing down but dont tell that to any of his opponents. He still is one of the best open ice hitters in the game. and at his size those hits are nothing short of punishing. this is what makes him so solid defensively because it forces opponents to look over their shoulder in fear of getting killed rather than focusing on an offensive play. He is still one of the best PP QBs. He can shoot the puck but at the same time get it on net. i think he will have a field day getting the puck to the fleet Avs forwards on the team.
5. Zdeno Chara – He has come a long way from being a guy who was only in the NHL for his size to one who has used all of his abilities to the fullest advantage. He is a feared presence in the defensive zone. at 6’7 and about 250 lbs you cannot stand in front of the net with him as he simply has too much size and strength that he will push players aside with ease. he is also showing a mean streak that makes him more of an impact player on defence. you do not want to get hit by someone that big. He has also shown a bit of an offensive touch. he is often used as a forward on the powerplay causing havoc in front with his big frame. you cant move him when he plants himself in front of the goalie.
6. Wade Redden – Redden is one of the steadiest blueliners in the league. he is a model of consistency playing sound defence mixed in with decent offence. he is not physical but can take the body. he relies more on being sound positionally and being in the right place at the right time. on offence he is adept at running the point he is a smart passer and reads plays well knowing when and when not to join the rush. he isnt flashy, punishing or an intimidating presence. just produces game in and game out.
7. Ed Jovanovski – He is quite the opposite from Wade Redden. He makes the list because he is one of the bigger impact blueliners in the league making a difference with a big play rather than a slew of steady plays throughout the game. he can change a game like few others with a big rush on offence, a huge goal, a massive hit, or an incredible defensive play. he may not give you consistent play every night but you can be sure to see a big time play by Jovocop at least once a game.
8. Sergei Gonchar – His offence alone gets him into the top 10. He is ok defensively but isnt much of a shutdown guy, plays a bit soft and can be caught out of position on occasion as he looks for offence. he plays much better with defensive minded partner. But he may be the best producer on offence from the defence in the NHL. he racks up goals and points like no other. often around the 20-25 goal mark he is a demon on the powerplay.
9. Mattias Ohlund – People in the East are deprived of seeing this talent. One of the best two way talents in the league, Ohlund is a defenceman who often gets overlooked. Part of it is because Jovanovski is his teammate and he has more pizzazz to his game. Ohlund is just solid. he can log big minutes, play against the other teams top players night in and night out. willingly take the body even against the biggest and strongest competitiors. He also can contribute on offence but isnt asked as much to do so in Vancouver with Jovanovski there. He is great at getting pucks through and making smart passes out of the zone. he can also join the rush. He might be the most underrated defenceman in the league.
10. Adam Foote – There may not be a better shutdown defender than Foote, especially now that Stevens is about to retire. He isnt an offensive stud but seems to be able to put up 30 plus points every year. He has developed into a first rate passer after just being known for his defensive work. He is big but can move well enough to join the rush. But he makes his money for the intagibles he brings defensively. He is a leader. he can take charge of his own end and of his team not only vocally but though effort. he is a miserable player to play against. he will leave players with scars for entering his zone. though not getting any younger and a history of injury trouble, Foote is still one of the best stay at home defencemen in the league.
Well there you have it. Not everyone will agree but I think I will not be far off in my rankings. There are notables that are missing but are right up there. The hardest person to leave out of the top 10 is Brian Leetch. I think he will be much better not playing for the pitiful Rangers who made his defensive stats look terrible. But this guy could flourish in the new opened up NHL if they indeed open up the game.
Guys like Kubina and McCabe are top 20 candidates at least because they can do it at both ends. Alot of people discount McCabe but he finished 4th in Norris voting for a reason. he is good. He can score, he can hit. one mistake should not push him towards the worst blueliners in the league. that is what many think.
Youngsters like Bouwmeester, Brewer, Boynton still need a couple of years to be considered in the top 10. they are young and still need to work on parts of their game to move up the ranks.
Guys like Regher, Warrener, Hannan and Phillips are great stay at home defencemen. They are not flashy, they dont put up big numbers, they dont have the highlight reel plays on defence or offence that we see from other blueliners but game in and game out they are some of the fiercest and hardest working players around. they never show up in the game summaries but usually have a hand in helping their teams win.
Here it is, the best defencemen in hockey. My biggest point was to show that McCabe, though not among the top 10, is still alot better than many think. Just look at the players I left off. Morris, McLaren, Timonen, Norstrom, Schneider, Zubov, Aucoin, Niinimaa, Souray, Rafalski, Hatcher. Are any of those players better than McCabe? Perhaps as good but not better. The guy can score, he can play physical and make an impact each game. One bad game does not make a player. I have seen many of those guys listed above play terrible hockey at some point but a bad game is never held against them like McCabe. It may be a fruitless attempt but try to be more objective when judging talent than using a bad game or the team they play for as to why a player is bad.