Top 10 Defensemen of all time

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Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby Mr. Colby on Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:12 pm

I started thinking about this upon the retirement of #5.

Who would you guys rank in your top 10? Doesn't have to be in order. Here are mine:

Ray Bourque
Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Doug Harvey
Nicklas Lidstrom
Scott Niedermayer
Bobby Orr
Dennis Potvin
Larry Robinson
Scott Stevens

Honorable Mention: Pronger, Chara, MacInnis, Leetch, Larry Murphy, Housley


Not Included: Eddie Shore because it was too damn long ago
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby Steve on Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:42 pm

Nice topic - Not sure of the entire order, except that #4 is at the top of the list for me.
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby mikey287 on Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:42 pm

Eddie Shore dominated his peers like few others and won several Hart trophies as a result (4, to be exact and finished top-3 on multiple other occasions). Seven-time 1st team all-star, one-time 2nd team all-star...before all-star teams were voted on (1931?) he was the only near-unanimous choice among managers voting for the 1928 all-star team. He received the most first-place votes of any player at any position! He appeared on the ballot of 9 of 10 managers (more than any other player at any position!). The voters names might seem familiar: Cecil Hart, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, Lester Patrick, Jack Adams were among them.

60 years from now, will we discard Lemieux because it happened too long ago?

Scott Niedermayer continues to be the overrated d-man in history, almost certainly not a top-25 d-man of all-time by any stretch. Scott Stevens was very good, but never once was considered the best d-man in the league but is somehow top-10 (though he was better than Niedermayer, for whatever that's worth).

And in top-15 is Phil Housley, a player so bad at defense that he needed to be moved to forward at points of his career...yet didn't bring enough offense to the table to ever be top-10 in points ever, and never finished top-5 in assists either. Only one time was he voted to an all-star team (2nd team in 1991-92), making any time of all-time list is purely a product of point-counting as I can't see an argument to put him in the top-50 of all-time certainly and probably further...he was just horrendous...

It seems high for Chara who was anything but elite for the first half or so of his career. It wasn't until the last 7 or 8 years that he's really taken on the league head-on...

Larry Murphy is also a curious add. Never once considered the best d-man in the league and really never considered top-3 at any time. He's definitely not in the top-25 and you could probably stretch that real close to 50....

I say this not to be a complete ****...I say it to generate conversation and, from it, education.

Curiously and noticeably missing: Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Pierre Pilote, Brad Park (6-time runner-up to the Norris behind Orr), among others...

My list probably looks something like this:
1. Bobby Orr
2. Doug Harvey
3. Eddie Shore
4. Raymond Bourque
5. Nicklas Lidstrom
6-10+: Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Brad Park, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Pierre Pilote
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby André on Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:54 am

mikey287 wrote:Eddie Shore dominated his peers like few others and won several Hart trophies as a result (4, to be exact and finished top-3 on multiple other occasions). Seven-time 1st team all-star, one-time 2nd team all-star...before all-star teams were voted on (1931?) he was the only near-unanimous choice among managers voting for the 1928 all-star team. He received the most first-place votes of any player at any position! He appeared on the ballot of 9 of 10 managers (more than any other player at any position!). The voters names might seem familiar: Cecil Hart, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, Lester Patrick, Jack Adams were among them.

60 years from now, will we discard Lemieux because it happened too long ago?

Scott Niedermayer continues to be the overrated d-man in history, almost certainly not a top-25 d-man of all-time by any stretch. Scott Stevens was very good, but never once was considered the best d-man in the league but is somehow top-10 (though he was better than Niedermayer, for whatever that's worth).

And in top-15 is Phil Housley, a player so bad at defense that he needed to be moved to forward at points of his career...yet didn't bring enough offense to the table to ever be top-10 in points ever, and never finished top-5 in assists either. Only one time was he voted to an all-star team (2nd team in 1991-92), making any time of all-time list is purely a product of point-counting as I can't see an argument to put him in the top-50 of all-time certainly and probably further...he was just horrendous...

It seems high for Chara who was anything but elite for the first half or so of his career. It wasn't until the last 7 or 8 years that he's really taken on the league head-on...

Larry Murphy is also a curious add. Never once considered the best d-man in the league and really never considered top-3 at any time. He's definitely not in the top-25 and you could probably stretch that real close to 50....

I say this not to be a complete ****...I say it to generate conversation and, from it, education.

Curiously and noticeably missing: Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Pierre Pilote, Brad Park (6-time runner-up to the Norris behind Orr), among others...

My list probably looks something like this:
1. Bobby Orr
2. Doug Harvey
3. Eddie Shore
4. Raymond Bourque
5. Nicklas Lidstrom
6-10+: Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Brad Park, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Pierre Pilote


Exellent. Just read a Lidstrom article by Calle Johansson in Sweden's biggest tabloid and altough it's hard to exaggerate Lidstrom's greatness I actually thought he did manage to do just that. He claims Lidstrom's the best ever. His argument to put him ahead of Orr is "who's really seen Orr play?". Also, he states that a few years back 29 out of 30 GMs would've picked him first in a fantasy draft.

Was about to ask you Mikey for your all time D-men list and the answer was already posted :fist:
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby Samsdog on Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:57 am

mikey287 wrote:Eddie Shore dominated his peers like few others and won several Hart trophies as a result (4, to be exact and finished top-3 on multiple other occasions). Seven-time 1st team all-star, one-time 2nd team all-star...before all-star teams were voted on (1931?) he was the only near-unanimous choice among managers voting for the 1928 all-star team. He received the most first-place votes of any player at any position! He appeared on the ballot of 9 of 10 managers (more than any other player at any position!). The voters names might seem familiar: Cecil Hart, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, Lester Patrick, Jack Adams were among them.

60 years from now, will we discard Lemieux because it happened too long ago?

Scott Niedermayer continues to be the overrated d-man in history, almost certainly not a top-25 d-man of all-time by any stretch. Scott Stevens was very good, but never once was considered the best d-man in the league but is somehow top-10 (though he was better than Niedermayer, for whatever that's worth).

And in top-15 is Phil Housley, a player so bad at defense that he needed to be moved to forward at points of his career...yet didn't bring enough offense to the table to ever be top-10 in points ever, and never finished top-5 in assists either. Only one time was he voted to an all-star team (2nd team in 1991-92), making any time of all-time list is purely a product of point-counting as I can't see an argument to put him in the top-50 of all-time certainly and probably further...he was just horrendous...

It seems high for Chara who was anything but elite for the first half or so of his career. It wasn't until the last 7 or 8 years that he's really taken on the league head-on...

Larry Murphy is also a curious add. Never once considered the best d-man in the league and really never considered top-3 at any time. He's definitely not in the top-25 and you could probably stretch that real close to 50....

I say this not to be a complete ****...I say it to generate conversation and, from it, education.

Curiously and noticeably missing: Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Pierre Pilote, Brad Park (6-time runner-up to the Norris behind Orr), among others...

My list probably looks something like this:
1. Bobby Orr
2. Doug Harvey
3. Eddie Shore
4. Raymond Bourque
5. Nicklas Lidstrom
6-10+: Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Slava Fetisov, Red Kelly, Brad Park, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Pierre Pilote


Don't think I could conscionably put Bourque before Lidstrom but the rest of the list looks good to me.
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby mikey287 on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:05 pm

Thanks André! I remember about 10 years ago, maybe a little more now, I was watching hockey with one of my good friends (who really knew the game and this is way before I studied the history of the game) and I noted, "I don't think we realize it, but we're watching something really special with Nicklas Lidstrom" and it turns out he remembered it and brought it up a few years ago and I don't think either of us realized how dominant Lidstrom was going to be even into his advanced years. What a terrific player.

As for Bourque, he seems like he's pretty underrated...

I mean, the guy made the 1st or 2nd all-star team (meaning that he was at least a top-4 defenseman in the entire league) every year from 1979-80 to 1995-96 - and those were mostly first team awards! He also then made a team in 98-99 and 00-01. Additionally was a "third-team" all-star in two other seasons.

Just for comparison (not placed in descending order, rather left in year order):

Calder: 1st
Norris: 4th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 4th, 1st**, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 8th, 7th, 3rd, 7th, 2nd
Hart: 5th, 5th, 10th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd^, 4th, 6th

* - named a unaminous first-team all-star in 1987 and captured 52 of 54 first place votes for the Norris (!) - this would become fairly normal in his peak seasons

^ - Lost the Hart Trophy by 2 voting points (227 to 225 to Messier) but upon investigation, the Edmonton writers purposely left Bourque completely off their ballot to give Messier a better chance to win the Hart. Even two third place votes for Bourque would have secured him a Hart Trophy, the first by a d-man since Bobby Orr in 1972 (before Orr, the last d-man to win the Hart Trophy was Babe Pratt in the war-tattered 1944 season - meaning Bourque was the rightful winner of the only Hart trophy for a d-man not given to Orr in 50 years!). There's no justification for this, as 58 of 63 first place votes were split between Messier and Bourque. There were literally no other choices in the league that season. No justification for Bourque not be top-3.

** - 1990: Bourque a unaminous Norris winner. All 63 first place votes placed league-wide (!)

It's difficult to get into the top-3 and 4 d-men in the league without getting big time 1st and 2nd place votes...look at how many times he was considered one of the best d-man in the league (every one of his 22 seasons - only 3 years was he not considered top 5, 0 years was he considered outside the top 8) which is backed statistically and by the ol' eye test he was clearly one of the best players ever when you watched him and he dominated through different eras. In the 80's in the wide-open hockey, he would regularly put together 80 and 90 point seasons, he's led the league in shots 3 times. And then into the late 90's and early 2000's where he still dominated on both sides of the puck. All that ice time he logged and he never took 100 minutes in PIMs during the season which means he played a clean and effective game. In fact, he sees quite a bit of Lady Byng votes in his time as well. He wasn't a minus player on the season until 1997 (the Bruins finished last in the league that year).

And that Stanley Cup championship at the end of his career wasn't exactly handed to him while he was a bit player. He logged #1 d-man minutes all regular season (over 26 minutes) and then increased the workload in the playoffs (28:32 per night at the age of 40 on a Cup winner!) Here's a defenseman with over 400 goals (he's the only one, in fact, only 4 others have 300+ and he's over 400!) and nearly 1200 assists (1 of only 2 that has even 1000+ [Coffey]) and 1579 points (most all time; only one other player has 1300 or more points on his career and he's nearly at 1600!).

-----
Nicklas Lidstrom:
Calder: 2nd
Norris: 7th, 6th, 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 6th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 1st
Hart: 9th, 10th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 4th
First team All-Star: 10
Second team All-Star: 2
"Third team" All-Star: 3

61 of 62 first place votes 1st all-star team in 2003; 133 of 134 first place votes 1st all-star team in 2008

Lidstrom has a strong voting record as well. But he was never really, really strongly considered for the Hart. Bourque was really given some serious looks at a non-defensemen award. Lidstrom played for 21 years, but didn't dominate voting until Bourque, MacInnis, Chelios, Leetch, Coffey, etc. left the league or fell out of their prime.

Lidstrom wins his Norrises against: Niedermayer, Chara, Phaneuf, Keith, Green, Weber, Boyle, etc.
Bourque wins his Norrises against: Larry Robinson, Borje Salming, Mark Howe, Denis Potvin, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Doug Wilson, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, etc.

If anything Bourque is closer to 3rd than he is 5th.
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby Dan H on Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:52 pm

mikey287 wrote:Bourque was really given some serious looks at a non-defensemen award. Lidstrom played for 21 years, but didn't dominate voting until Bourque, MacInnis, Chelios, Leetch, Coffey, etc. left the league or fell out of their prime.

Lidstrom wins his Norrises against: Niedermayer, Chara, Phaneuf, Keith, Green, Weber, Boyle, etc.
Bourque wins his Norrises against: Larry Robinson, Borje Salming, Mark Howe, Denis Potvin, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Doug Wilson, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, etc.


I agree with your ordering, but I think this particular point isn't a very strong one. What it shows, mostly, is that voters tend to opt for the established veteran over the younger player, especially for awards that are for prowess that is difficult to measure statistically (Norris, Selke...). It isn't Lidstrom's fault that there were no Paul Coffeys competing against him for most of his career, just as it wasn't Scott Stevens's fault that he came into the league 3 years after Bourque. I think it's really hard to use awards as an absolute comparison of two players' skill levels. Obviously there's useful information there... but just on its own, award voting isn't a great indicator of relative skill. This makes it even harder for us to figure out if, say, Doug Harvey was better than Ray Bourque, but that's life. If there were surefire measurements for doing these rankings, we wouldn't get to have fun with these debates.
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Re: Top 10 Defensemen of all time

Postby mikey287 on Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:11 pm

Certainly. And while it's not Lidstrom's fault, it does do a lot to thrust Bourque ahead in a tiebreak situation, so to speak. Bourque faced better competition vs. defensive peers. And better offenses, by and large. By a significant margin. It's worth noting. Hasek winning 6 Vezina's against Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour, etc. is more impressive than "Goalie A" winning them against Mike Liut, Tony Esposito, Rogie Vachon and Pete Peeters...

Doug Harvey gets major points revolutionizing the position as a whole, but that's for another thread.
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