• SHARE:
  • email
  • Bookmark and Share

THN.com Blog: What makes a No. 1 defenseman?

Shea Weber is getting serious Norris consideration for the first time in his career. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Zoom Image

Shea Weber is getting serious Norris consideration for the first time in his career. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

My most enjoyable times at work are the moments when perception becomes reality.

We love to joke at The Hockey News about the mistaken impressions people have of our office dynamic. Sadly, there is no collection of high-definition televisions displaying hockey highlights 24/7. In fact, most days the ’80s relic of a television we do have gets cranky when you try to go above channel 14.

Heated debates are definitely commonplace, but they’re just as likely to be over semicolon use as, “Crosby or Ovie?”

Enough curtain pulling. The truth is, The Hockey News office is an amazing place to “work” especially when spontaneous arguments like the one a handful of us had earlier this week crop up and force the less-glamorous aspects of churning out a magazine to the back row.

In light of Mike Green lighting the lamp for a seventh straight game Wednesday night versus the Rangers, I thought it pertinent to reprise the debate here for a broader audience: How many true No. 1 defensemen are out there and where do you draw the blueline when determining what defines that label?

The first part of the question came up after we’d collectively denied about eight names of No. 1 status.

“Kimmo Timonen?”

“What, Finland’s ‘I can’t believe it’s not Lidstrom!?’ No way.”

“Dion Phaneuf?”

“He’s not even the best defenseman on his team!”

“Duncan Keith?”

“Nah. He and Brent Seabrook are co-dependant.”

Green was an interesting flashpoint because it got us wondering whether a purely offensive guy could be considered a No. 1 defender. Some were adamant Green was worthy of the distinction, putting forth the notion he’s got more offensive thrust than anyone at his position since Paul Coffey.

Others couldn’t reconcile the fact that position has the word ‘defense’ in it and in order to be among the very best at your craft, you have to be equally astute in all areas.

And what about physical play? Can somebody who’s not a crusher be on the list? Yes, it was determined, otherwise we’d have to explain to Nicklas Lidstrom why he fell short. Essentially, you don’t need to mangle opponents as long as you’re able to eliminate scoring opportunities with great positioning and a quick stick.
  
Of course, some we deem unworthy of No. 1 status today could achieve it by validating their game with a Stanley Cup ring. Not many people thought Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg could be the go-to forwards on a championship team; then the Red Wings cruised to the Cup last spring with Zetterberg taking playoff MVP honors and Datsyuk finishing right behind him in team post-season scoring.

Related Links

If Jay Bouwmeester anchored a Cup-winning defense corps, don’t you think that overrated label would disappear in a hurry?

Ultimately, we weren’t able to pin down an exact outline for what constitutes No. 1 status. Basically, it comes down to playing both offense and defense at exceptionally high levels and never having to be paired with someone who compensates for a deficiency in your game.

At the high end of that definition, you’ll find this short list of players: Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara and we’re going to go ahead and include Dan Boyle, too.

That leaves about 10 defensemen you would love to have on your team with a 1-A ranking.

Will any of those guys break into the elite as the games get more significant down the stretch? We will surely be tuned in here – provided the games aren’t above channel 14.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

More Stories

THN.com Blog: Stan Smyl knows Canucks must make most of Stanley Cup run

Stan Smyl pauses to draw a deep breath before answering the question and you’re not sure...

THN.com Blog: Diminutive Nathan Gerbe plays big for Buffalo Sabres

The good news for Nathan Gerbe is if and when he ever reaches his short-joke saturation point,...

THN.com Blog: Guy Boucher goes for broke with Tampa Bay

Guy Boucher needs room to operate even when he’s giving a post-game talk to reporters, so...

THN.com Blog: Letang emerging as another Penguins star

Earlier in the season, if Kris Letang had one point in his past nine outings, my take would have...
blog comments powered by Disqus

THN on Twitter

Will the Los Angeles Kings repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 2014-15?




Contests

Our Partners