It seems to me there is always a big deal made about experience and depth, especially when dealing with defensemen. So I decided to do a little work with some stats for the past three seasons (taken straight from NHL.com). I related each player to the team they’re playing for currently, combined their stats for the past 3 seasons and looked at totals for each team as an indication of what to expect for the coming season. A pack of stats like this can also help indicate which teams are more susceptible to drop off the charts with one or two key injuries.
*Teams are ranked by Number of NHL Games Played by the entire pool of Defensemen
*This obviously handicaps teams with one or more Rookie-Sophomore Defenders, but isn’t that the point of this whole experience matters idea?
*Obviously other stats are considered here, but I’m keeping them ranked by experience in the last 3 seasons because that’s the idea I wanted to look at
Note: some of the more minor defensemen may not be mentioned. Their contributions are included in the totals, but since their impact is almost negligible on the stats it’s hard to say much about them.
Games Played: 1827, Goals: 102, Total Points: 493, Plus/Minus: -14, PIM: 1123, PPP: 26, GWG: 11, AverageShots: 819, IceT: 182 mins
THIS should come as a real surprise to anyone who even pays a remote attention to the National Hockey League. Especially due to the fact that I have removed Chris Pronger from this roster as it looks like he will retire. If you added on Pronger’s numbers the Flyers would obliterate all teams statistically in almost every category, but I can’t because Pronger doesn’t appear in good health. Shame.
There’s no stud on this blueline but there are 5 warhorses. The combination of Coburn (244gp only 3 defensemen in the league have played more), Timonen (240gp), Schenn (240gp), Meszaros (224gp), and Grossmann (204gp) gives the Flyers a solid if unexciting top 5. Coburn, Timonen and Schenn are all in the top-15 D for games played, so there's something to be said about their durability. Add to this mix three depth defensemen Foster (196gp), Gervais (174gp), and Lilja (118gp) and that means the Flyers have the most man games (BY FAR; 149gp ahead of Chicago) in the past few years per any defense corps in the league.
They also ranked third in offensive contributions thanks to the unwavering consistency of Kimmo Timonen (119pts). The Plus/Minus leaves something to be desired but you can thank Foster and Gervais for bringing down the total, -30 and -33 respectively. Surely they will be better playing for a stronger organization (Note: poor Gervais has never EVER had a plus season, thanks NYI/TB). The Flyers also rank 1st in Sum of Average Shots, 1st in Sum of Average Ice Time, and 5th in Total Goals. The only really glaring fault to be found in this group is its Powerplay potential (tied for 15th in PPP), really missing Pronger BADLY in this category (his 9 PPP would bump the Flyers to 4th).
Games Played: 1678, Goals: 96, Total Points: 544, Plus/Minus: +124, PIM: 1027, PPP: 19, GWG: 19, AverageShots: 723, IceT: 148 mins
The Blackhawks Defense-corps has been a model of consistency over the past 3 seasons. The biggest reason for the dominance of this defense is the outright dominance it shows in its offensive production compared to the rest of the league. The 544 combined points is a full 48 more points than 2nd ranked Vancouver. This is the most elite puck moving group of defense in the league led by Duncan Keith (154pts; second only to Dan Boyle of the Sharks 156pts) and Brent Seabrook (112pts). Not to mention that the Hawks top-6 of Keith (238gp), Seabrook (238gp), Oduya (230gp), Hjalmarsson (226gp), Montador (203gp) and Roszival (201gp) are extremely dependable as well. With the scrappy Sheldon Brookbank (186gp) and Nick Leddy (128gp) waiting in the wings, there’s no question the Defense in Chicago are as deep and talented as any in the league.
Surprisingly the Hawks are even worse on the PP from the point than the seemingly quarterback-less Flyers, sitting in a tie for 23rd with the likes of Anaheim. At even strength however, their +124 ranks only behind the Bruins. They rank 6th in Average Shots per season and also in Average Total Ice Time. A great mix of minute munchers and puck movers.
Games Played: 1634, Goals: 115, Total Points: 496, Plus/Minus: +121, PIM: 1284, PPP: 35, GWG: 20, AverageShots: 754, IceT: 172 mins
The Canucks ranked 2nd in Total Points as far as Defensemen go (as mentioned above), as well as 3rd in Total Average Ice Time just behind Philly and oddly Tampa, 3rd in Average Shots Taken, and 3rd in Goals Scored by a Defense. Couple that with the 4th overall rank in Team Plus/Minus, 4th in PPP from a D-corps at 35, 4th in GWG and you have a Defense that seems to really get the job done in all facets of the game. Finally they (statistically) have the most penalized defense at 1284 PIMs. That can mean either they’re taking bad penalties, or perhaps they’re very rough to play against (maybe a bit of both).
Just as in Philly and Chicago, Vancouver have a lot of guys hovering around or above the 200 game mark over the past 3 seasons. While there’s no true ironman here like some of the other guys already mentioned Dan Hamhuis (224gp), Alex Edler (209gp), Kevin Bieksa (199gp), Keith Ballard (194gp), and Jason Garrison (189gp) give Van-City a group of 5 top-notch defenders. Alberts (162gp), Vandermeer (149gp), Barker (147gp), and Joslin (102gp) appear to be stationed to fight it out over the 6-7 roles for the big club, while Tanev and Sauve remain reliable younger options should the team decided to drop one or two of the older-filler-type D-men. If I’m picking the best overall defense, based on stats alone (aka trying not to look at names) I might say Vancouver.
Games Played: 1514, Goals: 71, Total Points: 339, Plus/Minus: -86, PIM: 1050, PPP: 14, GWG: 11, AverageShots: 553, IceT: 143 mins
There are some awfully big wrenches thrown into this analysis as you can see with this ranking. The Avalanche do NOT have the 4th ranked D in the league, but they do have the 4th most Games Played by an entire corps which is a BIG shock. The reasons for that are Erik Johnson (229gp), and several defensemen who are guys that just continue to pile up games despite being fringe and/or defensive specialists; O’Brien (221gp), Hejda (220gp), Zanon (219gp), and O’Byrne (196gp). Add emerging talent Ryan Wilson (187gp) and depth man Matt Hunwick (182gp) and you end up with a serviceable if not victimize-able defense.
This group doesn’t consist of guys who will knock your socks off but they can take abuse as far as minutes go, ranking 9th in Average Total Ice Time. Johnson (94pts) and Wilson (58pts) have to provide the offensive pop because the rest of these guys are 15-20pt scorers at the best of times, although they have piled up some shots at 553; good enough for 15th. Statistics that take them out of the conversation entirely include: Total D Goals (71) and Points (339) both 24th Place, Plus/Minus (-86) 26th Place, PPP (14) 28th Place. The Avalanche are obviously hoping that trade of Chris Stewart for Erik Johnson eventually works out in their favour, it remains to be seen if it will.
Games Played: 1479, Goals: 126, Total Points: 479, Plus/Minus: +56, PIM: 870, PPP: 32, GWG: 20, AverageShots: 649, IceT: 162 mins
For me the Sabres look like a team with a severely underrated defense; thanks to a God awful two-faced effort last year they do (as a team in general) fly under the radar. Last year’s underperformance aside, they have 3 defensemen with great shots from the point and thus lead the Goals by a Defense corps category (126 total, Leopold 34, Ehrhoff 33, Myers 29). The Sabres are a team consistently in the top-10 in almost every category; Ice Time 4th, GWG 4th, PPP 6th, Average Shots 7th, Plus/Minus 11th.
Veterans Regehr (236 gp) and Leopold (231 gp) are guys that Buffalo will lean on to take tough assignments and eat up a lot of minutes. While Leopold does put up some solid PP numbers he shouldn’t be counted on for carrying the offensive load. Christian Ehrhoff (225gp) signed that big meaty deal last year and that means he’ll need to create more of what he’s done the past few years and more consistently. His erratic play and eventual injury were definitely contributing factors in the Sabres struggles. The 32pts he registered was his lowest total in 4 years and his 66gp was his worst since 05-06 as a sophomore for San Jose. Other than Ehrhoff only playing 66 games last season, the fact that beastly Tyler Myers (217gp) only played 55 hurt just as badly if not worse. Soon to be 23 Myers is a guy whom you’d like to see have a breakout season if you’re a Sabres fan. Beyond those top 4 who have all played over 200 games the blueline becomes a little thin. Sekera (194gp) known as a puck-mover and great skater has yet to push his potential, Pardy (123gp) was sent to the AHL I’m pretty sure, while Weber (109gp) and Sulzer (87gp) have yet to really prove themselves.
Games Played: 1455, Goals: 91, Total Points: 424, Plus/Minus: -20, PIM: 854, PPP: 28, GWG: 13, AverageShots: 620, IceT: 173 mins
If I were picking a great group of defense I wouldn’t take this one. If I were picking the most injury prone defense… they might be a good option. Why Yzerman offered Salo (164gp) a contract is beyond me. The guy is made of glass. Also Mattias Ohlund (139gp)… does he play anymore? Or is he retired? He’s on the roster… I digress. I suppose adding Salo to the core of new acquired Matt Carle (244gp), Eric Brewer (217gp), and Victor Hedman (214gp) is an alright idea. Especially because after those top 4 they have Lee (128gp), Bergeron (126gp), Mikkelson (93gp) and Aulie (76gp) who when put together do NOT make a winning defense.
Matt Carle signed for too much money, period. He hit the market in a dry year and as a result Tampa offered him a contract that the Flyers weren’t interested in matching. His 113pts have him in 22nd spot in the last 3 seasons so some of that money was definitely warranted. He can move a puck and that makes him very important to this defense. He (+53) and Salo (+18) who are both noobs to Tampa are the only defensemen who figure into prominent roles that have plus ratings over the past 3 seasons. As a team their -20 is middle of the pack at 18th, which isn’t the end of the world especially because the forwards on this team are led by the likes of ageless St. Louis and wonder-boy Stamkos. The addition of Carle and Salo give them better offense from the point, and seeing as Brewer and Hedman can both take a lot of abuse the performance of this D will come down to health/depth. Which are question marks… especially for Salo.
Games Played: 1386, Goals: 107, Total Points: 492, Plus/Minus: +79, PIM: 777, PPP: 41, GWG: 23, AverageShots: 795, IceT: 129 mins
When I think of the Sharks, I think of a perennially underachieving team that everyone has (at one time or another) picked as Stanley Cup threats. Problem is, they’ve never gotten that far. The blame usually falls to Thornton and Marleau, wily veterans who can never quite take that next step towards greatness. An aspect of the Sharks team that is overlooked is the effectiveness of this defense. If Dan Boyle and Brent Burns were in the PP category by themselves they would rank 11th out of 30 teams with 28pts. Combine them with the rest of the D and the Sharks come 2nd behind Calgary with 41 PP points. They’re also 4th in points all together at 492, and tied for 1st in Game Winners by D at 23 with LA; so clearly they get it done offensively.
Beyond the offense they provide the Sharks D is also very hardy with Boyle (233gp), Stuart (230gp), Vlasic (226gp), Murray (212gp), Burns (208gp) and Demers (183gp) are all over (or in Demers’s case) close to that 200 game mark. Beyond those 6 only Justin Braun appears ready for a NHL assignment (94gp) which is the only bit worth worrying over. As an entire group the Sharks have only 129 minutes for Average Total Ice Time (19th) which is because they have (quite literally) no one after their top 7. The number 8 and 9 D-men are Nick Petrecki and Matt Irwin (according to CapGeek) who are pretty much unknowns on the NHL stage. A couple of injuries to this defense ESPECIALLY in this shortened season could be devastating to the Sharks. If healthy however, this is one of the best defenses in the league, bar none.
Games Played: 1384, Goals: 97, Total Points: 456, Plus/Minus: -38, PIM: 825, PPP: 42, GWG: 18, AverageShots: 636, IceT: 151 mins
The 3 horses at the top of this depth chart will make or break Calgary’s season. Jay Bouwmeester (246gp) hasn't missed a game a game in 3 seasons, in fact… he hasn’t missed a game SINCE BEFORE THE LAST LOCKOUT! 2004! Go look up his stats. 589 consecutive games now, for 6th all-time in ironman streaks. His offense may have dipped since moving to Calgary, but the Flames are notoriously poor offensively (beyond Iginla) so how can you fault him for that. The addition of 20th ranked (over the past 3 seasons) D-scorer Dennis Widemann (233gp) should inject some offense into Calgary’s PP. His 15 PPP give the Flames the distinction of having (statistically) the best PP defense over the past 3 seasons. Their 456 total points puts them 7th overall which is great and their 18 Game Winners is 8th. Combine that with the fact these guys take the 8th most shots on average and eat up the 5th most minutes and you ask, what’s wrong with this D?
Indeed that has been a question surrounding Calgary for a long time. They have the goalie in Kipprusoff, they have the leader in Iginla, they seem to have an above-average staff of defensemen, so why are they consistently one of those bubble teams in the West? Well the stats in this case tell us they (like a lot of teams who struggle) lack depth. After Bouwmeester, Widemann, and Giordano (225gp) the wheels fall off this group. Sarich (195gp) is getting a bit long in the tooth for my taste, while Butler (145gp) remains relatively unproven but seems like he may have a serviceable career in a number 4-5 role guy. After that Babchuk (114gp), Carson (75gp), Smith (58gp) and Brodie (57gp) are sketchy space fillers at best.
Games Played: 1324, Goals: 72, Total Points: 321, Plus/Minus: -96, PIM: 865, PPP: 19, GWG: 13, AverageShots: 566, IceT: 140 mins
With a next to last plus/minus ranking of -96 (Columbus takes that cake) the Ducks prove that having the most man games doesn’t translate into having a sound defense in the grand scheme of things. They also have the 27th ranked offensive contribution, and the 23rd ranked PP point producers from the back end. So it’s not as if the Ducks are trading offensive firepower for sieve-like defensive zone coverage. If Visnovsky was still in Anaheim this team would have the 7th ranked offense from D-men, and would also be 4th in games played… but he isn’t they traded him to the Isles for a 2nd Round pick this year (which might be an alright deal if he never comes back LOL). That trade never made sense to me, I guess the Ducks wanted to get something for an aging defensemen.
When you look at this defense as an opposing team you aren’t scared. Beauchemin (245gp), Allen (228gp), Lydman (219gp) and Souray (101gp) are all guys who should be in 5 or 6 roles on a good team. They’ll be asked to play a lot of minutes this year, which might be asking too much. Fowler (158gp) and Sbisa (156gp) are both competent young defenders who should be able to pick up the slack for the aging vets. Should they both be playing top 4 minutes? That’s a good question. The Ducks are hoping for a lot with this crew of D-men. Namely that there won’t be any injuries so they don’t have to dip into their farm system containing the likes of Hendry, Smaby, Parent and Guenin with NHL experience.
Games Played: 1322, Goals: 60, Total Points: 331, Plus/Minus: -12, PIM: 696, PPP: 14, GWG: 16, AverageShots: 434, IceT: 145 mins
Switching gears from a defense that looks awful, the Devils D actually seems rather good. That’s the first time you could say that since the Stevens, Niedermayer days. They may rank 29th in PPP with just 14, 28th in average shots with 434, 27th in goals with 60, and 25th in total points with 331 (yes I’m going to make a case for them after that spiel), but the Devils have never been about flash. Their -12 collective ranking has them directly in the middle of the pack at 16th, respectable. They’re also in the bottom half of penalized defenses at 22nd, despite having a few guys whom I would consider tough to play against in Anton Volchenkov (193gp), Bryce Salvador (161gp) and Adam Larsson (65gp) whose efforts are relatively handicapped since he was just a rookie last year. Add to that string of tough defense-first guys the likes of surprisingly good Andy Greene (216), vet Tallinder (203), puck mover Zidlicky (187) and likely in the 7-hole Mark Fayne (139) and you end up with what I would call a solid underrated defense. Definitely nowhere near the top of the pile in terms of skill, but dependable in front of the always terrific Marty Brodeur.
There you have it folks the top 10 teams in terms of games played (experience) in the last 3 seasons. Do games played matter? Well it does say something about a team’s durability. But there are some teams in this top-10 that I would call… just plain bad. And I didn’t even get to what I would consider the best defense! Get ready for the bonus paragraph.
11. New York Rangers
Games Played: 1308, Goals: 85, Total Points: 420, Plus/Minus: +84, PIM: 706, PPP: 22, GWG: 19, AverageShots: 529, IceT: 130 mins
It’s no secret that the Rangers defense is an extremely stay-at-home type of group and not one to go out and take offensive risks. Then it might come as a bit of a shocker that they’re actually ranked 10th in total points. Seeing as I would consider a few of the teams in the top-10 in D-scoring to be VERY suspect defensively (WPG-CMB-TB) I would say the Rangers D have done well for themselves to be ranked so high.
Outside of Del Zotto (204gp), who has 89pts in the last 3 seasons, I wouldn’t consider any of these guys a real offensive threat. It should be noted however, that Dan Girardi (244gp) a defensive specialist/shot blocking machine has been able to pile up a very respectable 84 points during a 3 year period. Marc Staal another defensive defensemen has managed 61pts which is also a nice total on a defensively minded team. One guy who gets shafted because he’s just starting his career is Ryan McDonough (122gp). His 41pts and +41 rating will likely improve by the time he reaches that 200gp plateau. Outside of those top-4 (who are excellent) things do start to get dicey. Gilroy (194gp), Stralman (177gp), Sauer (95gp), and Bickel (51gp) should be right where they are, fighting over third pair minutes. Stralman’s 70pts make him arguably the most valuable of those four, but his defensive lapses also make him forgettable.
Definitely not as deep as some D-corps, but when it's all said and done they do a great job. I might go back and do some more of this with Blocked Shots, although since Blocks is a relatively new category in hockey (in terms of being kept track of diligently) it might not work out quite so well. We'll see!
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