Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All-Decade Team: D

The cliche "defense wins championships" especially fit the first half of the '00s, as trap-heavy teams such as the New Jersey Devils raised the Cup and generated many Cinderella stories. But even once the lockout expired, great D were still at a premium. Although the Carolina Hurricanes managed to win the Cup without a dominant shutdown D, both the Ducks (Pronger and Niedermayer) and the Red Wings (Lidstrom and Rafalski) allocated huge chunks of cap space for top notch D.

Is there any point in even going on with a charade that Lidstrom wouldn't get the first defensive spot? My answer is an emphatic "no" but if you feel differently (or if I left anyone out) say so in the comments.

Nicklas Lidstrom
Points: A Shitload
Awards: A fuckton
Respect: Oodles and noodles of,

With six Norris trophies, plenty of points and two Stanley Cups is there really any way to deny Lidstrom is the best defensive player of the decade? Honestly, it's not crazy to ask if the guy is the MVP of the '00s, period. It's difficult to quantify Lidstrom's immaculate abilities until you get the chance to watch the surefire Hall of Famer in person.

Just a Beautiful Hockey Mind.


Chris Pronger

401 regular season points, 69 playoff points
Four All-Star games, one First-Team All-Star, one Norris and one Hart(!) trophy. Won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim; was a huge factor in the surprise SCF run of the Edmonton Oilers

If there's one elite D who rubs/elbows people the wrong way, it's the man who has been known as "The Orbs" and "Stompy" during his impressive career. Right around the turn of the century, Pronger accomplished the rare feat of winning not only a Norris trophy but also an MVP trophy to boot.

Along with being one of the most intimidating D in the league, Pronger's shown some impressive chops as a powerplay point man. Although he left Edmonton prematurely and on bad terms, his work with the Oilers proved he could take a team to the Finals without much help.

Scott Niedermayer
385 regular season points, 58 playoff points
Four All-Star teams, one Norris trophy, one Conn Smythe trophy, three First Team All-Star selections

While Scott Stevens and Pronger intimidated forwards, Niedermayer combined great defensive instincts with sublime offensive skills to collect three Stanley Cups in a dominant decade of hockey. He plays well in big game situations, hitting double digits in post-season scoring three times including an impressive 18 points in the 2002-03 Cup run with New Jersey.

Niedermayer also accomplished the rare feat of snaring a Norris trophy during Lidstrom's reign of terror.

Brian Rafalski
401 regular season points, 74 playoff points
Two All-Star games

It's stunning to see that Rafalski actually outscored Niedermayer in the playoffs and the regular season in this decade, but it shows just how quietly impressive the American born offensive defenseman has been. Much like Niedermayer, Rafalski earned his last Cup playing outside of New Jersey alongside a star D (in his case, Nicklas Lidstrom).

Rafalski was one of the best free agent signings of the post-lockout era and is enjoying another great season in 2008-09.

Rob Blake
408 regular season points, 43 playoff points
Five All-Star games

This year's been a bounce-back year for Rob Blake. After struggling for a few years on some bad Los Angeles Kings teams, it looks like Blake will make at least one more significant run at adding another Stanley Cup to his resume with the Sharks. Although he's not the dominant combination of intimidation and skill he was in the earlier part of the decade, Blake's terrifying point shot and physical presence are still hard to top.

Honorable mentions: Wade Redden (kind of), Zdeno Chara (kind of), Dion Phaneuf (too young), Andrei Markov, Dan Boyle, Mathieu Schneider and a few who missed time with injuries.

5 comments:

Tom said...

Gotta give it to Pronger -- a Hart for a defenseman is a conversation-ender.

jamestobrien said...

Pronger's definitely up there, but voters seem to be choosing Niedermayer so far. Tough call. I wonder if Pronger's elbowing and stomping are hurting him in the "voting booth."

Geoff said...

Wow, you mention Redden and Boyle, yet you somehow forget Kaberle and his 400 points this decade, he ain't no proger, but mentioning Redden before....

jamestobrien said...

You're right, Geoff. I knew I was opening a can of worms with the honorable mentions spot.

Dan Boyle and Tomas Kaberle put up some good numbers in the decade, although they're still probably honorable mentions at the most. With Boyle's awesome year in San Jose, it makes you wonder what kind of numbers Kaberle could put up if he was outside Toronto.

Anyone who can go 4 for 4 in an accuracy shooting competition gets my respect.

The Puck Stops Here said...

A forgotten man who should be here. Sergei Zubov