The All-Time Best Defensemen in NHL History
The ole story that “offense wins the story and defense wins the glory” is a known fact. A defenseman may base their skill on shutting down the opposition, brute size or as a pure scoring machine. To be the best blue liner, you must combine all of these attributes and much more.
This top 10 list is based purely on the individual who has the complete package. The best defenseman must be an amazing skater, smart on the defensive end while having an offensive awareness.
Every Stanley Cup winning team has at least two great defenseman, this list is no different; cup rings to help solidify the best.
And now, we will not keep you waiting...
#10 – Chris Chelios
It will surprise people to know that Chelios won the Norris Trophy three times as the NHL best defenseman. It will also surprise people that he was a NHL all-star eleven times and has won three Stanley Cup rings his 24 year career so far. Chelios’ nearly 2800 penalty minutes and nearly 900 points make him the perfect example of the “stay at home” defenseman with a scorer’s edge.
A career highlight was the famous fight between him and Flyers goalie Ron Hextall back in his Montreal days. Known to be one of the ugliest players to ever play, he is my tenth best defenseman in history.
#9 – Scott Stevens
Punishment. Fear. Intimidation.
These are the three powerful things that Stevens brought to the game and to the Washington and New Jersey Franchises. He was definitely not connected to a player who scored points, though his finished his career with over 900. Stevens was simply a pit-bull that feared players accepting passes at centre ice and no one wanted to meet him in the corners.
If anyone dared to have their head down with the puck, Stevens would end your career; ask Eric Lindros.
#8 – Larry Robinson
Robinson was known as “Big Bird” for his 6 foot 5 inch frame but brought more to the game then just a tall body. It was not his 958 NHL points that were impressive either. What really made Robinson special was his unbreakable record of having a +730 plus/minus ratio during his 20 year career.
His incredible smart defensive awareness won Robinson two Norris trophies and six Stanley Cups.
#7 – Eddie Shore
Here we have a defenseman that won the Hart Trophy four times. Yes, this did happen in the 1930’s but this will also never happen again. This was also during a time where there were only 50 games in a season and defensemen were not to be anywhere in the offensive zone.
Shore knew how to get penalties and was obviously recognized for his physical play.
#6 – Denis Potvin
Four Stanley Cups, three Norris trophies and five 80+ point seasons make up a good part of Potvin’s career. He brought offense to Rhode Island like no other defenseman and did it with style and pizzazz.
Potvin had one of the greatest seasons a defensemen could have in 1979 with his 31 goals, 70 assists and 101 points.
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#5 – Paul Coffey
Three time Norris winner and 14 time all-star, Paul Coffey was the best skating defenseman in the history of the game (sorry Bobby Orr fans). There has not ever been a player who can skate as strongly or smoothly as this man. When he got the puck he would turn on the jets and make plays as good as Orr.
This player has been on eight different teams, in over 1000 NHL games and is the owner of many records. As a defensemen, he scored 48 goals in a season, 8 shorthanded goals in a season and shares the most points in a game by a defensemen with 8.
The main reason why Coffey is not rated any higher is because of the lack of defensive presence. If he was caught in the offensive zone, he could easily skate back to break a two on one but also failed many times. Physically, Coffey was not the biggest or strongest but his offensive was one of the best ever.
#4 – Doug Harvey
Harvey was the pioneer of the offensive defenseman and started his career in 1947. He had an incredible streak of winning seven Norris trophies in a span of eight seasons but one person has that record beat. The six Stanley Cups he won with the Montreal Canadiens were no fluke; he made the team better.
This player managed half a point a game during his 20 year career which was thought impossible in those days.
#3 – Raymond Bourque
It took 23 seasons and a trade to the Colorado Avalanche but Raymond Bourque finally held Lord Stanley’s mug. The previous 21 years in Boston are where he was made as one of the best ever.
Bourque scored 410 times, assisted 1169 times, totaled 1579 points and all of these are career records by a defenseman. Include all that magic with the 19 consecutive all-star appearances, Calder trophy and five Norris trophies in his cabinet; this justifies him as at least #3 on anyone’s list.
#2 – Bobby Orr
I am aware that I will be getting an ear full for putting Orr #2 but hear me out. He would have been on top of my mountain three months ago but then Nicklas Lidstrom won another cup to justify my though process(more on him in a second).
Orr was the most electrifying defenseman in history and was even thought to be the best player overall…..ever. This man revolutionized the defensive position and made it officially “okay” to score goals.
Sadly his career was cut extremely short as he only played in 657 games due to injury. Orr had far too many knee surgeries to recover from and this is what hurt me to put him #1. If we put Orr on top of all defensemen then we have to put Mario Lemieux as the best forward.
Over his short career, Orr did earn many awards including a Calder trophy, eight consecutive Norris trophies, and two Conn Smythe awards along with two Stanley Cups. Players could not catch him; he was the fastest player of his time and scored so many beautiful goals.
No doubt a phenomenal blue liner, just not the overall best.
And my winner for the best defenseman in NHL history goes to…
#1 – Nicklas Lidstrom
This was a tough one to call but Nicklas Lidstrom has earned this prestigious justice. Face the facts, his consistency day in and day out is better then anyone else’s in history. No one can or has played the amount of minutes every single game like Lidstrom and done it so well.
I understand he is does not have that physical presence of previous names but his awareness is second to none. Lidstrom makes an art of containing players as oppose to destroying them. The puck may go by him but the player will not and he perfected the “brains before brawns” tactic.
Lidstrom has played in over 1200 games missing only 17 games since 1991 while tallying 938 points. He has been nominated for nine Norris trophies winning six of them and a Conn Smythe to go with his four Stanley Cups.
Since Lidstrom still plays in the league and has a good three years left in him, these statistics can only improve even more. Watching him play is far beyond anyone story-telling his career.
The guy is a machine.
Top / Best All-Time Hockey Defensemen Honorable Mention:
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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