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Giordano lands on NHL.com's top defencemen list

Friday, 09.5.2014 / 9:17 AM MT / News
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Giordano lands on NHL.com\'s top defencemen list

Who are the best 14 players in the NHL at each position as teams prepare for the start of the 2014-15 season? Arpon Basu, Brian Compton, Corey Masisak and Dan Rosen have cast their votes and the result is NHL.com's "Top 14 for '14-15" project. Each first-place vote is worth 14 points, each second-place vote is worth 13, continuing in descending order to each 14th-place vote being worth one. There are two tiebreakers. First, which player appeared on more ballots? Second, which player had the highest individual ranking? If the voting was exactly the same for each player, it was declared a tie. Does NHL.com's list match your rankings for the best players in the League entering the 2014-15 campaign?

The value of defencemen has long been the most difficult to assess properly because much of what a good defenceman does is not easily translated into statistics.

While that still remains largely true today, the new world of advanced statistics has allowed certain defencemen who specialize in facing the opposing team's best players and making sure the puck spends as little time as possible in their own zone to get the recognition they deserve.

On the flip side, these new metrics have also exposed what has long been known as the "stay-at-home" defenceman as simply being a player that spends an inordinate amount of time defending while the opposing team plays with the puck.

The great majority of the 14 defencemen listed here excel at both ends of the ice, putting up offensive numbers while having the trust of their respective coaches to face top opposition and still find a way to control play.

The list shows how much the NHL values the ability to produce from the blue line, which in turn gives teams an added offensive boost at a time when scoring at even strength is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Of the 14 defencemen listed, all but one finished in the top 30 in scoring among defencemen last season, the lone exception being Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks.

Vlasic appears to be the closest thing on this list to a "stay-at-home" defenceman, but his advanced metrics show him to be an excellent possession driver who spends his time on the ice in the offensive zone more often than not.

The statistics generally considered to demonstrate a defenceman's ability are blocked shots and hits, yet only four of the players on this list were among the League's top 30 defencemen in blocked shots last season (Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo, Niklas Kronwall and Vlasic) and three were among the top 30 defencemen in hits (Weber, Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara).

One reason for that might be that both blocked shots and hits only occur when that player's team does not have the puck, and these 14 defencemen are part of the elite because their team usually tends to have the puck when they are on the ice.

As difficult as it is to rank defenceman, the NHL.com voting of the final 14 was nearly unanimous, even if the order was not. There were just three defencemen who received a vote but did not make the final list.

Here is NHL.com's list of the top 14 defencemen in the NHL:

1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings, 52 points (2 first-place votes)

2013-14: 10 goals, 37 points, 78 games played

None of Doughty's statistics, advanced or otherwise, jump off the page. He was 30th among NHL defencemen in scoring last season and his possession numbers, while strong, are not outstanding. But Doughty has played a central role in two Stanley Cup victories and two gold medal performances for Canada at the Olympics in the past four years, establishing himself as one of the top players in the NHL. All this before his 25th birthday. Scary.

2. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators, 51 points (1)

2013-14: 23 goals, 56 points, 79 games played

Weber has scored at least 15 goals in each of the six full NHL seasons he has played. His 129 goals scored during the past eight seasons are 25 more than the next closest defenceman in that span. In addition to that, Weber plays some of the most difficult minutes of any defenceman in the NHL, and he plays a lot of them.

3. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins, 49 points (1)

2013-14: 17 goals, 40 points, 77 games played

Chara is like Bruins coach Claude Julien's 6-foot-9, 255-pound security blanket. A defensive-zone faceoff against the opposing team's top line? Send Chara. Big power play when you're down a goal? Send Chara. Need to kill a penalty while up a goal? Send Chara. Every year, we wait to find out if Father Time will catch up to Chara, who will turn 38 in March. Every year, we keep on waiting.

4. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, 45 points

2013-14: 6 goals, 61 points, 79 games played

Keith is not Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's go-to defensive stopper, but there's a good reason for that. Quenneville prefers to give the 2014 Norris Trophy winner ample opportunity to produce on offense, and Keith takes full advantage. No NHL defenceman has more than the 286 points Keith has put up during the past six seasons, and his 55 assists last season were tops among defencemen and sixth in the NHL overall. Keith is also extremely durable, missing 18 games in his nine NHL seasons.

5. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens, 37 points

2013-14: 10 goals, 53 points, 82 games played

Subban has often been called the most polarizing player in the NHL. After his performance in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, that should no longer be the case. Subban led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 14 points in 17 games to help them reach the Eastern Conference Final, the second time they have reached the NHL's final four in his five years with the team. In 43 career playoff games Subban has 30 points, an 18.6-percent bump from his regular-season points-per-game average.

6. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, 34 points

2013-14: 20 goals, 74 points, 82 games played

Karlsson is the NHL's most dominant offensive defenceman. It's that simple, and it's not debatable. Karlsson is second in points among defencemen since the start of his career in 2009-10 with 237, five behind Keith. Karlsson missed 31 of Ottawa's 48 games in 2012-13 with a lacerated Achilles tendon and he's played 49 fewer games than Keith over the past five seasons, yet he sits just five points back. No, Karlsson is not a defensive stopper in the traditional sense, but when he's on the ice the puck is often far, far away from his own net. So if offense is indeed the best defence, Karlsson's defence is consistently excellent.

7. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, 30 points

2013-14: 8 goals, 51 points, 81 games played

Pietrangelo is, in a sense, the ideal defenceman because he does everything well. He is not the best in the NHL in any given category or skill, but he's very close to the top in just about all of them. He is one of the League's best penalty killers while also being one of its top power-play specialists, he faces the toughest opposition on his team and plays the most minutes. Whatever Blues coach Ken Hitchcock needs, Pietrangelo provides in spades.

8. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, 29 points

2013-14: 8 goals, 43 points, 82 games played

No one in the NHL has spent more time on the ice in the past two seasons than Suter, a stabilizing force on Wild coach Mike Yeo's defence. Much like Pietrangelo, Suter plays in all situations and faces the toughest competition on the opposing team. What's perhaps most revealing is the way Suter has helped his defence partner, Jonas Brodin, not only play that difficult role in his first two NHL seasons, but shine in doing so.

9. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames, 20 points

2013-14: 14 goals, 47 points, 64 games played

Perhaps no player in the NHL benefited from the advent of advanced statistics to show the merits of his game last season more than Giordano. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, there were nine Flames forwards who played at least 200 minutes at 5-on-5 with Giordano. All nine saw their Corsi-for percentage, measuring shot attempts for and against, plunge dramatically when they were on the ice without Giordano. The average drop was a whopping 11.1 percent. On top of that, Giordano had the third-highest points-per-game average among NHL defencemen, behind only Karlsson and Keith.

10. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, 18 points

2013-14: 13 goals, 55 points, 75 games played

It took four years, but Tampa Bay was rewarded last season for selecting Hedman with the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. Hedman finished fourth in scoring among defencemen last season, and his emergence as a top-flight blueliner was a major reason the Lightning stayed afloat while Steven Stamkos recovered from a broken leg that forced him to miss the bulk of the season. At age 23, there's no reason to believe the 6-foot-6, 233-pound defender will slow down.

11. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers, 16 points

2013-14: 14 goals, 43 points, 77 games played

In his third full NHL season, McDonagh emerged as the Rangers' best defenceman and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. McDonagh led the Rangers in playoff scoring with 17 points in 25 games, had a team-high seven points on the power play and played 26:48 per game. He turned 25 on June 13, the day the Rangers lost the fifth and deciding game of the Final to the Kings, so his breakout season was likely just a glimpse of things to come.

12. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes, 16 points

2013-14: 15 goals, 44 points, 80 games played

Ekman-Larsson has become one of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett's most trusted defencemen. That trust does not come easily, particularly for a player who is 23 years old. He faced some of the League's toughest competition last season, started fewer than half of his shifts in the offensive zone and still finished 14th among NHL defencemen in points.

13. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks, 10 points

2013-14: 5 goals, 24 points, 81 games played

Prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it would have been fair to consider Vlasic among the most underrated players in the NHL. But playing alongside Doughty for Canada in Sochi showed the world what the people in San Jose have known for quite some time. Without producing eye-catching numbers, Vlasic has become one of the League's best puck-moving defencemen.

14. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings, 10 points

2013-14: 8 goals, 49 points, 79 games played

When Nicklas Lidstrom retired after the 2011-12 season, there was good reason for Red Wings fans to be concerned. Lidstrom is one of the greatest defencemen of all time, but Kronwall has done as well as could be reasonably expected to fill the void he left behind. Kronwall is the NHL's seventh most productive defencemen since Lidstrom's departure two seasons ago, all the while maintaining his intimidating physical presence for forwards courageous enough to carry the puck over the blue line against him.

Others receiving votes: Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers (1 point); Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings (1 point); Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks (1 point)


1. Drew Doughty

2. Shea Weber

3. Zdeno Chara

4. Mark Giordano

5. P.K. Subban

6. Duncan Keith

7. Erik Karlsson

8. Alex Pietrangelo

9. Niklas Kronwall

10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

11. Ryan Suter

12. Ryan McDonagh

13. Victor Hedman

14. Marc-Edouard Vlasic


1. Zdeno Chara

2. Shea Weber

3. Duncan Keith

4. Drew Doughty

5. Ryan Suter

6. Erik Karlsson

7. Alex Pietrangelo

8. Victor Hedman

9. P.K. Subban

10. Ryan McDonagh

11. Niklas Kronwall

12. Mark Giordano

13. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

14. Brent Seabrook


1. Drew Doughty

2. Zdeno Chara

3. Duncan Keith

4. Shea Weber

5. P.K. Subban

6. Erik Karlsson

7. Alex Pietrangelo

8. Victor Hedman

9. Ryan Suter

10. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

11. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

12. Mark Giordano

13. Ryan McDonagh

14. Jake Muzzin


1. Shea Weber

2. Drew Doughty

3. Duncan Keith

4. P.K. Subban

5. Zdeno Chara

6. Ryan Suter

7. Erik Karlsson

8. Alex Pietrangelo

9. Ryan McDonagh

10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

11. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

12. Mark Giordano

13. Victor Hedman

14. Brian Campbell

Author: Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com