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Monday, 17 September 2012

More Effective Defence: Offensive or Defensive


As you all know by now the NHL is officially in lockout mode. As many anticipated the deadline passed by without a new CBA. Since there is not any NHL hockey going on and there will not be much news to report on, I will be making the transition to cover some of the AHL and junior teams. I may even follow some NHL players in Europe. So bare with me over the next few month/however long the players are willing to hold out.

Todays article will be focusing on NHL defenceman and whether it is more beneficial to have a defensive minded defenceman or a offensive minded defenceman. Huge thanks to Jordan who suggested the idea via twitter make sure to follow him!
To make the comparison we'll looking at various aspects to a defencemans game; Goals, points, ice-time and plus/minus. In addition to those aspects we'll take a look at the effect they had on their teams.

Offensive Minded Defenceman

Erik Karlsson: 19 Goals and 59 Assists for 78 points. +/- 16, Averaged 25 minutes a game (27 shifts).
Karlsson was second in points for the Ottawa Senators who made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Karlsson had a fantastic breakout season that earned him the Norris Trophy. In addition to winning the Norris, he also set a new Senators record for points by a defenceman in a single season. His play this season was vital to the success of the Senators who came out and surprised everyone with their deep playoff run. Despite only being 22 and having only spent one year in the NHL Karlsson was a leader on the blue line. Every time he got the puck and broke out of his end goalies started cringe as he led all defenceman in goals and points.

Shea Weber: 19 Goals and 30 Assists for 49 points, +/- 21, Averaged 26 minutes a game (29 shifts.)
Weber was fourth in points for the Nashville Predators who made it to the Western Conference Semi Finals.

Weber is the captain of the Nashville Predators and has always been a steady reliable defenceman. He was a finalist for the Norris Trophy  and will likely have his name on that and a Stanley Cup one day. In addition to his ability to put the puck in the net, Weber likes to play a very physical game and has a large physical presence.

Kris Letang: 10 Goals and 32 Assists for 42 points, +/- 21, Averaged 25 minutes a game (25 Shifts).
Kris Letang led all Penguins defenceman in points last and helped his team make the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.

While Letang's point totals are lower than the other two defenceman listed here, a large part of that is due to injury. He played in just 51 games (not including playoffs) and was still able to be the top scoring defenceman on the Penguins and finish the year with 42 points. There were defenceman who played all 82 games and didn't come close to 40 points. While Crosby, Malkin and Staal get the majority of attention from fans and media, Letang has quietly solidified himself as the top defenceman for the Penguins. During the stretch leading into the playoffs analysts were saying the Penguins would be in tough with Letang on the back end. Saying a team that has the star power of Crosby and Malkin may lose despite both of them playing is remarkable.

The "Stay at Home defenceman"

Hal Gill: 1 Goal and 12 Assists for 13 points, +/ -3, Averaged 17 minutes a game, 161 Blocked Shots.
Gill played on the Predators blue line along with Shea Weber.

Just by looking at the stats you can see the drastic difference between two teammates. Gill has always been a solid reliable defenceman, teams like that as they know what they're going to get. He's not a type of player who will be a top scoring defenceman but he's the type of player who will sacrifice his body to help the team. The biggest thing that stood out for me was his blocked shots. 161 shots is a lot of rubber to face for a defenceman but it just goes to show his dedication to his teammates he's willing to battle hard.

Zdeno Chara: 12 Goals and 40 Assists for 52 points, +/- 33, Averaged 25 minutes a game, 87 Blocked Shots.
Chara is the captain and leader of the Boston Bruins who made it to the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.

Chara is a unique players, not just because of his height, but his style of play. He plays a mixture of a offensive/defensive game. But unlike some of the offensive d-man he plays a more "complete" game. Chara makes sure everything is okay in his own end before heading to the offensive zone and likes to use his lethal shot from the point. Due to his long reach he is able to break up 2 on 1's and take the puck off opponents with little difficulty.

Dan Girardi: 5 goals and 24 Assists for 29 points, +/- 13, Averaged 26 minutes a game, 185 Blocked Shots.Girardi is a key leader on the New York Rangers blue line. The Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

At the beginning of the season Girardi was thrust into the role as an alternate captain and leader of the blue line due to an injury to Marc Staal. Girardi excelled with the added responsibility and was selected to play in the all-star game. Like Gill Girardi is not afraid to sacrifice his body night in and night out, during the 2011 season he led the league with 236 blocked shots. He's the type of player who doesn't get mention on the game sheet but is a key part of every victory, not bad for a player who wasn't even drafted!

Trying to decide which defence is more valuable to a team is extremely difficult as it's virtually like comparing pucks and sticks. Each team has 7 defenceman and each one of them is responsible for the success of a team. Most hockey fans don't enjoy watching two defensive minded teams battling it out and a successful team has unlikely hero's step up, so because of that I'd have to give the edge to the offensive minded defenceman. Watching Karlsson skate up the ice is pretty exciting and a lot of times helps benefit his team.

What do you think, which style of defence do you prefer?




  1. I'm gonna have to go with offensive defensemen too...mostly because of Karlsson. But teams still need quality defensive defensemen

  2. I knew you'd like the Karlsson part. He had an incrediable season and helps prove that offensive d-men are extremely valuable.
    It's tough because teams need both offensive and defensive d-men

  3. great article.. :)

  4. I love Dan Girardi..

  5. Thank you very much :)