NHL's Top 10 Grinders

Mike Burse@Burse21Correspondent IMarch 9, 2012

NHL's Top 10 Grinders

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    Everyone remembers the Detroit Red Wings "grind line" of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty. They were an integral part of the the Red Wings' Stanley Cup wins in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

    They provided solid defensive play and chipped in with timely goals when other teams focused on the bigger names—Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Shanahan, Larionov, Datsyuk, Hull. Without these grinders, the Red Wings would not have been a winning franchise.

    Here is a list dedicated to those hardworking, grinding forwards and defencemen.

    This list is based on statistical analysis up to, and including, March 8, 2012 games. It is based on hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, faceoffs, missed shots and games played.

    Without further delay, here are the top-10 grinders this season (in no particular order). Be sure to comment with your thoughts on each player and whom you think deserves to be on this list that is not.

Mark Fistric

1 of 10

    He is a 25-year-old, 6'2", 233 lb defenceman for the Dallas Stars with 205 hits, 91 blocked shots and eight takeaways through 52 games this season.

    He even has one faceoff win this year. He is a solid dependable defender for the Stars that makes life much tougher for players in his zone.

Brooks Orpik

2 of 10

    He is a 31-year-old, 6'1", 219 lb defenceman for the Pittsburgh Penguins with 215 hits, 106 blocked shots and 10 takeaways through 57 games this season.

    He has been a solid, hard-nosed defenceman for many years now. He is a tough player to play against and knows how to take the body. He becomes a very valuable player over the course of a seven-game series and wears down opposing forwards.

Steve Ott

3 of 10

    He is a 29-year-old, 6'0", 190 lb forward for the Dallas Stars with 219 hits, 20 blocked shots and 21 takeaways through 61 games this season.

    He has also been valuable in the faceoff circle, winning 56.8 percent of his draws. These numbers show why he was a much sought after commodity at the trade deadline.

Matt Martin

4 of 10

    He is a 22-year-old, 6'3", 210 lb forward for the New York Islanders with 314 hits, 35 blocked shots and 31 takeaways through 67 games this season.

    When playing Matt Martin, defencemen know he will finish his hits on the forecheck all night. He is still much younger than most players on this list and should become a solid third line player for years to come.

David Steckel

5 of 10

    He is a 29-year-old, 6'6", 215 lb forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs with 143 hits, 56 blocked shots and 28 takeaways through 64 games this season.

    He has also proved valuable at the faceoff dots once again this season winning 57.8 percent of his draws.

    He is a player who has seen increased ice time and responsibilities since the coaching change to Randy Carlyle.

    The Leafs would do well to keep him in the fold for next year, as he has proven to be a very valuable third/fourth line role player.

    Look for him to excel even further with a clearly defined role from the Leafs' new coach.

Martin Hanzal

6 of 10

    He is a 25-year-old, 6'6", 236 lb forward for the Phoenix Coyotes with 196 hits, 28 blocked shots and 38 takeaways through 54 games this season.

    He has also won 53.3 percent of his faceoffs this season. Martin was originally a high draft pick of the Coyotes. His offensive game is not at the level one would expect; he still is not in his prime and has room for improvement.

    However, on the defensive side he has proven to be a key component of the Coyotes' recent successes.

Ladislav Smid

7 of 10

    He is a 26-year-old, 6'3", 210 lb defenceman for the Edmonton Oilers with 160 hits, 160 blocked shots and 25 takeaways through 67 games this season.

    Smid was a key part of the trade that saw Chris Pronger leave Edmonton for Anaheim. While he is not, and will never be, a Chris Pronger, he has become a solid shutdown defenseman for a young Oilers squad.

    Smid still has some room for growth left in his game and is becoming a solid leader for the Oilers. Expect him to be a defenseman that could put up similar numbers to Robyn Regher in the coming years, as Edmonton looks to challenge for a Stanley Cup with their young guns.

Alexei Emelin

8 of 10

    He is a 25-year-old, 6'2", 220 lb defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens with 209 hits, 76 blocked shots and 11 takeaways through 56 games this season.

    When the Canadiens brought Emelin over from Russia this offseason, they knew what they were getting—a solid defender that can provide big hits. He started the year slowly getting used to the smaller ice surface. However, he is really coming into his own down the stretch.

    Aside from a miscue in a recent game where he laid a big hit on his own teammate (Erik Cole) and sent him head over heels, he has been great. Look for him to play an even bigger role on the Canadiens blue line next year.

Paul Gaustad

9 of 10

    He is a 30-year-old, 6'5", 212 lb forward for the Nashville Predators with 101 hits, 41 blocked shots and 22 takeaways through 59 games this season.

    He has also won 57.1 percent of his faceoffs this season. While I still believe that Nashville overpaid by sending a first-round pick to Buffalo for Gaustad, he has definitely been a big help to their lineup.

    Nashville signaled that they were trying to make a run for the Cup this season at the deadline with their acquisitions. Paul will be an integral part of this team in the playoffs and will take many key draws.

Dan Girardi

10 of 10

    He is a 27-year-old, 6'1", 206 lb defenceman for the New York Rangers with 173 hits, 152 blocked shots and 32 takeaways through 66 games this season.

    His first All-Star appearance was well deserved this season. He has been a rock on the Rangers blue line for a few years now. He is a perfect compliment to the type of player that Jon Tortorella wants to have on his team.

    Look for him to excel in this year's playoffs and help lead the Rangers on a deep run.