Nashville Predators: Why Shea Weber Is the Best Defenseman in Hockey

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Nashville Predators: Why Shea Weber Is the Best Defenseman in Hockey
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Ryan Suter is gone, but by matching a 14-year offer sheet from Philadelphia, the Nashville Predators locked up the best defenseman currently in the NHL.

Shea Weber can do it all. He has a blistering shot, capable of some day breaking Zdeno Chara's record in the hardest shot contest; he is one of the strongest and most physically intimidating players in the league; and he is the ideal power play quarterback.

His size and shot make every team fear playing against him and he was the main reason that Nashville had the best power play in the NHL last season. He led NHL defensemen with an astonishing 10 power play goals in 2011-12, more than twice as many as he scored at even strength.

Weber's ability to contribute on the power play shows how he is the perfect offensive weapon when the Predators need a goal. He is a terrific player in the clutch and sees more ice time than almost any other player in hockey.

He also scored two shorthanded goals last year. What kind of defenseman does that? Nobody else in hockey.

Despite putting up brilliant offensive numbers, Weber also keeps his mind on defense at the same time, unlike other offensive defensemen (Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, etc.). Weber's bone-crushing hits, high plus/minus ratings and high amounts of blocked shots show that he can be a threat to those trying to score on his team as well as those trying to stop his team from scoring.

Some other candidates that could be considered as best defensemen in hockey are Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Dustin Byfuglien and Alex Pietrangelo. Here's why Weber is better.

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Chara is a huge physical presence and has the only shot harder than Weber's in hockey. However, Chara is a bit older, and despite being still one of the best defensemen in hockey, anyone would rather have Weber for the next 10 years because of his age. Weber is also faster on the ice and blocks more shots than Chara.

Erik Karlsson had a terrific year as he led defensemen in points by 25 points. However, he is more offensively minded than Weber and hardly hits or blocks shots at all. He also had the worst plus/minus in hockey in 2010-11. Whatever version of Karlsson we see in 2013 is likely the real Erik Karlsson.

Dustin Byfuglien is an intimidating player who can score, but he is also a winger, so he can't be considered a full-time defenseman. Byfuglien is a great player, but even when he is on defense, he seems to have his mind on offense. He has only finished with a positive plus/minus rating once in seven NHL seasons, and he does not block shots or hit nearly as much as Weber.

Lastly, Pietrangelo is the only defenseman in the NHL that I can see eclipsing Weber in talent any time soon. Pietrangelo fits the bill as one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and he was a huge part of the Blues' success last season. He blocks shots and scores about just as often as Weber, but he is slightly smaller and less intimidating than Weber in size.

The Predators may be a defenseman short with Ryan Suter leaving for Minnesota, but the rest of the core is intact and the team still boasts one of the best goalies in hockey as well as the NHL's best defensemen: Shea Weber. 

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