Ryan Suter and Shea Weber: Nashville's Overlooked Dynamic Duo
Mario Lemieux had Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Gretzky had Jari Curry, and Al MacInnis had Chris Pronger.
Even today, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are Pittsburgh's most recent gruesome twosome, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin are teaming up to propel Washington into the future, and Bryan Little is (or at least should be) feeding Ilya Kovalchuk pucks in Atlanta.
But what about the players in the cities that you don't know about?
What about a duo that makes beautiful music on the back-end in the Music City?
That'd be Shea Weber and the oft-overlooked Ryan Suter.
Both taken in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Predators certainly got their money's worth with the seventh overall selection of Suter, and the 49th selection of Weber: Both players have at least 40 points this season, and if they really turn it on in the team's last 10 games, each could reach 50.
Looking around the NHL, that's fairly impressive: Only seven teams have a pair of 40-point defensemen, and with eleven games remaining at most, it's unlikely that any other teams are going to be added to that list.
The team at the top is no surprise: Nashville's divisional dominator the Detroit Red Wings. With the ageless Nik Lidstrom notching 50 points this season, Brian Rafalski coming in second in the league amongst defensemen with 55 points and Niklas Kronwall posting 46 points, the Wings boast a scary defensive core.
As you continue looking at the trends on the list, it seems to bode well for the Predators: Four of the league's top teams (Detroit, San Jose, Chicago, and Boston) feature pairs of 40-point defensemen, while the Anaheim Ducks' former-championship duo of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer also have 40-each.
At least two sure-fire Hall of Fame candidates are on this list (Niedermayer and Lidstrom) while Pronger and Rob Blake are great bets for the Hall as well.
Along with the legends, Weber and Suter are alongside some of the most prominent offensive defensemen of this decade:
Dan Boyle (four 50-point seasons), Brian Campbell (soon-to-be three 40-point seasons), Zdeno Chara (five 40-point seasons) and Dion Phaneuf, and some bright young talents in Dennis Wideman, Duncan Keith, Mike Green, and Tom Gilbert.
While Weber is the goal scorer of the pair (19 goals to Suter's six and almost double the shots), Suter has become a bit more of a puck-mover (36 assists to Weber's 26), and both have shown the ability to dominate a power play (31 power play points between the two) along with logging big minutes for a balanced Predators' blueline, averaging 24 minutes a game.
Not huge minutes when looking at the Jay Bouwmeester's and Dion Phaneuf's of the world, but as the two 24-year olds (or soon-to-be in Weber's case) get more and more experience, that number can only go up.
While Ken Holland gets a lot of credit as being the smartest General Manager in the league (as well he should, having helped Detroit remain competitive for so many years), Nashville's General Manager David Poile is just as smart:
Along with drafting Suter, Weber, and Kevin Klein at the 2003 Draft (Whom we can attribute to a sturdy scouting staff), but Poile was also able to sign both Suter and Weber to affordable contracts.
Last June, just prior to the draft, Ryan Suter signed a four-year deal paying him $3.5 annually through 2012 on June 16th, and Weber signed just seven days later for three years at $4.5 million.
For two defensemen that can net well over 45-points a season you're paying $8 million a year?
That's one hell of a defense, and one big bang for your buck.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can contact him through his profile or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his previous work in his archives.
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