While goals put fans in the seats, preventing them puts Stanley Cup banners in the rafters. Last season the Chicago Blackhawks were the stingiest defensive team in the NHL, giving up only 2.02 goals per game.
It's no coincidence that they went on to win the Cup.
In 2011-12, the Los Angeles Kings were the second-best defensive squad in hockey, giving up only 2.07 goals per game. They too have a championship banner to show for their commitment to detail in their own end.
The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks were the two best defensive teams in 2010-11, and would eventually meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
You get the picture: In the NHL, preventing goals is more important than scoring them. A balance is needed of course, but success begins in your own end. And that success comes from building a strong contingent of competent defenders that can move the puck up ice while defending the house.
This isn't a listing for fantasy hockey. We aren't going to treat the defensive position like the Professional Hockey Writers' Association does every year when it awards the Norris Trophy to the blueliner who accumulated the most points.
To that point, this isn't a guess as to who will score the most. The purpose is to rank the guys who give their teams the best chance to win on a nightly basis through their contributions at both ends of the ice.
The separation between the sixth-best defender here and the 17th-best is small. If you think a player shoulder be moved up 10 or 11 spots, odds are he could be.