The Year Of The Defenseman

Dave McCarthyCorrespondent IJune 21, 2008

Heard on Episode 3.42 of AFITC

In less than two months, on what is considered a day of luck on the Chinese calendar, August 8th, 2008, or 08/08/08, the games of the 29th Olympiad will begin in Beijing, China in the year of the rat.

In the hockey world though, after watching the success of the Anaheim Ducks a year ago, the Detroit Red Wings most recently and now the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, it is quite clearly the year of the defenseman.

Now more than ever, general managers are starting to realize the value of building a team around a strong core of defenseman. Brian Burke understood this when the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

The Ducks blueline included the likes of future hall of fame defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer along with the rugged and reliable Francois Beauchemin.

Ken Holland understood this when his Detroit Red Wings captured the 2008 Stanley Cup with a defense corps that boasted the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Bryan Rafalski, Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall.

In both examples, the defensive prowess was the strength of both of these Stanley Cup winning teams, always able to make a quality first pass to get the puck out of the defensive zone and rarely allowing opponents to get in position for a dangerous scoring opportunity.

Following the example of the past two Stanley Cup winners, other general managers around the league seem to be buying into the importance of solid defensemen as twelve of the first twenty seven picks in the 2008 Entry Draft were defensemen including four of the first five.

Only time will tell if Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn and others will develop into the type of defensemen that the Ducks and Red Wings were so successful with but one thing is for sure, you can’t say GMs aren’t trying that route. But hey, all that was just rigamarole.