Topping this year's list of the best defenseman is none other than "Big Z" himself, Zdeno Chara. The Bruins' captain has established himself as a tower of power at both ends of the ice, combining phenomenal defensive prowess and tremendous offensive ability with ruthless physicality.
On the offensive end, Chara boasts the hardest shot in the game today, which he regularly unleashes on opposing goaltenders. He also has solid vision and passing ability coupled with his size and strength make him an all-around threat in the offensive zone.
Defensively, Chara is a shut-down blueliner. He has a massive reach to go along with punishing physicality. He routinely eliminates opposing teams' scoring chances using his stick or shoulder. He possesses good shot-blocking ability and forces turnovers at an astounding rate.
Chara relishes the opportunity to physically impose his will on smaller opponents (more or less everyone else in the league) and loves to play in the dirty areas of the ice.
Chara combines his physical abilities with excellent leadership skills. He is more than willing to drop the gloves or deliver a questionable hit if he believes it will inspire his teammates.
In the locker room, Chara is one of the most popular and respected players, frequently going out of his way to help and support his teammates. His off-ice conduct translates well into on-ice performance, as his teammates tend to display a fierce loyalty toward their captain.
He has the rare ability to unite a disperate locker room and bring a team together on the ice.
The only flaws in Chara's game stem from his massive size. Despite his very good skating ability, he still struggles against elusive smaller forwards with a veteran savvy to match his own. He doesn't have the speed that players like Dan Boyle and Drew Doughty do to join the rush.
Finally, Chara is prone to allowing his emotion and passion for the game to overwhelm his composure, resulting in questionable hits and unnecessary penalties.
Despite those shortcomings, Chara is still the best blueliner in the game today. He has an excellent offensive skill set, shut-down defensive prowess, and world-class leadership abilities.
He's already won a Norris and a Stanley Cup, and if he continues his high level of play, he'll win at least one more of each before he finally hangs up his massive skates.