Top 10 NHL Defensemen of All Time

Chad IrvineContributor IIISeptember 20, 2011

Top 10 NHL Defensemen of All Time

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    Hockey is known for its hard hits and fast action, players who usually get all the recognition are the biggest, baddest and most aggressive players on the ice. These players are the ones who get overlooked and left out, but if it wasn't for these players, scores would be much higher, and goalies would be asked to do much more.

10. Scott Stevens

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    Scott Stevens dominated the ice for Washington, St. Louis and New Jersey, striking fear into anyone who he played against. He was drafted fifth overall in the 1982 draft by the Capitals, and quickly got involved with the team. His rookie season, Stevens played in 77 Games and had 42 points. His status as an aggressor escalated quickly as he accumulated over 350 penalty minutes his first two seasons alone. 

    Stevens averaged 41 points per season, not the greatest for a defensemen, but he made up for it on the half of the ice he was supposed to be great at. Stevens finished his career with a +/- rating of +393 in just over 1600 games. 

9. Chris Chelios

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    Chelios played for four different teams in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and even a short seven-game stunt with the Thrashers. Chris Chelios played 24 Seasons in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups. Chelios was dedicated to the game and played his heart out. He finished his career with 11 All-Star Games and a Silver Medal at the 2002 Olympics. 

    No. 24 played aggressively, once getting into a fight with Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall. Watching the games, Chelios seemed to be everywhere on the ice, feeding passes into the deep corner, then dropping back to block a shot or steal a puck. He did it with such grace, that it looked like the stolen passes were supposed to go to him. He ended his career with over 200 goals and 1,000 points, which puts him at No. 9 on the list.

8. Eddie Shore

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    Eddie Shore played before there was even a plus/minus system implemented in the NHL, but that didn't stop him from being one of the best.

    Shore ended his career with four Hart trophies, a feat which we will probably never see happen again. Shore played in eight NHL All-Star games and won two Stanley Cups. The main difference between those days and today's modern NHL was the length of the season, from 50 games to 82. Shore was recognized as an aggressor in the League and his No. 2 was retired by the Boston Bruins back in 1947. 

7. Larry Robinson

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    Known as "Big Bird" around the league, 6'5" Larry Robinson was an enforcer of the game, and opponents could see him coming at them from a mile away.

    He holds a record which may never be broken. The best plus/minus rating of all time. Over a 20-year career, Robinson accumulated a total rating of +730, which may never be broken again. Most great players will win three or four Stanley Cups in their career, but Robinson did the unthinkable winning six Cups in his career. Not only did he win many Cups, he also won two Norris Trophies for being the best defender in the NHL.

6. Denis Potvin

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    Five 80+ point seasons, Four Stanley Cups and Three Norris Trophies say it all about Potvin. He finished his career with over 1000 points and averaged almost one point per game.

    He was part of the four consecutive championships in New York with the Islanders. His best season was in 1978-1979, when he finished with over 100 points and 31 goals. Potvin wore No. 5 and had the honor of having the first jersey ever retired by the franchise in 1992. Of course, his name still lives on in the jeers of "Potvin Sucks" from Rangers fans whenever the Islanders come to visit. 

5. Paul Coffey

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    Coffey played on eight different teams in the NHL, and holds many records that still stand today. Coffey has the record of most points in a game by a defensemen (8) and most goals by a defensemen in a season (48).

    The reason he fell so far back in the list was his aggressive play on the offensive side of the puck. He may have scored many goals, but he also gave up many breakaway and 2-on-1 opportunities to opponents. Coffey was not the biggest or strongest, but his offensive aggression by a defender was something that made him stand out from the rest, which gives him the No. 5 ranking. In his list of accomplishments, Coffey has 14 all star appearances, three Norris Trophies and, like many in this countdown, he won four Stanley cups. Coffey's No. 7 is now retired by the Edmonton Oilers.

4. Doug Harvey

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    Harvey was a player who was ahead of his time in the game. He pioneered the role of an offensive defenseman in the NHL, and won seven Norris Trophies in eight seasons, and his Stanley cup record is pretty good as well. Harvey has his name on Lord Stanley's Cup six times, all with the Canadiens. If he played in the modern NHL, he would dominate players all over the ice. Unfortunately, it is not enough to move him to No. 1 in the countdown. 

3. Ray Bourque

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    Ray Bourque played 23 seasons in the NHL, and tallied 1,579 points. To his name he has 19 consecutive all-star games, a Calder Trophy and five Norris Trophies with his name on them. Bourque played 21 years of his career in Boston, unfortunately, he never won a Stanley Cup there. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and won a Stanley Cup soon after. If he won more Stanley Cups or had more playoff success, Bourque could work his way up to the top of the list.

2. Bobby Orr

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    Orr was one of, if not THE, most electrifying defenseman in the NHL, and was the player who made it seem destined for defensemen to score goals. If it wasn't for injury, Orr could be number one on the list. Orr played only 657 games in his NHL career, but that didn't stop him from winning awards. Orr won a Calder trophy, eight straight Norris Trophies, two Conn Smythe awards and Two Stanley Cups. He was one of the fastest players ever on the ice, and he utilized his speed to score so many amazing goals. His list of accomplishments only leaves him at number two because of a late Stanley Cup by our No. 1.

1. Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Nicklas Lidstrom is still competing in the NHL, and dominates kids half his age. He might not be physical, or aggressive, but he is smart. He has the ability to see the puck and know where it is going. Lidstrom missed only 17 games his first 14 seasons in the League, and has always played with the Red WIngs. He holds 11 franchise records and 11 NHL records. Lidstrom was the first European-born captain to win the Stanley Cup. Lidstrom has played every season of his NHL Career with the Wings, winning four Stanley Cups, which put him at the top of the list. Lidstrom signed a one year contract with the Red Wings through the end of the 2011-2012 season, which may be his last. Lidstrom will finish his career with over 1,500 games and 900 assists. Lidstrom hasn't even retired and he already has a street named after him, in his current city of residence, Novi, Michigan. It is expected that Lidstrom will have his No. 5 join the greats retired by the Red Wings. 

    Here is a list of awards that put Lidstrom at the top of the list:

    • World Championship Gold Medal Winner (Sweden, 1991)
    • NHL All-Rookie Team
    • 4 Time Stanley Cup winner
    • 12 Time All Star
    • 7 Time Norris Trophy winner
    • Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2002)
    • Olympic Gold Medal winner (2006)
    • Olympic All-Star Team
    • 2-time Viking Award winner (best Swedish ice hockey player in North America)

Lidstrom Still on the Ice

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    Lidstrom still has one season left in him and look for the best defensive player in the NHL to win one more cup before it is all over. Watch for the Red and White on the ice, and No. 5 to hang in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena in years to come.