The Atlantic Division's Top 10 defensemen


Earlier this week we looked at the top forwards in the Atlantic Division and that of course created a little bit of a good-natured discussion.  I don't expect the defensemen rankings to generate any less debate, especially once you guys see how I laid it out.  First, here's the two guys that wouldn't even make the playing roster of the Atlantic All-Star team...

 

10 – Michal Rozsival – New York Rangers


 

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Michal Rozsival 76 8 22 30 -7 52 3 0 2 0 120 6.7

Rozsival hasn't been without his up and downs, but he's a versitale right handed shooting defenseman that can play some minutes.  He’s scored 36 goals since joining the Rangers after the lockout, and has only missed a total of 10 games in those four seasons.  Ironic, of course, since the Penguins cut ties with Rozy in large part because of durability concerns.

 

9 – Johnny Oduya – New Jersey Devils


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Johnny Oduya 82 7 22 29 21 30 1 1 4 0 108 6.5


A solid all around defender, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello (who doesn’t pay everyone) decided to re-up Oduya before looking to other free agents like Brian Gionta, John Madden and Scott Clemmenson.  If one of the best talent analysts out there like Lou says so, that’s good enough to make this list.

 

After the jump, the top 8 defenders in the Atlantic!

 8 – Marc Staal – New York Rangers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Marc Staal 82 3 12 15 -7 64 0 0 1 0 96 3.1


Staal brother #2 cracks the list for his all-around play as well.  Like all Staals, Marc has good size and hockey sense.  He’s good positionally and generally plays the game like a defenseman is supposed to.  Not flashy but definitely effective.

 

7 – Braydon Coburn – Philadelphia Flyers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Braydon Coburn 80 7 21 28 7 97 3 0 0 1 130 5.4


Coburn’s emerged as a top pairing defenseman.  He’s big (6’5 220), can skate very well for a guy that size, can play the puck and is good is his own end trying to shutdown opponents.  At just the age of 24 Coburn ought to be on this list for a very long time.

 

6 – Brooks Orpik – Pittsburgh Penguins


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Brooks Orpik 79 2 17 19 10 73 1 0 0 0 39 5.1


No one in the NHL in 2008-09 had more blocked shots plus hits.  Orpik has grown smart enough to know when to make a hit and when not to pull himself out of position looking for it.  His skating ability may be a bit under-rated and he’s got a better first pass and willingness to advance the puck than most think about.

 

5 – Paul Martin – New Jersey Devils


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Paul Martin 73 5 28 33 21 36 2 0 1 0 107 4.7


Quietly, Paul Martin has become a mainstay on the Devils blueline.  His offensive numbers, like the rest of his game, are solid (usually a consistent 5 goals, 30 assists a season).  He’s decent size (6’1, 195) but doesn’t stand out there either.  Another valuable asset of Martin’s game is staying out of the penalty box, he’s taken the equivalent of 33 minor penalties in the past 3 seasons worth of games (he’s appeared in 228).  Any defenseman good enough to be a to play 24 minutes a night and go 7 games between penalties is a smart and effective player.

 

4 – Kimmo Timonen -- Philadelphia Flyers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Kimmo Timonen 77 3 40 43 19 54 2 0 0 0 104 2.9


It’s easier to talk about Kimmo Timonen’s weaknesses than his strengths.  At just under 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, Timonen isn’t the biggest player out there.  Other than that, one struggles to find anything to pick at Timonen.  He’s a great skater, moves the puck very effectively, a good power-play player but also sound enough to kill penalties.  Timonen can chew up minutes and match up against the opponent’s top offensive threat usually effectively.

 

3 – Mark Streit – New York Islanders


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mark Streit 74 16 40 56 6 62 10 1 1 1 150 10.7


For my money Mark Streit is the most under-rated man in the NHL.  Streit is a wizard with the puck and great at creating offense on the power-play.  He led his team in scoring from the blueline last season.  Streit’s small but skates incredibly well and is a little better of a positional defenseman (especially with leaning on guys and using poke-checks) than most might give him credit for.  Streit’s basically what you’d get if you created the prototypical post-lockout defenseman.

 

2 – Chris Pronger – Philadelphia Flyers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Chris Pronger 82 11 37 48 0 88 4 0 2 0 196 5.6



Chris Pronger has seemingly been a tower of strength in the NHL forever, and at the age of 35 he’s showing no signs of slowing down.  Pronger can still play 26 minutes a night in all situations.  He can whistle a slap-shot just as hard as anyone or he can use an elbow or shoulder to deliver a devastating hit.  When you talk snarl, you talk Chris Pronger.  Even though his decisions can be questionable, there’s no doubt opponents have respect and fear Pronger whenever the big guy is out on the ice.

 

1 – Sergei Gonchar – Pittsburgh Penguins


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Sergei Gonchar 25 6 13 19 6 26 5 0 1 0 71 8.5


Gonchar, a Norris trophy finalist in 2007-08, truly showed his value to the Penguins in his absence.  They were a mess without him in 2008-09 and then turned around upon his return from injury.  Of course there were other major factors (coaching change, trades for Kunitz and Guerin) but there’s no denying the Pens were much better with #55 than without him.  Gonchar is lethal on the power-play, perhaps one of the best in the game in directing the puck around or shooting that heavy low shot.  Gonchar is still under-rated defensively by the masses but is no slouch in his own zone.  Add his calming effect and the quiet confidence he offers on and off the ice to his teammates and  that’s why Sergei Gonchar is your top defenseman in the Atlantic Division.

--

So what of this list Pensburghers?  I imagine not everyone will agree with ranking Streit over Timonen or Gonchar over Pronger (but given this is a Pens community that last one might go over better).  Any omissions I made, like the once good Wade Redden?  Or would you take an up-and-comer like Kris Letang or a tough guy like Colin White on your Top 10?  Discuss away.

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