Japers’ Rink has a list of the top 10 D-men in the Southeast, and I was curious about who we would have on a similar list here the Northeast, so I decided the best way to find out was to compile the list myself. All stats unless otherwise noted are for last season. I also reference GVT (explained beginning here) which is a decent way to compare the dropoff from a particular guy to an average replacement.
10. Jordan Leopold, Buffalo Sabres (11G 15A 26pts -2 21:55 TOI)
The newest Buffalo Sabre split time between Florida and Pittsburgh last season, tagging along with the Pens into the second round of the playoffs. He played against top competition for them in his short stint in Pitt. Leopold has never seemed to take hold in a city, despite quality if not spectacular offensive numbers. Is there something we’re missing on him? Aside from the usual ‘doesn’t like contact’ rap that big-ish puck movers get. Easily off the list if he goes for 3 goals this season.
9. Mike Komisarek, Toronto Maple Leafs (0G 4A 4pts -9 19:56 TOI)
Komisarek missed the second half of the season with shoulder surgery, but you wouldn’t expect too much from his offensive numbers. He’s a bruising stay-at-home defenseman who can block shots. It ain’t pretty, but the job gets done.
8. Jaroslav Spacek, Montreal Canadiens (3G 18A 21pts +9 21:47 TOI)
Former Sabre Jaroslav Spacek is still my favorite square-headed defenseman, who I wish we still had if only for his epic accent during interviews. Also, he likes to throw the occasional hip-check which is old-school and awesome. He contributes at both ends of the ice, and is a good power play point man.
7. Francois Beauchemin, Toronto Maple Leafs (5G 21A 26pts -13 25:27 TOI)
A cup winner in Anaheim, Toronto imported him in last season to add a little ‘truculence’. Noted for an excellent shot, he used it often, piling up 170 of them. He generates scoring chances quite well. Francois will be a good example for the youngsters the Leafs are rolling with, especially if he can reduce the turnovers. A goalie that can bail you out helps with that too, though.
6. Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens (6G 28A 34pts +11 23:48 TOI)
Markov’s numbers are solid considering he only played 45 games. He’s had double-digit goals four times, and his Defensive GVT of 4.1 shows he cares behind his own blueline. Gets dinged for not using his size more, but he does well against the best competition.
5. Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators (8G 16A 24pts +8 22:20 TOI)
Solid performer, if in the second tier of defensemen in the Northeast. 8 goals is nothing to sneeze at, with 2 game-winners. With Volchenkov gone, he’s the only D-man on the Sens who had a positive plus/minus last season.
4. Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators (11G 39A 50pts -4 24:23 TOI)
While on the downslope of his career at age 36, Gonchar still gave the Penguins great offensive production, 6th in points amongst D despite only playing 62 games. Injuries will be an ongoing concern, his power play prowess.
3. Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs (7G 42A 49pts -19 22:21 TOI)
Kaberle is a consistent, high-level performer for Toronto, so of course he’s been the target of trade rumors for years. But he’s still there, and chugging along. He was second on the Leafs in points to Phil Kessel’s 55.
2. Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres (11G 37A 48pts +13 23:44 TOI)
Trying not to be a homer here, but those numbers don’t lie. He and Hank played against the best competition as the top D pair, and Myers still managed a Defensive GVT of 6.9. He’s a great skater that can push the play offensively and yet still get back to cover if that play fizzles. Tyler is working on getting stronger this offseason, which might just improve his ranking.
1. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (7G 37A 44pts +19 25:22 TOI)
An off year for Chara goal scoring-wise, nevertheless big Z stands tall at the top of this list (pun intended). He’s a beast to play against behind the net and along the boards, where his massive frame (and ‘incidental’ elbows) often stop smaller forwards in their tracks, if they don’t end up on their asses. His defensive GVT is 8.9, matched only by Chris Pronger.
Well, there you have it. I’m sure there are some slotting changes, and if I’m lucky I just offended the rest of the Northeast, and maybe even some Sabres fans. It was hard to make, but I feel like I learned a bit more about the enemy. Guys who just missed the list:
Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs (2G 8A 10pts -2 26:21 TOI)
The above numbers don’t count Dion’s contributions in Calgary (10G 12A 22pts +3), but it remains to be seen whether or not he can continue with those types of numbers as Captain of the Leafs. I waffled on him making the list, but his goal totals have been declining, not increasing (20, 17, 17, 11, 12). A rebound year can put him right back in.
Roman Hamrlik, Montreal Canadiens (6G 20A 26pts -2 23:26 TOI)
I edged him out in a comparison with Spacek – who I feel gives you a bit more on the defensive side.
And a special note for Steve Montador, who doesn’t show up on the scoresheet or the advanced stats, but who played well with Lindy’s musical partners. We noticed you, Steve, and appreciate it.
One final thing: I get the feeling this list is WAY different next year. Kaberle is probably out, Gonchar is an injury away from falling off, probably at least one or two new guys via trade, and some young players who will be pushing. Especially in Toronto, where things have been bad long enough that no job is safe. Let me know how I screwed up, and if you make a strong case, I’m down with changing it up.