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Best NHL Defenseman All-Time

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Top 25 Defenseman All-time   

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A bunch of great names up there for the Runner Up to Bobby Award.

 

I'm going with Paul Coffey.  Aside from his defense being underrated (he could hustle back and unexpectedly sweep the puck away because of his speed when forwards racing in thought they had it made), his offensive accomplishments are a full class ahead of whoever is next to him and Orr (probably Potvin).  The drop from Orr and Coffey to the next guy is like the drop from Gretzky and Lemieux to whoever is next (Yzerman, Phil Esposito).

 

Aside from that, Cups in Edmonton and Pittsburgh.  Three 120 point seasons when nobody else other than Orr ever got to 105 in a season.  Five 100 point seasons plus his 58 points in 45 games in the 1995 lockout season where he almost won the Hart Trophy.  11 seasons in the top five in Norris voting.  14 seasons in the top 10.

 

196 playoff points.

 

The best skater I ever saw in the NHL.

 

Despite being in the Hall of Fame, he somehow manages to be in the running for most underrated defenseman of all time because of how low some people have him on the list.

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2 hours ago, Kevin Biestra said:

I see I'm a little late to the party.

Yes .... need some sanity though.   Coffey was my favourite D growing up.   And I pretty much agree with everything you posted above.   He is overlooked because there is this “idea” that his defensive game wasn’t up to snuff.   However it was elite too.  EK before Cooke chopped his Achilles’ tendon was on the same path.   Both guys could dominate a game at any given moment, difference is Coffey didn’t get hurt and managed more as much as Orr did over that same period of time almost.   Splitting hairs.   Like your Gretzky/Mario comment.   He proved beyond a doubt he didn’t need EDM after his peak prime in PIT and then later in Detroit.   People forget Detroit was a top contender for years before they finally won in 97...and Coffey definitely played his part in his early-mid 30’s including a Norris in 95.   To me he’s what Orr’s career could have looked like if his knees didn’t give out. 

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11 hours ago, IBatch said:

Yes .... need some sanity though.   Coffey was my favourite D growing up.   And I pretty much agree with everything you posted above.   He is overlooked because there is this “idea” that his defensive game wasn’t up to snuff.   However it was elite too.  EK before Cooke chopped his Achilles’ tendon was on the same path.   Both guys could dominate a game at any given moment, difference is Coffey didn’t get hurt and managed more as much as Orr did over that same period of time almost.   Splitting hairs.   Like your Gretzky/Mario comment.   He proved beyond a doubt he didn’t need EDM after his peak prime in PIT and then later in Detroit.   People forget Detroit was a top contender for years before they finally won in 97...and Coffey definitely played his part in his early-mid 30’s including a Norris in 95.   To me he’s what Orr’s career could have looked like if his knees didn’t give out. 

Coffey was great, but I'm not sure that playing in Pittsburgh with Mario and Jagr, and then on one of the most stacked defensive groups of all time in Detroit exactly proves that he didn't need Edmonton.  Main reason Coffey's further down on my list though is because he didn't bring the physical element of Potvin, Shore, or Robinson.  He didn't need to, but those guys were definitely more complete players.  That Detroit D was insane though; 3 out of the top 6 in Norris voting is likely to never be equaled (although matched by Montreal's big 3 in the '70s).

 

Despite the lack of movement, I'd argue that line of thinking pulls things more towards Shore's favour, who was often the only player from his team named to either All-star team in a much smaller league.

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2 hours ago, King Heffy said:

Coffey was great, but I'm not sure that playing in Pittsburgh with Mario and Jagr, and then on one of the most stacked defensive groups of all time in Detroit exactly proves that he didn't need Edmonton.  Main reason Coffey's further down on my list though is because he didn't bring the physical element of Potvin, Shore, or Robinson.  He didn't need to, but those guys were definitely more complete players.  That Detroit D was insane though; 3 out of the top 6 in Norris voting is likely to never be equaled (although matched by Montreal's big 3 in the '70s).

 

Despite the lack of movement, I'd argue that line of thinking pulls things more towards Shore's favour, who was often the only player from his team named to either All-star team in a much smaller league.

Coffee was magnificent.

 

As a fan, one of the three or four most exciting players on the planet. Of a generation? In a generation with Gretzky & Mario. 

 

Play throw sticks in center ice though.  Most players, I believe, would rather Potvin / Bourque on their side?  Almost as dynamic, better in every other way...

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On 11/26/2020 at 12:27 AM, King Heffy said:

Coffey was great, but I'm not sure that playing in Pittsburgh with Mario and Jagr, and then on one of the most stacked defensive groups of all time in Detroit exactly proves that he didn't need Edmonton.  Main reason Coffey's further down on my list though is because he didn't bring the physical element of Potvin, Shore, or Robinson.  He didn't need to, but those guys were definitely more complete players.  That Detroit D was insane though; 3 out of the top 6 in Norris voting is likely to never be equaled (although matched by Montreal's big 3 in the '70s).

 

Despite the lack of movement, I'd argue that line of thinking pulls things more towards Shore's favour, who was often the only player from his team named to either All-star team in a much smaller league.

 Another fable about Coffey - sure he was no Robinson, but he definitely held his own - close to 2000PIMs over his career, half his seasons with 100-195...

 

He wasn’t a pushover, and his career fights line up with Potvin...and some of those guys on his fight card were tough S.O.B.s.   Definitely ahead of a lot of the others on the list in that regard.  Like saying Bourque wasn’t tough. 
 

That said all three were unreal - part of a very small group of guys below Orr and ahead of the next of the best. 

Edited by IBatch
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8 hours ago, IBatch said:

 Another fable about Coffey - sure he was no Robinson, but he definitely held his own - close to 2000PIMs over his career, half his seasons with 100-195...

 

He wasn’t a pushover, and his career fights line up with Potvin...and some of those guys on his fight card were tough S.O.B.s.   Definitely ahead of a lot of the others on the list in that regard.  Like saying Bourque wasn’t tough. 
 

That said all three were unreal - part of a very small group of guys below Orr and ahead of the next of the best. 

 

Yeah earlier in the discussion I was going to ask the thread how many defensemen on the list of options had actually matched Paul Coffey's 195 PIM in one season.

 

Guy was no Pierre Turgeon.

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4 hours ago, Kevin Biestra said:

 

Yeah earlier in the discussion I was going to ask the thread how many defensemen on the list of options had actually matched Paul Coffey's 195 PIM in one season.

 

Guy was no Pierre Turgeon.

Nope, he was not.   IMO and I can’t say this from actual experience because I was too young to remember and didn’t watch Orr play, he’s the closest thing to Orr that the league has ever had, and that if Orr’s career wasn’t cut short, Coffey’s mimicked it well.   Both are considered top ten skaters all-time (Coffey actually higher),  both did the tough stuff when they needed too.    
 

Sure Coffey wasn’t a fighter - but he did fight.  Six times his rookie season, just like Potvin did.   And yes it was a rougher era so can understand how relatively he wasn’t a hard-core Manson type.   But he wasn’t a push-over.   Doubt Horvat will have as many career fights when he’s done, and does anyone question his toughness?  Well maybe a little but only because he’d be that much more of a boss. 
 

Just for kicks I watched his Kirk Muller fight again.    Don’t see Edler...well how many fights has he had again? Or well let’s just say if Coffey was playing on our current team he’d be the resident goon.   And that’s not his game. 

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2 minutes ago, IBatch said:

Nope, he was not.   IMO and I can’t say this from actual experience because I was too young to remember and didn’t watch Orr play, he’s the closest thing to Orr that the league has ever had, and that if Orr’s career wasn’t cut short, Coffey’s mimicked it well.   Both are considered top ten skaters all-time (Coffey actually higher),  both did the tough stuff when they needed too.    
 

Sure Coffey wasn’t a fighter - but he did fight.  Six times his rookie season, just like Potvin did.   And yes it was a rougher era so can understand how relatively he wasn’t a hard-core Manson type.   But he wasn’t a push-over.   Doubt Horvat will have as many career fights when he’s done, and does anyone question his toughness?  Well maybe a little but only because he’d be that much more of a boss. 
 

Just for kicks I watched his Kirk Muller fight again.    Don’t see Edler...well how many fights has he had again? Or well let’s just say if Coffey was playing on our current team he’d be the resident goon.   And that’s not his game. 

 

I don't remember who he was fighting but Muller had close to my favorite fight ever in the NHL.  He was using head movement and ducking under punches like Rocky when he was rope-a-doping Clubber Lang at the end of the second fight in Rocky 3.  It was great.

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2 minutes ago, Kevin Biestra said:

 

I don't remember who he was fighting but Muller had close to my favorite fight ever in the NHL.  He was using head movement and ducking under punches like Rocky when he was rope-a-doping Clubber Lang at the end of the second fight in Rocky 3.  It was great.

Muller was a gamer.   Keane maybe, he had some doozies.   Tough customer’s those guys.    In the Coffey fight - Paul clocked him early and woke him up a little - lots of things going on before that but Coffey was obviously pissed and broke through the crowd and the refs just to get to him.   A spirited bout and for sure a good opponent - not a daisy.

 

Neither were most on his fight card. 
 

Ohlund fought Iginla.   Edler?  Nobody.   
 

Coffey almost won the Hart in his 15th season ... and the Norris.  Potvin retired after 15 but started at 20.   These guys were better then 95% of their competition right until retirement.   And like the Hockey News says every time they do a review of the current best of the best - not all Norris or Harts are equal.   They use Perry’s Hart as an example.   Having a typical Perry season until the last 20 games when he exploded for about the same many goals to beat out D Sedin.... robbery.   
 

And in the 2000’s everyone was gone.  All the hockey hero’s from my youth and 20’s.   Sucked.   Pronger IMO, was probably the most dominant D of the decade but his reign was short.   Lidstrom kept winning trophies (one for sure undeserving- his last one) but only had Niedermayer and Pronger to contend with at that point.  
 

In the 80’s .888 was a decent sp.  In the 2000’s .906.... if you do the math it’s a two percent difference.   Wow.   The goalies  were 2% better.   Make it 10% which would mean they save .98 percent of the pucks and reduce all those guys by 10% ... and still the top guys ridiculously outperformed the guys of the 2000’s.   Thornton... Lidstrom, Gonchar and Rafalski ... didn’t hold a candle to the 80’s and 90’s top players. 
 

Im hoping that McDavid and co, and the new rules plus the amazing crop of young D’s coming in will at least compete a little with how hockey used to be - of course the toughness factor is gone for good - but at least there is hope that things can go full circle again.
 

Still the only way that would ever happen is with retraction.  Go back to 6 teams a division and maybe it would be close.  The talent level is high right now at the top, but low at the bottom, extremely low even with fourth lines made for enforcers back then. 
 

 

 

 

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50 minutes ago, IBatch said:

In the 80’s .888 was a decent sp.  In the 2000’s .906.... if you do the math it’s a two percent difference.   Wow.   The goalies  were 2% better.   Make it 10% which would mean they save .98 percent of the pucks and reduce all those guys by 10% ... and still the top guys ridiculously outperformed the guys of the 2000’s.   Thornton... Lidstrom, Gonchar and Rafalski ... didn’t hold a candle to the 80’s and 90’s top players.

 

It's wild when you think of a guy like Dennis Maruk (136 points in a season I think) or Barry Pederson and what their high water marks were and how they aren't even discussed as "people who aren't in" the Hall of Fame the way Linden or Muller occasionally come up, and in fact nobody knows who Dennis Maruk is in 2020 at all, nor would they know Pederson if he wasn't a Cam Neely trade Jeopardy question.

 

Maruk, Pederson, Mike Rogers, Mike Foligno, Troy Murray, John Ogrodnick, Paul Maclean.  Fantastic forwards and do they even make the top 40 or 50 forwards of their era.

 

Kent Nilsson, Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Bobby Smith, Pat Verbeek, Brian Bellows, Brent Sutter, Rob Brown, Gerard Gallant, Mel Bridgman, Thomas Steen, Mike Bullard, Stephane Richer, Anton and Marian Stastny, Dave Poulin, Dirk Graham.  Plus Smyl, Gradin, Sundstrom, Tanti and Skriko.

 

Can't even really start talking about these guys until you get through...

 

Gretzky Lemieux Yzerman Kurri Stastny Goulet Messier Anderson Kerr Propp Dionne Lafleur Middleton Neely Bossy Trottier Gillies Gilmour Mullen Muller Andreychuk Hawerchuk Savard Francis Simmer Taylor Federko Vaive Gartner Ciccarelli Nicholls Carbonneau...  I'm sure I'm forgetting some and I'm also intentionally leaving out guys who were early or late in their careers and still very good - and that's still 32 names right there (forwards alone) before we get to the other guys I listed.

Edited by Kevin Biestra
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4 hours ago, Kevin Biestra said:

 

It's wild when you think of a guy like Dennis Maruk (136 points in a season I think) or Barry Pederson and what their high water marks were and how they aren't even discussed as "people who aren't in" the Hall of Fame the way Linden or Muller occasionally come up, and in fact nobody knows who Dennis Maruk is in 2020 at all, nor would they know Pederson if he wasn't a Cam Neely trade Jeopardy question.

 

Maruk, Pederson, Mike Rogers, Mike Foligno, Troy Murray, John Ogrodnick, Paul Maclean.  Fantastic forwards and do they even make the top 40 or 50 forwards of their era.

 

Kent Nilsson, Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Bobby Smith, Pat Verbeek, Brian Bellows, Brent Sutter, Rob Brown, Gerard Gallant, Mel Bridgman, Thomas Steen, Mike Bullard, Stephane Richer, Anton and Marian Stastny, Dave Poulin, Dirk Graham.  Plus Smyl, Gradin, Sundstrom, Tanti and Skriko.

 

Can't even really start talking about these guys until you get through...

 

Gretzky Lemieux Yzerman Kurri Stastny Goulet Messier Anderson Kerr Propp Dionne Lafleur Middleton Neely Bossy Trottier Gillies Gilmour Mullen Muller Andreychuk Hawerchuk Savard Francis Simmer Taylor Federko Vaive Gartner Ciccarelli Nicholls Carbonneau...  I'm sure I'm forgetting some and I'm also intentionally leaving out guys who were early or late in their careers and still very good - and that's still 32 names right there (forwards alone) before we get to the other guys I listed.

Yep.   If you took the “seconds” list and reduced their production by 2%... they’d still outperform everyone but the top players of the 2000’s a s 2010’s.   The only way we will ever see something like that again is with retraction.   Lose two teams per division and maybe it will get closer. 

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20 hours ago, IBatch said:

Yep.   If you took the “seconds” list and reduced their production by 2%... they’d still outperform everyone but the top players of the 2000’s a s 2010’s.   The only way we will ever see something like that again is with retraction.   Lose two teams per division and maybe it will get closer. 

 

And I didn't even get into the names like Ferraro, Rick Meagher, Tiger Williams, Terry Ruskowski, Mike McPhee, Steve Kasper, Murray Craven, Brian Sutter, Darryl Sutter, Tony McKegney, Al Secord, Mike Krushelnyski, Jimmy Carson, Esa Tikkanen, Ken Linseman, Jim Fox, Brian Skrudland, Joel Otto, Pat Flatley, Mike Ridley, Peter Zezel, Brent Ashton, Rick Kehoe, Wayne Babych (injuries may have robbed him of the HOF like Pederson and Kerr), Gary Leeman, Ed Olczyk, Jim Peplinski, Dan Quinn, Ron Duguay, Kelly Kisio, Mark Johnson, Sylvain Turgeon, John Anderson, Bill Derlago...  All of whom would hold up quite nicely with a 2% tax on their stats minus the few who would hold up as defensive specialist.  I forgot about Pierre Larouche as well.

 

And I haven't been counting but I think now we're well outside the top 100 forwards.  Plus I forgot Pat Lafontaine and Neal Broten earlier.  And Steve Larmer.

 

Edited by Kevin Biestra
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Lets go by decade.

60's - Orr

70's- Orr  even though he only played parts of each decade, He dominated enough to be the best in the 60's and 70's

80's- Coffey five 100 point plus seasons is enough to be the top dman in this decade. Only one of five dmen in league history to top the century mark in points

90's- Ray Bourque Even though he didnt win a cup in this decade, he still dominated all aspects of being a dman every year in the 90's

00's- Scott Niedermayer and Nick Lidstrom have to share this nomination just becasue they both were that good and each won multiple cups that decade.

10's- I now this won't be a popular pick around these neck of the woods but my vote goes to Douchbag Duncan Keith. 3 cups says it all.

 

But if I had to pick one it would be the Fleet footed BC boy Scott Niedermayer and he ain't even on the list.

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