A number of readers have requested that we do a power rankings for the top defensemen, so we'll start doing this on a weekly basis to let you know who the top candidates for the Norris Trophy are, using GVT (Goals Versus Threshold) as the primary metric.
This week, you'll notice that one team is heavily represented in the top ten: the Chicago Blackhawks. This should come as no surprise, as Chicago is first in Defensive GVT (25.9), with the New Jersey Devils far behind in second with a 16.7 Defensive GVT, and behind only New Jersey (94) in fewest Goals Allowed (though they are tied for second with the Buffalo Sabres with 102 GA). However, the Devils and Sabres have an advantage that Chicago hasn't had this year: Excellent Goaltending.
While Martin Brodeur is usually overrated in a historical sense, he's still having a magnificant season with an impressive 15.3 GVT (4th in the NHL). On the other hand, the Sabres are receiving elite-level goaltending from their Team USA netminder Ryan Miller, who leads the league with a 24.5 GVT. If there is going to be a year in which a goaltender has a shot at winning both the Vezina and Hart Trophy, it's going to be this year. Then again, we said the same thing about Tim Thomas last season.
You'll notice that Relative Plus/Minus has been added for the defensemen rankings. For a definition of Relative Plus/Minus, click here.
Puck Prospectus: Defensemen Power Rankings
RPM: Relative Plus/Minus
OGVT: Offensive GVT
DGVT: Defensive GVT
SGVT: Shootout GVT
GVT: Total GVT
Rank Player RPM OGVT DGVT SGVT GVT
1. Duncan Keith, D, CHI 1.7 8.5 5.1 0.7 13.6
Comment: Over the past decade, no defenseman has been more dominant than Nicklas Lidstrom. Well, the torch is about to be passed on to another defender in the same division. The 54th pick of 2002 has 42 Points and 62 Blocked Shots on the year. The sky is the limit for this 26 year old star.
2. Mike Green, D, WSH 9.9 9.1 3.3 -0.3 12.1
Comment: If you thought that Alexander Ovechkin was the best player on the Capitals, well, you'd be right. But the 24 year old defenseman certainly gives Ovechkin a run for his money. The 6'2'', 208 lbs. Capital leads Washington in Time On Ice per 60 Minutes (16:97) and is 7th in the league with 34 Assists.
3. Drew Doughty, D, LAK 11.1 5.7 4.0 0.5 10.3
Comment: Like Green, Doughty gets overshadowed on his team by a major offensive force: Anze Kopitar. That doesn't bother Doughty, as the youngest player on the 2010 Team Canada squad has faced the fifth most difficult competition (Gabriel Desjardins' QualComp) of 0.012 (0 is average), while netting 9 Goals, 25 Assists and 35 Points.
4. Chris Pronger, D, PHI 18.5 5.4 4.8 0.0 10.3
Comment: The 33 year old is having another great season, but the goaltending (-4.1 GGVT) is another story. Pronger has played alongside the highest quality level of teammates on the Flyers with a 0.302 QualTeam (0 is average), though a lot of it has to do with his defensive pairing, and has managed to score 32 Points in 45 Games. The team might be having some problems, but the former Anaheim Duck is not one of them.
5. Brian Campbell, D, CHI 9.4 4.8 4.5 0.0 9.2
Comment: The Blackhawks defensemen is certainly overpaid by many standards, GVS being one of them, but he's still having a productive year. He only averages 28:53 Minutes Off the Ice per 60 Minutes, which is the second least amount of time on the bench behind only Duncan Keith. But Campbell gets closer to the net for shots on goal than any other Chicago defensemen, averaging a distance of 45.0 feet per shot taken.
6. Tomas Kaberle, D, TOR 0.7 6.5 2.4 -0.3 8.7
Comment: Brian Burke has taken a lot of heat for the way the Maple Leafs season has turned out so far. One good move he's made, however, was not dealing away the 31 year old defensemen. Don't let the 4 Goals on the season fool you, the Czech Republic native has been one of the best offensive defensemen in the game this year.
7. Brent Seabrook, D, CHI 7.2 2.3 5.6 0.5 8.4
Comment: You know you have outstanding defensive talent when the 6'3'', 220 lbs. righty is your third best defender. The 24 year old is not as good of an all-around player as the other two Chicago defensemen on this list, but he might play the best defense in the game. He leads the team in Blocked Shots (63), and he's usually facing the toughest competition (0.118 QualComp, 1st on Chicago). Generally, if you're trying to hold the greatest offensive weapons in the NHL in check, you're going to have a tough time. But if you're the Chicago Blackhawks, all you have to do is put Brent Seabrook on the ice to slow them down.
8. Christian Ehrhoff, D, VAN 17.3 3.7 4.4 0.0 8.1
Comment: While Duncan had an impressive Plus/Minus of 16, adjusting for goaltending, teammates and special teams play brought that number down to a pedestrian 1.7 (RPM). The former San Jose Shark, on the other hand, only sees this number fall from 19 to 17.3 after such adjustments. We'll have to wait to see if the change of scenery from the Bay Area to the Pacific Northwest bodes well for his Stanley Cup hopes though.
9. Stephane Robidas, D, DAL 4.1 5.0 2.9 0.0 8.0
Comment: The good news for the 32 year old defenseman is that he leads Dallas in both Blocked Shots (71) and in Time On Ice per 60 Minutes (17:23 minutes) this season. The bad news is that the defense he's a part of is still subpar (-1.0 DGVT) and his team's goaltending is simply atrocious (-7.4 GGVT). It would be tempting to trade Robidas if a package was offered that included a young and promising defensemen and goaltender.
10. Tyler Myers, D, BUF 4.0 4.1 3.7 0.0 7.8
Comment: Why wait another half season when we know who the winner of this year's Calder Trophy will be. His numbers would be impressive for a veteran defenseman, but the fact that he is putting up these kind of numbers as a 19 year old rookie is just astonishing. Ryan Miller is the primary reason why the Buffalo Sabres are playing such outstanding hockey, but having Myers on your defense certainly helps.
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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