Top 10 All-time Defensemen
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07-19-2009, 07:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Originally Posted by
Coffey over any of those people have me scratching my head, and I am sure we have had this conversation before. But over Shore?? Eddie 4 Hart Trophies Shore?
I'm not really putting a great emphasis on the awards and trophy voting and you know my preference for the Offensive game. Again, Eddie Shore is enigmatic in that I haven't seen him play at all, and many accounts of him have also not seen him play. The media on him is scarce is well, but from what I have read on him is that he was like a Denis Potvin type Player. I also have read quite a few accounts on Earl Seibert being almost at Shore's level. While there's no doubt in my mind that Shore is the best Defensemen of his era, I believe that he was not the best Player of his time (Howie Morenz, Frank Boucher, and Bill Cook for starters). Of course, the best information I have on it is a few newspaper articles along with stats and awards voting (which almost certainly were held to different standards than those of today) so the opinion is tenuous.
As for the other Defensemen, I'm fairly happy with Coffey's placement because I've seen enough of most of them (except for Doug Harvey and Red Kelly and Bobby Orr but their is still a ton more information about those two). I'm firmly convinced that Coffey was a better Player than Nick Lidstrom or Chris Chelios. Denis Potvin was a close one, I believe I once compared them and gave my reasons why I would take Coffey. Vyacheslav Fetisov though, is the one I recently changed my mind on (I used to slot him before Coffey because I had the impression that Fetisov had a better longevity than Coffey which upon closer examination I'm not as convinced of).
Again, to me, Coffey's play from 1983-1986 is second only to Orr among Defensemen (and not a distant second). Coffey has a great case to be considered as the second best Player behind Gretzky throughout that span and their are several attestations to that (I personally would consider him third after Jari Kurri).
Just some reading on how Coffey was regarded at the time:
May 5, 1985
COFFEY PERKS UP OILERS - ONLY GRETZKY DOES IT BETTER
If it weren't for the overpowering presence of Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey surely would be considered the most remarkable hockey player of our time.
"When Paul is on, he's as good as anybody who ever played has ever been, and he's on 80 percent of the time," insists Glen Sather, Edmonton's coach and general manager who has Gretzky and Coffey going for him.
"Coffey is every bit as important to that team as Gretzky," Hawks' coach-GM Bob Pulford agrees. "On every rush, he's coming up from behind."
"Stopping him is a key to stopping Edmonton."
As an offensive defenseman, the 23-year-old Coffey can be compared to only one man in National Hockey League history -- Bobby Orr.
"But we have to remember one thing," Sather points out. "Orr was 20 years old when he came into the league. Paul is only 23, and he has been in the league for five years."
Last season, Coffey finished second to Gretzky in scoring with 126 points on 40 goals and 86 assists. This year, he came in fifth with 121 points on 37 goals and 84 assists.
In 58 years, a Black Hawk has broken the 100-point barrier four times: Denis Savard had 121 points two years ago, 119 in 1981-82 and 105 this season. Bobby Hull scored 107 in 1968-69.
The Hawks' Doug Wilson, whom Sather considers the only defenseman in Coffey's class, had 76 points this season. The Hawks' five other defensemen, who played against Edmonton in Saturday night's Stanley Cup semifinal opener in the Northlands Coliseum, combined for 126 points.
"Coffey and Doug Wilson are the two greatest defensemen and the two most dominating defensemen in the game," says Sather, who coached Wilson when Team Canada won the Canada Cup last summer. "Paul should win the Norris Trophy (awarded to the NHL`s No. 1 defenseman) by a landslide this year. He should have won it last year, but some of the people who did the voting are blind."
"Rod Langway (the 1984 Norris Trophy winner from Washington) is an outstanding defensive player, but that's the only dimension of his game. He's not a dominating player on both ends of the ice. Ray Bourque (of Boston) is very, very good, but he plays the puck too much by himself. His style is different than Coffey's."
"Coffey has been in control of many games we have played this year, both from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint. It's ridiculous to say that he can't play defense. The only thing he has had to achieve is consistency, and now he's consistent."
Coffey has come to appreciate and admire consistency. Rather than tooting his horn he is quick to praise Wilson, who probably is his main rival in the Norris balloting.
"Doug was our most consistent defenseman throughout the Canada Cup, and part of the time he was playing hurt," Coffey says. "I loved playing with him. Our styles are similar, but we complemented one another. If he had the puck and I was open, I knew I was going to get it."
"I don't have anything against Orval Tessier (the Hawk coach who was fired in February after 2 1/2 storm-clouded seasons), but I heard he cut up Doug sometimes in the dressing room. How can anybody cut up Doug Wilson? I played against Willie when Orval was coaching, and I saw all that he was being asked to do defensively."
"When all those demands were made on Doug defensively, it took away his ability to set up plays and work into position to take that great shot from the point. Chicago needs the spark that Willie can give. You have to let him do what he does best, even if it detracts a little from his defensive play."
As a team, Edmonton's style is based on the concept that puck control is paramount and attacking should be an integral and incessant part of the game. In Coffey's opinion, nobody does it better than the Great Gretzky.
"When I came to Edmonton (from Kitchener of the Ontario League as a first-round selection in the 1980 draft), Wayne was in his second year in the league," Coffey recalls. "That year, he scored 164 points. And every year since then he has improved as a hockey player."
"What makes Wayne so great is that he's never satisfied. He believes he can do better. Whenever somebody gets within 20 to 30 points of him in the scoring race, he starts to worry and he spurts."
"The amazing thing is that he can keep up his pace all year. Look back at the start of the season: Mike Bossy (of the New York Islanders) is a great player and he was going toe-to-toe with Wayne for the first month. Now look at what their stats were at the end of the season."
Gretzky wound up with 208 points and Bossy finished with 117, four fewer than Coffey.
Yes, that tells you something about Gretzky ... and Coffey.
June 13, 1985
THEY COMETH TO PRAISE THE NHL'S BEST ICEMEN
In Toronto's new house of mirrors, nothing was distorted. The images were true: Wayne Gretzky was hockey's most valuable player; Paul Coffey was hockey's best defenseman, and so on. Not even a rule change directed at the Edmonton Oilers could diminish the National Hockey League's highly commercial awards ceremonies.
They were held last night at Toronto's shiny, new Metro Convention Center, where 1500 people paid $200 each for the privilege of being present instead of sitting at home and watching it on television.
The winners, with the runnersup in parenthesis, were: Selke Trophy, best defensive forward, Craig Ramsay, Buffalo (Doug Jarvis, Washington); Calder Trophy, rookie of the year, Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh (Chris Chelios, Montreal); Vezina Trophy, best goalie, Pelle Lindbergh, Philadelphia (Tom Barrasso, Buffalo); Norris Trophy, best defenseman, Paul Coffey, Edmonton (Ray Bourque, Boston); Adams Trophy, coach of the year, Mike Keenan, Philadelphia (Barry Long, Winnipeg); Lady Byng Trophy, sportsmanship and ability, Jari Kurri, Edmonton (Joe Mullen, St. Louis); and Hart Trophy, most valuable player, Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton, (Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg). Gretzky's MVP award was his sixth straight.
The most significant rule change approved (17-3, with one abstention) by the NHL's board of governors virtually eliminates four-on-four manpower situations. It calls for teams to remain at full strength (five on five) when coincidental minor penalties are called. "There is no intent to take any of the excitement away from the game," said vice president of officiating, Scotty Morrison. "We will treat coincidental minors the same way as we treat coincidental majors. The players will serve th eir penalties, but the teams will not play with fewer skaters."
The move to change the rule surfaced during the Stanley Cup finals, when Edmonton scored four times with the teams playing four a side. But it was not initiated by Flyers coach Keenan, who had pointed out what a great advantage Edmonton had in those situations with its fast, highly skilled players. The rule change was presented to the governors by Cliff Fletcher, president / general manager of the Calgary Flames, who have become Edmonton's arch enemies.
"I'm not too happy about that (change)," said Gretzky. "First of all, they're taking away a part of the game. We work on four on four every day for about 10 minutes, and because we've done well with it they change the rule. It's not fair at all."
Said Coffey: "You can't be changing the rules like that. You can have 10 guys in the penalty box and the teams would still be playing five men each. All the slow-poke teams, the ones with the big lugs, must have wanted it."
Another important rule change is that there will now be an automatic game misconduct for a five-minute spearing call. "And that will become part of the three game misconducts that automatically carry a one-game suspension," Morrison said.
Glen Sather, coach, general manager and president of the champion Edmonton Oilers, saw the election of Coffey as best defenseman as "a precedent setter," because Coffey is hockey's ultimate offensive defenseman. "He could win this a lot of years in a row," said Sather. "He's the only player I know of who has been spoken of in the same breath as Bobby Orr."
"I can't be disappointed, because Paul had a great year," said Bourque, the runnerup. "I'm not crushed. We both score a lot of points, but Paul scores a lot more than I do. We both do it offensively, but we both can do the job back there on defense. I don't think either of us has too many minus nights."
Gretzky called his sixth straight Hart Trophy (tying Gordie Howe) the best of all, because "I've been lucky to win five previous and you get a little nervous when you don't know if you'll win the next one. I'm more overjoyed tonight than ever. I've always said if someone does better than I do and beats me, I'll shake his hand.
Daily News of Los Angeles
October 20, 1985
COFFEY - AN IMAGE OF A LEGEND - EDMONTON DEFENSEMAN HAS THEM DREAMING OF BOBBY ORR
The scene is Boston Garden. May 10, 1970.
In the fourth game of the Stanley Cup finals, his team leading three games to none, the spectacular Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins darts in from the right point, rolls the puck to Derek Sanderson behind the net and then drives to the front of the St. Louis goal.
Sanderson feathers a perfect return pass, and the supremely talented defenseman -- while having his skates yanked out from under him -- is flying through the air when he rifles the puck past goalie Glenn Hall 40 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 win.
In one of hockey's most famous pictures, a splayed Bobby Orr had delivered the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years.
The scene is Northlands Coliseum. Fifteen years and 20 days later.
The defending champion Edmonton Oilers lead the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, both in Game 5 and in the final series. They want another Cup. Tonight. They are working a power play.
The Oilers' brilliant defenseman, Paul Coffey, takes a cross-ice pass and winds up for a shot that has sent more than one goaltender screaming for an office job. The puck whistles into the Philadelphia net. Winning goal, Paul Coffey. Stanley Cup, Oilers. Roll credits.
STANLEY CUP-WINNING goals. Norris Awards as the NHL's best defenseman. Smoother on ice than 12-year-old Scotch. Handled the puck as if it were willed to him. A shot as potent as Novocain.
That was Bobby Orr, the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history. That is Paul Coffey, the skater, scorer and game-breaker with the numbers and intangibles to become the first Bobby Orr since the first Bobby Orr.
"I don't get caught up in all that," Coffey said.
Others do. The comparisons were inevitable, as they were with every other smooth-skating, high-scoring defenseman since Orr forever altered the game by making the defense position an offensive weapon. Many have lugged the "next Bobby Orr" ball and chain. Only Coffey combines the swiftness askate and deftness astick with the elan and verve that fit Orr alone.
"I never saw him play live," Coffey said of the man he has met only once, at Oiler teammate Wayne Gretzky's tennis tournament four years ago. "I would've loved to have played against him to get to know how our styles are the same or different."
The first thing Orr did upon entering the NHL in 1966 was revolutionize the game. Previously, defensemen were a plodding lot, content not to stray from their own blue line. The graceful Orr made the defenseman a fourth forward, carrying the puck into the attacking zone and creating a power-play-like advantage.
Orr was a magician with the puck. He could pull a goal out of thin air, and his sleight-of-stick mastery made many a goaltender vanish. And although Orr also had a variety of shots, the key was his skating. Deceptive on his blades, Orr could cut through traffic like a foreign sports car. He had the talent to control games and the control to exploit that talent.
"He could kill a penalty by himself," Coffey said. "He was so far ahead of anyone else. He'd still be playing and winning Norris Awards (he won it eight straight years) if the poor guy's knees had held up (he's had 10 knee operations)."
The 25-year-old Coffey is just as much the offensive threat. The 6-foot, 200-pounder rolled up 121 points last season and 126 the year before. Those are the third and fifth-highest single-season totals by a defenseman. Orr had the first, second and fourth-highest scoring totals, his best, 139, coming in 1970-71. Coffey and Orr are the only defensemen to score 40 or more goals in a season. Orr remains the only defenseman to lead the league in scoring.
The Kings, who meet the Oilers tonight at the Forum for the first time since Edmonton eliminated Los Angeles in the first round of last season's playoffs, "spent half their meetings on Coffey," Marcel Dionne said. High praise considering Coffey has a teammate named Gretzky.
"He is outstanding, a great player," Orr said. "His skating ability and shot are something else."
Coffey's strength is speed, sheer speed, and a slap shot that jacked up the cost of goalie insurance. His rink-long dashes with the puck, an Orr signature that Coffey has raised to a spectacularly high level, jolt people to their feet as few have.
"I went to power-skating schools when others were going to schools that offered swimming and fishing," said Coffey, whose first skating school instructor was Kings assistant coach Mike Murphy.
Coffey attributes much of his slick, swift skating to the way he sharpens his skates.
"They don't have that much hollow in the blade," Coffey explained. "It seems like I can just glide. It feels like there is no edge, but it makes you feel light-footed."
COFFEY FINISHED SECOND to Gretzky in the Conn Smythe voting for MVP in the playoffs as the Oilers won their second straight Stanley Cup. He set records for a defenseman in goals (12), assists (25) and points (37) in a playoff year.
Earlier in the post-season, after eliminating the Kings in three straight games, the Oilers swept the upstart Winnipeg Jets in the Smythe Division final.
One Coffey performance stands out. In Game 2 at Northlands Coliseum, the Oilers defeated the Jets, 5-2. Coffey either scored or set up all five Edmonton goals.
"Nobody could've done better," said Oilers assistant coach Ted Green, a former teammate of Orr's, "including Himself."
Cut. That's a print.
The Record (New Jersey)
April 4, 1986
COFFEY'S RECORD SEASON WAKING UP HIS CRITICS
Paul Coffey's record-breaking season, like his six previous National Hockey League campaigns, got off to a slow, shaky beginning. And as did most of the others, this regular season is ending with a crescendo.
The Edmonton Oilers defenseman scored his 46th and 47th goals Wednesday night to tie and break Bobby Orr's 11-year-old record for goals by a defenseman in a season.
With two games left in the regular season, he needs just two points to break Orr's single-season points record of 139.
Coffey may finally get the recognition he deserves.
"We'll still keep hearing critics," said teammate Wayne Gretzky, who is closing in on his own league record for most points in a season. "That's freedom of speech, but there also had to be a little rationale.
"He's by far the most dominant defenseman in the game. He's a great team player and a great individual player."
A first-round draft pick (sixth overall) in 1980, Coffey came to the Oilers with all the necessary skills skating, shooting, puck-handling, anticipation, and attitude.
He displayed few of those skills in his first season. As a tentative rookie he scored only nine goals and was such a liability in his own end that he was nicknamed Paul Coff-up.
His second season began with great promise. He had 20 goals by Christmas and was playing with poise and confidence before he suddenly reverted to his rookie-season habits.
"From February on, I was the worst defensemen," he said. He finished with 29 goals, but his confidence and play had eroded so badly by playoff time that he was benched.
"I'm convinced that year prepared me," Coffey said. "That taught me, no matter what, in hockey or in life, you can't get your lip down and mope."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound player also learned to make the most of his tremendous speed, to create scoring plays, and to keep from getting caught up-ice.
It wasn't long into his third season before opponents began to dread the sight of Coffey bursting out from behind his own net. Utilizing the long, powerful strides he developed in power-skating schools, Coffey soon became one of the NHL's most respected offensive defensemen.
He scored 29 goals in 1982-83, hit 40 in 1983-84, and contributed 37 last season, when he finally won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defensemen.
"Some nights he drives you to drink, and others you think you're watching a potential Hall of Famer," Oilers coach Glen Sather said.
A workingman's superstar, Coffey's career soared in 1983-84. His 126 points left him second only to Gretzky's 196, and he silenced many critics who said the Oilers couldn't win the Stanley Cup with Coffey on defense. In the playoffs he was a major force in Edmonton's first Stanley Cup championship, posting an incredible plus-22 rating against the Islanders.
His career took another upward turn about three months after that triumph, during a Canada Cup semifinal game in Calgary.
Finding himself the only Canadian back, Coffey dived to break up a 2-on-1 Soviet Union attack in overtime, then scrambled to his feet to lead a counterattack that led to the winning goal.
He helped restore Canada's hockey reputation, and changed his own.
His Canada Cup performance carried into the 1984-85 season, when he finished with 121 points, won the Norris Trophy, and scored 12 playoff goals to break Orr's record.
To many including most of the Philadelphia Flyers, the defeated finalists Coffey was the most valuable player, even though that distinction and the Conn Smythe Trophy went to Gretzky.
Entering this season, Coffey had only the legend of Orr in front of him. Now he stands alongside him.
And Gretzky, for one, thinks Coffey has not yet peaked.
"He can have the same kind of season next year, with higher numbers," Gretzky said. "It's possible for him to reach 150 points. Who knows, he may average two points a game."
Detroit Free Press
May 16, 1985
COFFEY: DEFENDING HIS OFFENSE
Edmonton defenseman Paul Coffey said Friday that it was just a matter of time before the Chicago Black Hawks' strategy of double-teaming him would work in his favor.
"If I'm any kind of hockey player, I think it will bring the best out in me," Coffey said. "I've just got to be ready for it. If they're going to double-team me, that means somebody else has to be open."
Tuesday night in Edmonton, Coffey proved his readiness. He also proved that he is ready to be mentioned in the same breath as Hall of Fame defender Bobby Orr.
In the Oilers' 10-5 win, which moved them within a game of the Stanley Cup finals, Coffey assisted on five of the Oilers' first seven goals.
In the third period, he scored the Oilers' ninth goal and his ninth of the playoffs, tying Orr (in 1970) and Brad Park (with Boston in 1978) for most goals by a defenseman in the playoffs.
His six points broke the single-game playoff record for defensemen of five shared by Eddie Bush of the Red Wings (1942), Bob Dailey of Philadelphia (1980) and Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders (1981).
Coffey also raised his point total to 25 in 12 games, tying Potvin's 1981 playoff record (Potvin scored eight goals and 17 assists in 18 games).
The record barrage may continue at 8:30 tonight in the sixth game at Chicago Stadium. And if the Oilers advance to the finals, Coffey may pass Orr, his hero, in several categories.
"If you're going to be compared to anybody, you might as well be compared to the best," Coffey said. "Bobby Orr, in my mind, was the best. And still is the best. It's nice to hear your name mentioned in the same breath as his."
But Coffey, who will be 24 on June 1, has yet to win over all the hockey writers who vote for the James Norris Trophy (best defenseman). Many think his offensive abilities are outweighed by his defensive liabilities. Thus, Washington's Rod Langway has been voted the Norris winner the last two seasons.
Because of what appears to be an injustice to Coffey, some have even suggested an award for most offensive defenseman. But Coffey disagrees with the idea -- and that he is a defensive liability.
"I think there should be one trophy and it should be given to the player who is most valuable in his position," Coffey said. "The award reads: the player that is most valuable at his position all around."
Since he is so often compared with Orr -- who won the award eight times -- Coffey can't figure why voters don't think he deserves the Norris Trophy.
Orr, who retired at 31 in 1979, played 12 seasons and produced some incredible offensive numbers for a defenseman: In 657 regular-season games, Orr scored 270 goals and 645 assists. He added 26 goals and 66 assists in 74 playoff games.
Coffey just completed his fifth regular season on a pace that would allow him to surpass Orr's statistics in five more years. In 394 regular-season games, Coffey has 144 goals and 320 assists.
In the playoffs, Coffey could surpass Orr next spring if the Oilers advance far enough. Tuesday's win over the Hawks was Coffey's 61st playoff game, and he has 26 goals and 41 assists in the playoffs.
"People tell me that even though (Orr) won the trophy, he still got criticized a lot for being up the ice," Coffey said. "If I got the puck or one of my other defensemen have the puck, that means the other teams can't score."
COFFEY IS seldom caught deep in the offensive zone. "By the time the other team gets to the other end, I'll catch them," he said. "I'm very confident in my speed that I can do it."
Coffey's performance in the playoffs won't influence the Norris voting this year because it was completed at the end of the regular season.
If Coffey loses again, he won't become a stay-at-home defenseman to try to win the trophy. Besides, he said he was pretty defensive Tuesday when he set the single-game record.
"They were a quiet six points," he said. "I don't think I was playing that offensively."
Watch out when he does.
Coffey vs. Orr
Here's how Paul Coffey matches up against Bobby Orr, the NHL's greatest offensive defenseman:
Their best years
Year GP Goals Assists Pts.
1983-84 80 40 86 126
1984-85 80 37 84 121
1970-71 78 37 102 139
1974-75 80 46 89 135
* Coffey tied two Stanley Cup records for defensemen in the Oilers' 10-5 win over the Chicago Black Hawks Tuesday night: goals (9, held by Orr and Brad Park) and points (25, set by Denis Potvin).
* If not for his teammate Wayne Gretzky's 205 points, Coffey would have won the scoring championship. Orr won it twice, in 1969-70 (120 points) and 1974-75 (135 points).
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