Top 10 All-time Defensemen
View Single Post
07-21-2009, 08:37 AM
Cake or Death
As most of the lists look fairly solid, the only thing I wanted to comment on is Paul Coffey. I have a real hard time ranking the guy because of the style Edmonton played. Coffey was exceptionally skilled offensively, and was an absolute pleasure to watch. But you can almost half-jokingly and half-seriously ask if you can even label the guy a defenseman. Because quite honestly, the only time I
remember him anywhere near being in position was during a faceoff. My memory is a guy who looked a hell of a lot more like a forward who hung Fuhr out to dry on constant odd man rushes. I don't say this as a knock: Fuhr was good enough to do it, and if he had an off night, Edmonton was capable of scoring 7 goals. So Coffey playing "fourth forward" simply made Edmonton that much more lethal.
It's hard to imagine whether Coffey, during his prime, would have excelled at the defensive aspect of the game because he honestly didn't need to based on the offensive blitz style that Edmonton played, their quality of goaltending, and the sheer fact that, as a team, Edmonton was simply going to outscore you.
The guy is very, very hard to rank. And a lot of that has to do with Edmonton having a relatively unique style of play and an ability to score a ludicrous amount of goals. You can argue on the one hand he wasn't superb defensively. You can just as easily argue that his offensive game made Edmonton so dangerous in the opposition's end that his style made the Oilers far more dangerous and outweighed his need to focus on the defensive end.
I suppose you'd almost have to assume the role of the Oilers' coach and ask yourself: do I want this guy to cover his own end better or do I give him a green light and essentially say, attack the hell out of them and make them stop us? The latter was more the Oilers' approach and it worked with lethal efficiency. As such, Coffey's need to be a defensive dynamo is a direct catch-22 against a system that worked brutally well and won Cups.
Coffey was not exceptional defensively. But it's hard to exploit that when Coffey and his teammates constantly have you on your heels and running ragged in your own end. And if you did exploit it, you still had to beat Fuhr. Ultimately, it's somewhat difficult to hold his defensive game against him when his offensive game worked so perfectly with the team's style, made them much harder to stop, and, above all, led to wins.
Cake or Death