Top 10 All-time Defensemen
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07-21-2009, 12:31 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Originally Posted by
Yes, "outshine"... but that is not remotely close to outperforming or being more effective. For 15 years, Lidstrom has been the pivot of Detroit's game. It's subtle, and frankly his play is not going to "outshine" a dish rag but everything in Detroit goes through Lidstrom.
Play after play for the opposing team simply fizzles into nothing with Lidstrom on the backend, and Lidstrom then controls the pace of the offense.
Well, when I used to word outshine, I implied it to mean outperform, because well I think Coffey did outperform Lidstrom. Even simply considering their time in Detroit, Coffey outperformed Lidstrom.
It's also very interesting to note how much Lidstrom learned by playing with Coffey). His slumping 1992-1993 Season was turned around by the arrival of Coffey, and by 1995-1996 he was playing in All Star games beside Coffey. When Coffey was booted (and before people bring it up, Scotty Bowman had a point of kicking out players he didn't like, despite how good Defensively they were (Sean Burr?)) Lidstrom assumed the role as Detroit's (and soon the League's) number one Defenseman for a good long while.
I'll also disagree with the sentiment that Lidstrom has been Detroit's best Player for the past 15 years. From 1994-1996 I'd say it was Sergei Fedorov (and Coffey - 1995). From 1996-2000, it was Steve Yzerman (it was Yzerman who used to disagree when named the team's best Player at that time, but I would disagree with him there).
The last decade you have a good case, but I feel that too much has been ignored of other Detroit Players. Yzerman when he was playing until 2002 could still be called the best Red Wing, Fedorov had a good case too. Fedorov's 2003 season was magnificent and some called it worthy of Hart consideration. Recently, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been instrumental to Detroit's success, at least as much so as Lidstrom.
Originally Posted by
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 consistently 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.
This is a very interesting point, and there may be an answer. The 1986-1987 Season which saw Coffey sit part of the year due to back injury and holdout, also saw him play his best Defense. He would say that he simply did not have the confidence in his state to play the Offensive style he used to. Rather, he focused his skills on Defense, and did a great job. His skating ability would now be used in a less demanding fashion to cover a smaller area, he made short and safe passes out, and he used his intelligence and creativity to break up many plays.
This actually fit in well with the Oilers too, who had matured a bit and weren't exactly the absolute run and gun team they were when they were younger. Coffey's evolution worked nicely with the evolution of the team.
Not surprisingly, despite this act of reinventing himself to help his team in the way he could best, he was harshly criticized for his significant drop in production.
After all, in the last three seasons Coffey was second only to the Great Gretzky in scoring (tied third with Mike Bossy in points per game after Jari Kurri). He was outscoring perhaps the greatest group of elite Offensive talent the league had ever seen.
Coffey would later point out that this would be the Catch-22 situation he was in as you mentioned:
"I'm kind of in a Catch-22 situation because of the way I play the game," said Coffey, a three-time winner of the Norris Trophy, which goes to the league's top defenseman. "It's almost like if I stay back, taking care of my own end, do the little things, take two or three steps and move the puck, get off the ice, they'll say, `Wow, what's he doing? How come he's not scoring points? How come he's not getting involved in the play?' That's my style. That's the way I play. That's the way most teams want me to play."
"I can't do a thing about that. It kind of makes me laugh." (Coffey Ready to Join Wayne's World - St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 10, 1995)
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