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02-10-2012, 09:44 PM
Student Of The Game
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Regina, SK
Country: Canada
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Bill Houlder, D

At 6'2" and 217 lbs, Houlder had great NHL size. He wasn't very physical though, more like a slightly lesser version of Gord Murphy. Houlder was a player who really flew under the radar for almost his entire career, but what he carved out was pretty nice:

- 846 games
- 21.12 minutes per game
- he was not just a "poor team #1", his teams averaged just 4% below average
- with 250 career points, he is the 3rd highest scoring available defenseman (Price and Smith ahead)

Houlder took a long time to break into the NHL on a permanent basis: In the 1988-1993 seasons he played just 111 NHL games, averaging just 17.8 minutes a game, while playing 309 games in the minors.

Whether he was a late bloomer, or the extra 30 spots for full-time NHL defensemen created by expansion helped (or a combination), Houlder blossomed in the 1994 season with Anaheim. He put up 39 points and played 23 minutes a game, serving as their #1 even ahead of Alexei Kasatonov.

Back down to earth in 1995, Houlder played for a very strong St. Louis team and was just their #5. Then in 1996, Houlder played as Tampa Bay's #2 defenseman, helping take them to their first playoff berth. Houlder actually outperformed Hamrlik in the 1997 season, taking over as their #1, then was sent to San Jose.

It was in San Jose where Houlder peaked. In the 1998 season, he played as their #1, ahead of Todd Gill, Mike Rathje and Marcus Ragnarsson, and the team made the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. He was again their #1 in 1999, ahead of a fairly strong quintet of Ragnarsson, Norton, Rathje, Marchment and Rouse, and the team made the playoffs again. Two times the #1 defenseman on a playoff team - not too shabby!

Early in the 2000 season, Houlder was sent to Nashville, where he was their #2, playing not behind Kimmo Timonen, but the great Drake Berehowsky! As the team improved from 70 to 80 points, his role reduced to a #3 in 2001. In 2002 he was their #2 as they saw a decline to 69 points. He finished off his career as a 35-year old #4 defenseman as the team improved to 74 points.

Career icetime ranks, 1994-2000: 1, 5, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, Seven times a top-2 defenseman on his team, and three of those times his team made the playoffs. Typically, Houlder was not a player who could be "the guy" on a good team, but he could have spent a whole career playing a 2nd pairing role on strong teams - that's just not where his career took him.

Interestingly, Houlder's teams were only below average when he was off the ice. Houlder, playing long and hard minutes, had a career on/off ratio of 1.05, and his teams were just 0.92 when he was on the bench. that is a stark improvement.

Hockey Scouting Report 1994-95]Houlder has a big shot, but even at that, his 14 goals are impressive because his overall skills are pretty average. Still, Houlder earned a spot as one of Anaheim's top defense pairing, and he made the most of the situation. Although he struggles as a skater, Houlder has a decent first step... he makes smart choices with his passes. He does not like to carry the puck but is a smart stay-at-home type who is aware he is limited by his range... Houlder is definitely among the big guys who don't hit to hurt. If he did get involved he would be a dominating defensemen, but that's not about to happen at this stage... He will take out his man with quiet efficiency.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 1996-97
average skills, but terrific shot. Smart with the puck... a stay at home defenseman...
Originally Posted by McKeen's & Sports Forecaster 1999-2000
steady defender with good size and mobility...has progressed into the Sharks' most dependable blueliner... flourished with the added icetime over the years... usually plays a safe game in his own end. plays right side on the first pairing, starts most penalty killing situations and sees spot duty on the PP

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