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NYR Top Defensemen of All-Time (Rules & Preliminary Discussion)

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Old
06-03-2013, 03:10 PM
  #26
Richter Scale
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Originally Posted by Chief View Post
I appreciate the effort but there's no contest here. Leetch's career is double the length of Park's. 16 seasons as one of the top defensemen in the league. Leetch hit the ground running winning the Calder. He has two Norris Trophies. And he won the Conn Smythe with an incredible Stanley Cup run (which alone might tip the scales in his favor).

People should save their Park arguments for the debate on whether Park deserves to be ahead of Howell. After all, Howell actually beat out Orr for a Norris.
In a lot of ways I'm playing devil's advocate. But I'm doing that because I think it is a lot closer than most would think at first glance - especially if you consider the two players' relative defensive strengths. Might as well not be ranking defenders if we aren't going to even consider that in the mix. So, since I personally value that part of the game pretty highly, I don't think you can say it is 'no contest.' It is only a 'no contest' if you value Leetch's offense greater than Park's relatively superior defensive play (and well-roundedness).

The only reasons I would rank Leetch overall ahead of Park is because of length of time with NYR and Leetch's absolutely dominant playoff performance that helped get this team a cup. Though, as I've already said, I don't think you can reasonably blame Park for the trade - the guy actually cried when he found out he was traded, and was always a Ranger at heart. But either way, those are certainly not insignificant reasons. And I suspect, since I generally place a big emphasis in my rankings on playoff performance, the cup run will tip the scale in his [Leetch's] favor for me when the time comes to look at these things closer.


Last edited by Richter Scale: 06-03-2013 at 03:37 PM. Reason: clarification
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06-03-2013, 03:12 PM
  #27
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Al Arbour- Was he even particularly good as a player? Either way, he played primarily in the AHL before joining the expansion Blues, which was the tiny overlap with Park's career.

Denis Potvin- Park beat's Potvin in Norris voting in Potvin's rookie season. Next season after that, Potvin (and a number of other people) are ahead of him. Trade year Potvin beats out Park for the Norris.

Guy Lapointe/Serge Savard- Two very good defensemen playing on a dynasty team. I don't want to take anything away from these two. Still don't consider them as good as any of Chelios, Bourque, Stevens, Coffey, MacInnis, Lidstrom, or Pronger.

Jacques Laperriere- Tail end of his career, not as good as the two above for the most part (in my understanding).

Borje Salming- Park tops Salming in Salming's rookie year, is behind Salming in Norris voting Salming's sophomore year, and tops Salming in the trade year.

Basically, the top competition (Orr, Potvin) that Park faced he lost to. The rest tended to be at either the beginning or end of their respective careers. Note that I'm only considering the Ranger years.

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06-03-2013, 03:19 PM
  #28
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Originally Posted by Chief View Post
People should save their Park arguments for the debate on whether Park deserves to be ahead of Howell. After all, Howell actually beat out Orr for a Norris.
Haha... way to stir the pot. But Howell won it in Orr's rookie season... not sure how much credit you can give him for "beating out Orr!" And Park wasn't even playing yet. Orr swept the Norris in the subsequent 8 full seasons he played in.

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06-03-2013, 03:26 PM
  #29
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Don't know if I'll have time for this, but I'd like to see Bill Gadsby considered.

Probably one of the first real offensive defensemen to play the game.

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06-03-2013, 03:30 PM
  #30
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Originally Posted by Richter Scale View Post
In a lot of ways I'm playing devil's advocate. But I'm doing that because I think it is a lot closer than most would think at first glance - especially if you consider the two players' relative defensive strengths. Might as well not be ranking defenders if we aren't going to even consider that in the mix. So, since I personally value that part of the game pretty highly, I don't think you can say it is 'no contest.' It is only a 'no contest' if you value Leetch's offense greater than Park's relatively superior defensive play (and well-roundedness).

The only reasons I would rank Leetch overall ahead of Park is because of length of time with NYR and Leetch's absolutely dominant playoff performance that helped get this team a cup. Though, as I've already said, I don't think you can reasonably blame Park for the trade - the guy actually cried when he found out he was traded, and was always a Ranger at heart. Those are certainly not insignificant reasons. And I suspect, since I generally place a big emphasis in my rankings on playoff performance, the cup run will tip the scale in his favor for me when the time comes to look at these things closer.
I understand playing the role of devil's advocate. I found myself doing that in the centers discussion. Now, a large part of these rankings is opinion and I can't fault you for your opinions, but the one thing I cannot agree with is giving Park some sort of credit because he never wanted to be traded. These polls are regarding their Rangers careers and we need to keep them to that.

If anyone has some thoughts or links they'd like to post regarding the pre-Park defensemen on our list, I would welcome that as that's where my knowledge is weakest.

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06-03-2013, 04:07 PM
  #31
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Damn, was hoping the wingers would come up first so I had some more time to think about D-men as well. Agree that the problem here is how do you rank those defensive d-men, especially from the early eras where there is not much info. Stats really don't tell the whole story here. I guess the good new is that the Rangers are deeper at "all star" D then other positions so hopefully we are arguing about whether players deserve to be left out of the top 10 rather than whether those players are good enough to be top 10

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06-03-2013, 04:31 PM
  #32
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Originally Posted by NCRanger View Post
Don't know if I'll have time for this, but I'd like to see Bill Gadsby considered.

Probably one of the first real offensive defensemen to play the game.
You're showing your knowledge by dropping a name like that. His name pops up a ton in the 1950s voting records. I think he'll definitely be considered.

The big pre-WWII names are Ching Johnson, Art Coulter, Ott Heller, Babe Pratt, and Hy Buller. I'm going to learn a lot during this one.

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06-03-2013, 05:33 PM
  #33
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Al Arbour- Was he even particularly good as a player? Either way, he played primarily in the AHL before joining the expansion Blues, which was the tiny overlap with Park's career.
I may have overstepped a bit by including him as "elite". Letting the coaching record influence me there. His career as a player was a lot more than the AHL and the Blues though. He was a pretty solid defensive defenseman, and he was on 4 Stanley Cup winning teams (admittedly only played in the playoffs really for 2 of them).

The rest of what you say is pretty fair.


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...but the one thing I cannot agree with is giving Park some sort of credit because he never wanted to be traded. These polls are regarding their Rangers careers and we need to keep them to that.
Agreed. Wasn't really trying to say I'm going to consider his time with Boston or Detroit when ranking him (I only brought it up in the other post to demonstrate how the period of time one played expands the list of "elite" competition they played against). And when considering longevity with NYR, Leetch will certainly have the leg up over Park. Just pointing out for those who may be unfamiliar with that era that it wasn't the kind of situation where Park left the team of his own accord.

---

I don't remember who posted this info in the centers project's discussion (bernmeister maybe?), but figured this might be helpful for those looking at the long list and wondering where to start. A book, "100 Ranger Greats," ranks the top 100 Rangers of all time. I think it does a pretty poor job of its overall ranking in some areas and a decent job in others - so I wouldn't rely on it too much. But anywho, here are the relevant names (and their corresponding ranks on that list):

Brian Leetch (1)
Harry Howell (10)
Brad Park (11)
Ron Greschner (12)
Ott Heller (25)
Ching Johnson (28)
Art Coulter (30)
Dave Maloney (34)
Rod Seiling (41)
Jim Neilson (42)
James Patrick (44)
Babe Pratt (47)
Jeff Beukeboom (50)
Carol Vadnais (52)
Allan Stanley (60)
Earl Seibert (61)
Barry Beck (62)
Bill Gadsby (63)
Sergei Zubov (72)
Reijo Ruotsalainen (82)
Tom Laidlaw (87)
Arnie Brown (93)
Lou Fontinato (96)
Mike McEwen (98)

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06-03-2013, 05:46 PM
  #34
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Also - while we're on the topic of offensive dmen, I'm curious to hear what people's opinions are on Reijo "Plexi Rexi" Ruotsalainen. He has an interesting story, and while he is probably more well known (if remembered at all) for his two cups with Edmonton, he was damn good with NYR when he was here too. Amazing speed and shot. Not so hot defensively though.

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06-03-2013, 05:49 PM
  #35
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Originally Posted by Richter Scale View Post
I may have overstepped a bit by including him as "elite". Letting the coaching record influence me there. His career as a player was a lot more than the AHL and the Blues though. He was a pretty solid defensive defenseman, and he was on 4 Stanley Cup winning teams (admittedly only played in the playoffs really for 2 of them).

The rest of what you say is pretty fair.




Agreed. Wasn't really trying to say I'm going to consider his time with Boston or Detroit when ranking him (I only brought it up in the other post to demonstrate how the period of time one played expands the list of "elite" competition they played against). And when considering longevity with NYR, Leetch will certainly have the leg up over Park. Just pointing out for those who may be unfamiliar with that era that it wasn't the kind of situation where Park left the team of his own accord.
I meant that he was an AHL defenseman directly before joining the expansion Blues, which was the point at which his career overlaps with Park's.

I think it's fair to put a disclaimer on the debates we're having. Since we're arguing points, we kind of raise one player up and tear another one down. I completely, for instance, understand some people ranking Brad Park above Brian Leetch. I disagree with it, but it certainly isn't an outlandish opinion, and on my list right now Park is a clear number two (not that my list is comprehensive at all, at this point ).

Speaking of lists, I have the first 20 defensemen's stats up. I'm hoping to get the next twenty (through Harry Howell) by the end of tonight.

We have exactly 100 eligible players this time. About three times more than centers.

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06-03-2013, 05:51 PM
  #36
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You're showing your knowledge by dropping a name like that. His name pops up a ton in the 1950s voting records. I think he'll definitely be considered.

The big pre-WWII names are Ching Johnson, Art Coulter, Ott Heller, Babe Pratt, and Hy Buller. I'm going to learn a lot during this one.
If people are able to dig up info from this era can we add Earl Seibert to the above names? Only played 5 seasons (31-36), but apparently was a beast

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06-03-2013, 05:53 PM
  #37
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Where would mcdonaugh and staal rank right now? Would staal be top 5 or would that be to high?

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06-03-2013, 05:56 PM
  #38
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Where would mcdonaugh and staal rank right now? Would staal be top 5 or would that be to high?
Personally that would be way to high for Staal, although it is difficult to rate defensive d-men

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06-03-2013, 06:02 PM
  #39
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If people are able to dig up info from this era can we add Earl Seibert to the above names? Only played 5 seasons (31-36), but apparently was a beast
He is on my list of people to look more closely at. Will post what, if anything, I find of value.

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Where would mcdonaugh and staal rank right now? Would staal be top 5 or would that be to high?
It is going to be interesting to see how we deal with some of the guys currently playing that you mention. I could see one or two of them potentially cracking the top 20, but I highly doubt top 5 of all time... at least at this point in their careers. McDonagh has only played the equivalent of two full seasons, and though Staal has played at a high level in the past few seasons, not sure its enough to land him a spot - especially with his bouts with injuries lately.

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06-03-2013, 06:16 PM
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The only argument McDonagh has over Staal is how good last year was (he led the league in Defensive Point Shares). Staal and Girardi both have relative longevity and high DPS for the time that they've played. Even so, they only have one ASG each, and generally haven't been regarded as top tier defensemen (they're definitely a step down).

Actually, I was quite dismissive of Colville earlier, but depending on how you weight AST selections, I could conceivably see him ranked above any of our current defensemen.

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06-03-2013, 06:27 PM
  #41
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Actually, I was quite dismissive of Colville earlier, but depending on how you weight AST selections, I could conceivably see him ranked above any of our current defensemen.
Are you only considering the seasons he played defense?

He split time between defense and center in his first season - 36-37. From there he played exclusively center until 45-46. And then ended his career on d.

So these are the relevant seasons:

36-37 (split C/D)
45-46
46-47
47-48
48-49

1 2ndAST in 47-48.

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06-03-2013, 06:34 PM
  #42
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Yeah, only considering the defense years. The 2AST is, awards wise, more than any of our current players have under their belts.

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06-03-2013, 07:07 PM
  #43
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Well, as a Ranger fan with memories back to 1958 and a season ticket holder in the blue seats from 1968 to 1976, I'd vote for Leetch, Park, Howell, and Beck in that order. I fully expect that one day Staal, McD, and even Girardi to be in the top 10 and with Staal and McD perhaps even higher.

In just to throw some other names into the conversation for us long time NYR fans, two more very solid Dmen during the Francis era (not top 10 but most certainly top 25) were Jim Neilson and Rod Seiling.

Special shout outs to Beuk, Zubov, James Patrick

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06-03-2013, 07:17 PM
  #44
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Greg, I think Park's legacy would be a lot different if Bobby Orr decided never to lace up the skates. Not to say that Leetch didn't have some tough competition himself (Bourque, Coffey, Lidstrom, Chelios, etc). But we're talking multiple Norrises for Park if Orr doesn't show up to the party. Consensus #2 defenseman in the world for many years.
Great points...six time runner up for the Norris. I would rate him as the best dman to ever wear the Ranger sweater.

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06-03-2013, 07:57 PM
  #45
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Alkurtz, where would you have greschner ranked?

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06-03-2013, 08:32 PM
  #46
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If it's any help:

Hall of Famers out of that list:

Ching Johnson--who played almost his entire career with the Rangers and I think he was an original Ranger. Earl Seibert--played his first 5 years and then I think he went on to the Black Hawks. I also believe he was on the 1933 Rangers Stanley Cup team. Babe Pratt--an original Ranger? Neil Colville--who's career was broken up by WWII--Rangers were his only team. Doug Harvey was the premier offensive defenseman of his time--most of that time was spent with the Montreal Canadiens. Bill Gadsby spent several years with the Rangers and just about an equal amount of time with both the Red Wings and Blackhawks--like Brad Park he is considered one of the best players never to win a Stanley Cup. Art Coulter--a mean, nasty guy--not sure if he played on the '33 Rangers Cup winner but he was definitely on the 1940 cup winning team. Allan Stanley--first several years with the Rangers--became a big star with the Maple Leafs. Harry Howell--arguably the best Rangers defenseman post WWII until Brad Park arrived. Brad Park. Brian Leetch--maybe the best Rangers player ever--IMO their best ever d-man.

Other important old timers. Clarence 'Taffy' Abel--an original Ranger. Hy Buller--maybe the first ever Jewish player in a Ranger jersey--excellent d-man. 'Leapin' Lou Fontinato--one nasty customer. Ott Heller. Muzz Patrick--son of Lester.

Guys I've actually seen as Rangers worthy of mention:

Barry Beck, Ron Greschner, Dave Maloney, Jim 'The Chief' Neilson, Reijo Ruotsolainen--little Finnish guy--great offensive player, Carol Vadnais, James Patrick, Jeff Beukeboom, Sergei Zubov, Kevin Lowe, Ulf Samuelsson, Michal Rozsival and to that list I'd also add Staal, McDonagh and Girardi.

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06-03-2013, 08:50 PM
  #47
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Greschner......probably somewhere 6-10. Its really difficult to access guys from different eras with different styles of play. The first few are easy, after that it gets harder. Personally, I always thought he was a bit overrated and not in the conversation with the best of his era. But that might be timing more than anything else. He came up when the great Francis era teams were on the wane and was perhaps in his prime when we had good teams but were always overshadowed by the Isles and Potvin. But thinking about it, in manynways he was similar to the accepted template for good overall D today, especially those who can make good outlet passes, carry the puck and penetrate the zone. We could certainly use a player of his skills today. There were times I thought he would make a better center than a defenseman and I seem to remember a short-lived experiment when that happened.

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06-03-2013, 09:16 PM
  #48
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And, I do want to discuss another guy often forgotten here: Rod Seiling. When the Rangers traded Andy Bathgate to Toronto, they got a whole parcel of younger players in return included young established forward Bob Nevin (later Ranger captain), minor league defenseman Arnie Brown (who was part of our regular dmen in the early years of the Francis era) and Seiling. Seiling was, in many ways, the key player in the trade.

By the way, that trade was one of the first that I can remember that traded vets for prospects: a very common variety of trade now but unusual then.

Seiling was considered to be the top junior player in Canada (no draft in those days but the Leafs owned his rights) and the Rangers getting him was as if they had traded for the #1 draft pick. It took quite a few years for Seiling to establish himself because he was both a forward and a defenseman. It took a bit of time in the minors (brief stints with the Rangers) to work out that he would be better on the blue line.

He established himself as what today would be considered a strong second pair D. People didn't think of dmen in tiers as we do today. He was very consistent averaging about 5G and 30A a year. Not very physical but a strong skater and just dependable and solid. I have a very vivid memory of a game at MSG where Bobby Orr skated into the Ranger zone with a good head of steam, one on one against Rod, and Rod easily rode him off the puck and into the boards.

I'd rank him somewhere 10-20, probably more like 15-20. Because he was such a low key guy, he's kind of been forgotten but still very much remembered and appreciated by me.

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06-03-2013, 10:35 PM
  #49
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Longevity obviously had something to do with it but Greschner retired as the Rangers` all-time leader in points, goals and assists by a defensemen...and he kept those records until Leetch broke them. At least for the time being, I don't see how I can keep him out of my Top 10.

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06-04-2013, 07:39 AM
  #50
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Norris Trophy voting: complete record

This is a table summarizing Norris Trophy finishes as a New York Ranger. I used Sturminator & TheDevilMadeMe's methodology, which you can read more about here and here.

Essentially, the rankings include only defensemen who received at least one first-place vote, or two top-3 votes, or at least two points. The idea was to weed out skewed data in any given year caused by a single sportswriter's bias opinion.

Name 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th Total
Brian Leetch 2 1 1 2 1 2 86
Brad Park 5 1 1 84
Harry Howell 1 1 2 1 2 1 67
Bill Gadsby 3 1 1 1 64
Jim Neilson 1 1 1 1 36
Doug Harvey 1 1 23
Barry Beck 1 1 1 23
Rod Seiling 1 1 13
Dan Girardi 1 9
Lou Fontinato 1 8
Tim Horton 1 3
Ron Greschner 1 1

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