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Physical Defensemen - Victim of "New" NHL?

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05-15-2013, 01:15 PM
  #1
Leafsdude7
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Physical Defensemen - Victim of "New" NHL?

Not sure if this should go here or the main board, but I'll let the mods decide for me.

Been thinking about this for a while, and it's often hit me just how much different of a league this is for physical defensemen.

Dion Phaneuf seems like the perfect example. He seemed to be able to throw a big hit or two every game he played, though granted it was in junior hockey, back in the pre-lockout era, and though he had a number of good ones over those first two years, it did take a while for the league to really evolve into what it is today with the new rules: faster, stronger and much more skilled. Now, he's lucky to get more than 5-10 big hits over the course of a full season, and only a select handful (Kronwall, perhaps?) seem to be able to do much better. And, as physical defensemen, if they're not throwing big hits and getting goals, they're really not overly effective overall.

It makes me wonder, if Phaneuf or any of these other highly skilled physical defensemen were born into the dead-puck era or even the 80s, where there was lots of clutching and grabbing which made the game slower than it is today, but much less defensive, would they be a much better players than they are today, even if just by reputation?

It just seems today, with minimal tolerance for obstruction, faster players and highly developed defensive systems, the presence physical defenseman provide has been severely compromised, since, as the old adage goes, it's hard to hit what you can't catch.

So, is the physical defenseman a casualty of the new NHL, or are we just in a period where they're not as good as those in past eras were?

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05-15-2013, 01:46 PM
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Hobnobs
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We all are victims of the capped NHL where quality has dropped because of teams going for cheaper options.

The physical defenseman from before were a defenseman who knew when he could step up and take liberties with players (Stevens, Konstantinov, Ludwig etc) in the "new" NHL however physical defensemen seems to be hellbent on going out of their way to take an opponent out of the play aswell as themselves (Kronwall, Phaneuf etc)

Usually what you wanted to do was to get the opponent down while you were still relevant to the play,

So, physical defensemen are still needed just not in the clutch and grab capacity.

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05-15-2013, 02:07 PM
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Kyle McMahon
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The physical defenseman may not be able to clutch and grab anymore, but basically this means he needs to have quicker feet and better use body positioning down low instead of holding and grappling. He can still be physical in terms of throwing his weight around and using strength to win puck battles.

Phaneuf is a poor example to use. He may be physical in terms of looking for the big open-ice hit, but he is very soft in the corners and avoids physical battles down low with anybody remotely close to his size or larger. I guess you could argue more clutching and grabbing might prevent him from getting beat to scoring areas by forwards as frequently as he does, but you could probably say this about any defenseman. Speed is not an issue for Phaneuf, so there's no reason more stringent holding penalty standards should hold him back.

I'd look at a guy like Roman Polak. A solid defensive blueliner as it stands, but he would have been a beast in the pre-2004 game. Probably a player who's overall lack of speed and agility will prevent him from ever being more than a #4-#6 on the depth chart of a decent team, but he might have been Derian Hatcher type 15 years ago when you could grab a jersey to prevent a quick forward from gaining a step on you.

Matt Greene would be another example. Broke into the league in 2006, suffered from constant holding and interference penalties in his early days. His PIM totals have steadily decreased over the years (maybe some of it is due to fighting less, a Kings fan could help here). He's adapted his game with maturity, and has rounded into a very dependable physical defenseman that isn't a constant risk to leave you shorthanded.

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05-15-2013, 03:38 PM
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I don't think its just defensemen. Good body checking forwards have been affected too. Many of the new rules that have been instituted to reduce big hits and hits to the head have come as a result of two rather recent developments. The first is the red line becoming obsolete. This has resulted in longer passes to players moving at higher speeds increasing the likelihood of a bigger collision. The second is the fairly new hard shell equipment. This, I believe, causes more injuries than the actual hit itself. Especially if there is contact with the head. As a result, we are seeing less big hits than we did a few years ago by players from all positions. We are also seeing less cheap shots than we used to see (i.e. Ference on Halpern in the 2010 playoffs). I believe the punitive system is working. Overall, players are being more careful now about how they deliver their check.

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05-15-2013, 04:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobnobs View Post
We all are victims of the capped NHL where quality has dropped because of teams going for cheaper options.

Hum......... Do you thing a lot of player are not in the nhl for money reason, ok for Redden for a while, but in general ?

Cap would limit player salary and boost team equality a bit, but will not necessarily diminish value, how many KHLer defencemen would be a big addition to a good team top4 ?

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05-15-2013, 05:17 PM
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No I think it has to do with a change in minor league development philosophy and being able to get away with less and less dirty stuff.

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05-15-2013, 06:20 PM
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Canadiens1958
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Lost Skill,

Today you rarely see a proper hockey bodycheck delivered by defensemen or forwards. Players are not taught the proper technique or the proper hockey geometry and physics required to bodycheck properly while regaining possession of the puck.

Today all you see if football type hits adapted to ice and skates.

Prime example would be P. K. Subban, a Norris Trophy candidate whose portfolio includes a series of missed hits creating offensive opportunities for the opposition while he crashes into the boards.

Will post a few youtube clips in a few days illustrating the difference over the years going back to hopefully the O6 era.

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05-15-2013, 06:21 PM
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Rhiessan71
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Actually, if you ask me, it has more to do with the speed of the game. Namely the disallowing of impeding the forecheckers.
Mobility and the ability to move the puck quickly in your own zone are at a premium.
It‘s much more important in today‘s game than brute strength.
Even a slow oaf like Hal Gill can, surprisingly, move the puck quickly.

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05-15-2013, 06:53 PM
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tombombadil
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I've often thought that Chara would be truly dominant if he was allowed to hit 100%. He literally has to crouch to not 'headhunt'. Had he hit his prime during the DPE, he would have been the stuff of legend.

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05-15-2013, 08:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tombombadil View Post
I've often thought that Chara would be truly dominant if he was allowed to hit 100%. He literally has to crouch to not 'headhunt'. Had he hit his prime during the DPE, he would have been the stuff of legend.
I think you over estimate Chara‘s mobility. He is fast for a big man but only in a straight line. He has the turning radius of a Mac truck.
Chara‘s strengths have always been his positioning and reach.
It‘s never been that he wasn‘t allowed to hit players, especially smaller ones, it‘s that he isn‘t agile enough to hit them at full speed.

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05-15-2013, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhiessan71 View Post
I think you over estimate Chara‘s mobility. He is fast for a big man but only in a straight line. He has the turning radius of a Mac truck.
Chara‘s strengths have always been his positioning and reach.
It‘s never been that he wasn‘t allowed to hit players, especially smaller ones, it‘s that he isn‘t agile enough to hit them at full speed.
well, another side of it is that with his wingspan, if allowed to hold and hook.... you get what i'm saying.

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05-15-2013, 08:10 PM
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tombombadil
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actually, to add - someone mentioned Derian Hatcher - not mobile at all. Chara has excelled in a league that simply doesn't suit his set of strengths and weaknesses. He would have been far stronger as a prime age player in the late 90's

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05-16-2013, 01:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle McMahon View Post
The physical defenseman may not be able to clutch and grab anymore, but basically this means he needs to have quicker feet and better use body positioning down low instead of holding and grappling. He can still be physical in terms of throwing his weight around and using strength to win puck battles.

Phaneuf is a poor example to use. He may be physical in terms of looking for the big open-ice hit, but he is very soft in the corners and avoids physical battles down low with anybody remotely close to his size or larger. I guess you could argue more clutching and grabbing might prevent him from getting beat to scoring areas by forwards as frequently as he does, but you could probably say this about any defenseman. Speed is not an issue for Phaneuf, so there's no reason more stringent holding penalty standards should hold him back.

I'd look at a guy like Roman Polak. A solid defensive blueliner as it stands, but he would have been a beast in the pre-2004 game. Probably a player who's overall lack of speed and agility will prevent him from ever being more than a #4-#6 on the depth chart of a decent team, but he might have been Derian Hatcher type 15 years ago when you could grab a jersey to prevent a quick forward from gaining a step on you.

Matt Greene would be another example. Broke into the league in 2006, suffered from constant holding and interference penalties in his early days. His PIM totals have steadily decreased over the years (maybe some of it is due to fighting less, a Kings fan could help here). He's adapted his game with maturity, and has rounded into a very dependable physical defenseman that isn't a constant risk to leave you shorthanded.
Greene is probably a better example than Polak, who is actually one of the best/most powerful skaters on the Blues. Feel free to ask the rest of the Blues board if you disagree.

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05-16-2013, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by tombombadil View Post
actually, to add - someone mentioned Derian Hatcher - not mobile at all. Chara has excelled in a league that simply doesn't suit his set of strengths and weaknesses. He would have been far stronger as a prime age player in the late 90's
Chara would be much more like Hatcher, actually; when he entered the league he was a terrible skater. He has improved greatly since then. If he played in the DPE, he would not have needed to improve (or not as much, anyway) and might have looked like a more skilled Derian Hatcher (who was horrifically overrated, BTW).

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05-16-2013, 09:19 AM
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I'm not sure if we are not overating the difference between late-90, early-2000 and now a bit.

No player having success then would not know and vice-versa, imo.

Chara started in 99-00 to play and no he would not have been a norris winner like now without having worked on his skating even with no rule change, he had 2 40 points seasons before the lock-out, we do no need what a slow Chara would be able to do in the dpe, he existed

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05-16-2013, 09:58 AM
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Yeah, Chara played in the DPE (and was well regarded, too: he finished second in Norris voting in 2004), and he wasn't a great hitter, let alone a legendary one.


Another factor that might be contributing to the decline of the "physical" defenceman: advanced stats, specifically puck possession metrics. With the invention and spread of Corsi, Fenwick, etc. it's become increasingly apparent, even to non-inclined people, how often ineffective this type of player actually is on the ice. There are better measures now than ever to actually measure a player's impact defensively, rather than just looking in the hits or PIM column for an indication of how "tough" (and therefore good defensively) they are.


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05-16-2013, 07:43 PM
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I don't know what everyone else was watching in the 2013 playoffs. I saw a ton of hits in the first round. How about the L.A./Stl series? Loads and loads of big hits. Don Cherry might be exaggerating a bit but he claims he's never seen a series with so many hits.

The NHL had to adjust some things and since the speed of the game has picked up they had to find a way to reduce head shots. Just like the NFL is doing. You can't have the head be the primary target. Even Scott Stevens didn't go head hunting. He was all about the shoulder.

Phaneuf has laid some lovely hits in his career (think Denis Hamel in 2005-'06) and was a 1st team all-star in 2008. The fact that he has not been as dominant is a result of him and not the way the game is played. As a Leaf fan I'll often compare him to ex-Leaf Bryan McCabe. A defenseman that will often make the boneheaded play.

I'll agree with C1958 here that many young defensemen aren't learning to check properly either. It isn't always about the big momentum changing hit. Don't worry, those will come up to you on a silver platter, but what is more important is making a check and keeping yourself in the play while eliminating the opponent. I guess Larry Robinson is a good example of someone who did that well. Ray Bourque too. Some players take the body, some take the puck and Bourque took both. Maybe there weren't a ton of "Phaneuf-like" hits on Bourque's resume but I'll bet it would take you a second if you asked anyone who they'd rather have on their team.

Being on a 5 second clip on Sportscenter is not as important as making a pivotal defensive play with your body, but we always think it is. That is what takes the focus off many defensemen today I think.

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05-16-2013, 08:00 PM
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Chris Pronger and the Flyers

Quote:
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Yeah, Chara played in the DPE (and was well regarded, too: he finished second in Norris voting in 2004), and he wasn't a great hitter, let alone a legendary one.


Another factor that might be contributing to the decline of the "physical" defenceman: advanced stats, specifically puck possession metrics. With the invention and spread of Corsi, Fenwick, etc. it's become increasingly apparent, even to non-inclined people, how often ineffective this type of player actually is on the ice. There are better measures now than ever to actually measure a player's impact defensively, rather than just looking in the hits or PIM column for an indication of how "tough" (and therefore good defensively) they are.
Unsupported claim. Care to produce the Corsi/Fenwick, etc numbers fir the Flyers with Chris Pronger and the same numbers once Chris Pronger was injured and left the Flyers.

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05-16-2013, 08:07 PM
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Unsupported claim. Care to produce the Corsi/Fenwick, etc numbers fir the Flyers with Chris Pronger and the same numbers once Chris Pronger was injured and left the Flyers.
Pronger is a elite puck moving defenceman thought, elite in a lot of aspect of hockey, far from just a physical defenceman.

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05-16-2013, 08:23 PM
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Proper Bodychecking Technique

View the 1979 series winning goal by Yvon Lambert, game 7 vs Boston:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l22FV4105p8

On a Bruin rush, Serge Savard expertly brush checks the Bruin puck carrier after angling the winger into a no mans land situation. The Bruin winger is removed physically from the play while Savard effortlessly takes the puck away, transitions the puck up the opposite wing creating an odd man rush that ends when Yvon Lambert tips in a pass for the winning goal.

The winger that should have been checking Yvon Lambert was the Boston winger that Serge Savard expertly and legally removed from the play.

Not a rock em sock em highlight but ultra effective.

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05-16-2013, 08:52 PM
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And all this whitout having to touch the bruins player.

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05-16-2013, 10:39 PM
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Disagree. I consider the new NHL the last 30 years and physical dmen like HHoFer Stevens and Pronger are widely respected.

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05-17-2013, 02:51 AM
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Morgoth Bauglir
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
View the 1979 series winning goal by Yvon Lambert, game 7 vs Boston:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l22FV4105p8

On a Bruin rush, Serge Savard expertly brush checks the Bruin puck carrier after angling the winger into a no mans land situation. The Bruin winger is removed physically from the play while Savard effortlessly takes the puck away, transitions the puck up the opposite wing creating an odd man rush that ends when Yvon Lambert tips in a pass for the winning goal.

The winger that should have been checking Yvon Lambert was the Boston winger that Serge Savard expertly and legally removed from the play.

Not a rock em sock em highlight but ultra effective.
Great breakdown C58! How many fans would actually be able to see what happened there let alone be able to understand WHY it happened?

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05-17-2013, 05:54 AM
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Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara's name has been raised as a physical defenseman. Physical, a qualified yes, elite bodychecker, far from.

Chara has two flaws. During a game he stands, stops moving his feet at times, fairly often. So he limits his own reaction time and mobility towards a bodycheck target. Too often he is caught parallel to the lines when he should be angle adjusted to the puck and the flow. This also impacts his reaction time, mobility and angles to the check or puck. This also effects his shooting effectiveness from the point.

His height and reach allow him to compensate.

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05-17-2013, 12:33 PM
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Great breakdown C58! How many fans would actually be able to see what happened there let alone be able to understand WHY it happened?
Heh and a certain poster around here can't understand how I and many others can rank Savard so far ahead of Zubov


Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Zdeno Chara's name has been raised as a physical defenseman. Physical, a qualified yes, elite bodychecker, far from.

Chara has two flaws. During a game he stands, stops moving his feet at times, fairly often. So he limits his own reaction time and mobility towards a bodycheck target. Too often he is caught parallel to the lines when he should be angle adjusted to the puck and the flow. This also impacts his reaction time, mobility and angles to the check or puck. This also effects his shooting effectiveness from the point.

His height and reach allow him to compensate.
Agree 100%
I have seen quick, smaller forwards give him fits for years. Koivu drove him crazy in the past, as did Gallagher this year.
Where his strength has always been is in front of the net. No one is better at boxing people out and protecting rebounds.
Make him chase you and you can make him look silly. Once you want to go to him/the front of the net though...whole different story.
Something I think Kessel finally learned in their recent PO series.


Being a physical d-man and being a good hitter are two very different things.
Mobility and lateral movement are the keys to making successful open ice hits. Guys like Potvin and Stevens, while not speed demons, had excellent mobility and lateral movement.


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