Why stay-at-home defensemen need more respect

Defensemen like Dan Girardi don’t get the credit they deserve even though they are instrumental to their team’s success. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Tim Kolupanowich: Whenever you hear talk about the Norris Trophy, or any discussion about the top defensemen in the NHL really, it’s not often you hear about the stay-at-home d-men. It is odd though, because they are some of the best defensemen in the NHL, yet players such as Erik Karlsson and Mike Green have received the Norris Trophy nominations in recent years despite their defensive shortcomings while others such as New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi does unnoticed. Why do you think this is Jeff? Could the members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association see them as one-dimensional players, because Karlsson and Green are too.

Jeff Blay: It’s a very interesting debate. There’s no doubt offensive-defensemen often receive the bulk of the attention – especially in recent years. This may be because stay-at-home d-men aren’t as noticeable on a scoresheet or simply because two-way defensemen may more noticeably impact the outcome of a game due to contributing offense. That said, I believe the members of the PHWA know full well how important the stay-at-home defensman is to their respective teams. As Brian Costello, Senior Editor at The Hockey News told me when I touched on this very topic at The Good Point:

”Defensive defenseman are the unsung heroes of hockey. They do the dirty work, often without a lot of recognition.”

That sums up exactly what we’re trying to bring to light. It’s a dirty job, and someone’s got to do it, but you and I can both agree that the NHL as well as the PHWA needs to do something to recognize these players and give them the credit they deserve. Those who are good enough to earn recognition certainly aren’t one-dimensional players; they bring various assets to the table – killing penalties, shot blocking, clearing the zone, physicality, contolling play along the boards, and playing a shutdown role during dying minutes of a game – just to name a few.

TK: Of course, that’s why I wrote that piece on the need for a stay-at-home defenseman award. I think you’re right and the number of times a player gets on the scoresheet is just easier to notice. You often hear “Wow, what an end-to-end rush” on the post game shows and highlight reels, but you’ll never hear “Hey, he did a great job of playing the angle and forcing the forwards to take a bad-angle shot.” It takes a keen eye to notice plays like that and while they’re important in the outcome of the game, those plays are never mentioned. I know he’s young and there is still plenty of time for improvement, but I’ll take Dan Girardi on my team over Karlsson any day. Players like him are important, it’s very hard to win without receiving some offense from the blueline, but the trouble is when he doesn’t score, his value goes down. Girardi, and all others of his ilk, play so consistently so you know what to expect every night and that dependability is crucial over such a long season.

JB: Agreed. And it’s not as if guys like Girardi can’t occasionally contribute offence either – it’s just that they have a more grounded defensive approach to the game and worry about their own end before jumping into the rush. An old hockey cliche is offence will come from good defence, and it all begins with the Girardis and Salvadors that are the defensive rocks for their teams and eat up the big minutes. Speaking of New Jersey’s Bryce Salvador, he’s another stay-at-home d-man who has played an absolutely crucial role towards his team’s success this postseason. It just goes to show you, guys like that can often be overlooked during the regular season due to a lack of offensive contribution, but when it matters most, they’re often the players that step up and shine.

TK: Well, what can you say about Salvador really? He had a pretty solid campaign in the regular season as he always does, but has been other worldly in the playoffs. He has stepped up his game and has quietly been among the best defensemen in the league. There’s that bonus of adding to their game and becoming even better and Salvador went from recording just nine assists in 82 regular season games to three goals and 11 points in 17 playoff games. When a player is as steady and reliable as he is, they can only get better at this point of the year. And it’s those guys, the tortoises, not the hares, that often end up playing longer into the postseason. And as much as you and I feel they could use an award or more recognition, postseason wins are the only thing on their minds.


Coincidental Minors Archives

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Logo and website design by Shapestate Creative

%d bloggers like this: