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The NHL’s top defensive defenseman: Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik?


James O’Brien

In many sports, it’s easy to track the impact an athlete can make on defense. Major League Baseball statheads developed all kinds of crazy ways to monitor the impact a player has on the field, which seems to generate hardcore vs. casual fan debates about Derek Jeter’s worth. (This is something you can see in passing during an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)

When it comes to hockey, it’s a lot more difficult to measure defensive impact because most plays do not result in a goal and many goals are not the fault of every opposing player on the ice. Sure, you can observe numbers that range from vary in quality from plus/minus to Corsi ratings, but ultimately it’s largely about perception.

That being said, there are some numbers that are better than others. The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle has been looking at the league’s best defensive defensemen and forwards spanning to his beloved blog, so when he puts together a list of those top players, people take notice.

Mirtle released his latest list for the “Rod Langway Award,” a fictional trophy that serves as a reaction to the offensive fixation exhibited by voters regarding the Norris Trophy. His is list is based on an unreleased formula that includes quality of competition (QCMP), even strength goals allowed per 60 minutes (EVGA/60) and shorthanded goals allowed per 60 minutes (SHGA/60).

As you can see from this screen shot of Mirtle’s list, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik ranks in first place so far for the 2010-11 season while the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins produced two players in the top 10.


James O’Brien

Interesting stuff.

Does this list - based on stats, not opinion - leave you convinced that these are the league’s best blueliners in their own end? Let us know in the comments.