From Eddie Shore, to Bobby Orr, to Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty, if the Stanley Cup is the goal of an NHL team, then one of the essential elements required to achieve that success is a high-end rearguard. You simply can’t win it all without one. Consider how the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings rose up among the elite within NHL circles after Keith and Doughty arrived upon the scene. Then look at how the once-mighty Detroit Red Wings have plummeted since the departure of seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom in 2012.
Best NHL Blueliners
When it comes to determining the best of the best among NHL defensemen for the 2016-17 season, there are several blue liners worthy of honorable mention.
Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres is another young rearguard who is rapidly on the rise and could crack the top 10 by next season. He skates well, puts up points, doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff and can log minutes as a shutdown defender.
Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins is well-established as a point producer and would have been effective as a rover in another era when seven-man hockey was in vogue. But injuries have slowed him in recent years.
It’s been a difficult season for the Nashville Predators and that’s taken a toll on the performance of two of their elite defenders, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban. Neither has put up the numbers typcially associated with their games.