The best defensive group in the league

Cam Charron
July 12 2011 09:50PM

 

 (Cam Charron continues to look at general NHL issues for us here at the Nations. This week, he investigates the Sharks new top-four defense rotation and wonders if it's one of the best in the league)

There has been a lot of chatter dealing with analysis of the trade made between the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild that sent Dany Heatley to St. Paul in exchange for Martin Havlat. The earlier trade, made draft day, that sent Brent Burns to the Bay Area, may have larger repurcussions. Part of the reason is that there was a such a keen divide in the hockey blogosphere over the Heatley and Havlat trade. It included the bigger name in Heatley, even if he wasn't the best player involved in the two trades.

Jonathan Willis wrote recently at The Score about Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison in Florida, who were one of the top purely defensive pairings in hockey last season. For good reason, I find. Weaver and Garrison were well up in my own defensive ranking which adjusts the number of Fenwick events ( goals, saved shots and missed shots) given up while the player was on the ice for the number of starts a player had in the opposing zone.

While Weaver and Garrison were the top pairing, the top four defensemen should probably at this point be San Jose's remarkably strong unit. Jason Demers and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were seen as San Jose's second pairing last season, despite being the team's onlyduo to start more shifts in their own end than the opposing end. While they didn't play against consistently top competition (that was the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray combination) they outshot their opponents by a fair margin. In fact, they were #1 and #3 among regular defensemen in the entire NHL.

With the addition of Brent Burns, who was Minnesota's top defenseman in adjusted Fenwick (shots for and against at the net minus blocked shot) and third in quality of competition and other defensive metrics, the Sharks have added another strong number two defenseman to that group. Like Dan Boyle, Burns is known primarily for his offensive instincts. He was 14th in points among defensemen last season and third in goals with 17. Unlike some scoring defensemen who sacrifice defensive aptitude for a few goals, Burns doesn't. He was fine in his own end last season. He's a regular for Team Canada's World Championship team for good reason.

Boyle, Burns, Demers and Vlasic provide a top four that balances scoring punch with defensive strength. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson no doubt has recognized that his goaltender Antti Niemi is likely the weak link on the team and has made sure to give the Sharks a lot of defensive depth to keep the puck at the other end of the ice. He has given 31 per cent of the Sharks money to his top six defensemen (who include Murray and Jim Vandermeer to round out the corps) which is actually less than the percentage dished out by, among others, Florida's Dale Tallon and Vancouver's Mike Gillis to their top sixes. 

63811cbf517d2d685ea09e103488ea3a
Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
Avatar
#1 jeanshorts
July 12 2011, 10:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

This is one of the few times in my life where I actually heard a regular NHLers name and went "WHO?". Who is Jason Garrison, and how did he slip so badly under my radar?

What's that? Ah, the Florida Panthers. Now it makes sense.

Avatar
#2 RKD
July 12 2011, 11:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

All I know is that the Flames D is going to be tested even more so with the loss of Reg and a much tougher Western Conference.

Play Columbus, you face Carter and Nash. Play LA, you face Kopitar and Richards. Play the Wild you face Heatley and Setoguchi who we will see a lot of in the NW division. Plus those Oiler kids who are fast are getting better.

Avatar
#3 BlacqueJacque
July 12 2011, 09:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

Do we really need comments like Toro's? I know we're hockey fans here and I don't expect a high level of dialogue, but can we at least avoid the absolutely inane crassness that is the first post in this thread?

Avatar
#4 The Towel Boy
July 12 2011, 10:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
The Beaker wrote:

I'm all for a good fist but it's the double entendre there that's the issue, not the fist itself.

And it is fixed for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Now, how 'bout that Shark defense?

Avatar
#5 jeanshorts
July 12 2011, 10:38PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

@SuntanOil

"Anyone else here leery of letting their hockey crazy kids read through the comments?"

Only when Travis Dakin is lurking around. DO NOT GET IN HIS VAN!!

Avatar
#6 Love Monkey
July 12 2011, 11:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

And who really cares about the 'fist' thing? If some "mouth breather", as Robin likes to say, gets his jollies trolling this blog so that he can write "fist" before all the other morons write it, what's the big deal?

Avatar
#7 k
July 12 2011, 10:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

@Toro

yep thats sick, don't bother posting if thats all you have to say

Avatar
#8 The Towel Boy
July 12 2011, 10:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
BlacqueJacque wrote:

Do we really need comments like Toro's? I know we're hockey fans here and I don't expect a high level of dialogue, but can we at least avoid the absolutely inane crassness that is the first post in this thread?

You are familiar with the meme that has taken over this site, right? The fist movement is quite prolific around here. I would suggest you just skip the first two or three comments and you will find yourself in crass-free territory.*

*probably not.

..but I did tone it down to keep it PG.

Avatar
#9 The Beaker
July 12 2011, 10:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

@The Towel Boy

I'm all for a good fist but it's the double entendre there that's the issue, not the fist itself.

Avatar
#10 Toro
July 12 2011, 09:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Champ is here... Go fist [you can't fist that here -TB] somewhere else

Avatar
#11 SuntanOil
July 12 2011, 10:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Anyone else here leery of letting their hockey crazy kids read through the comments?

Good looking D there. Although as much as I like Vandie for OUR #6, you almost hear the old Sesame Street song going through the head as you read that list

--'one of these things is not like the others. Can you guess before my song is done?'--

Avatar
#12 Love Monkey
July 12 2011, 11:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

The addition of Burns is huge. It was noticeable against Vancouver that they needed more depth there. Already a back-to-back Conference Finals team and they've gotten better (on paper at least).

Avatar
#13 @Oilanderp
July 13 2011, 05:02AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I'm pretty sure you've missed the point here, Cam. Just multiply the number of years without playoffs by ten, add it, and your equation will balance. All will be balanced.

44+ (5x10) = 94.

Avatar
#14 The Beaker
July 12 2011, 10:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
k wrote:

yep thats sick, don't bother posting if thats all you have to say

Ignoring him is probably the best remedy to the situation. He is looking for responses like that.

That being said, SJ's Dcorps probably is one of the best. They are going to be a hell of a team next year me thinks.

Avatar
#15 BlacqueJacque
July 12 2011, 10:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

meme or not, and I do understand the slashdot "first" reference, it's still unnecessary. lowest common denominator and all that.

Avatar
#16 Tach
July 13 2011, 09:07AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Cripes, San Jose got Havlat and now Dog Murray is their 5th defenceman?! The rich just get richer.

The only weak spot I see in their line up is their forward depth is a little suspect. Other than that...look out Vancouver.

Cam, any thoughts on the odds of Vandermeer or one of their kids in the 6th hole?

Avatar
#17 Dman09
July 13 2011, 09:17AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

What constently amazes me is that when you start to look through the whole western conference its seems that almost every team is becoming stronger and stronger every year. I have a feeling that the playoff races are going to continue to be tight like last season. The only team off the top of my head that I felt got weaker in the west was the Calgry Flames. Cut their D down and didn't really add any offense. This year will be interesting.

Avatar
#18 Dave
July 13 2011, 09:50AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I agree with what's being said here about some of the western teams getting stronger. LA, SJ, VAN, MIN, CLB are all a lot stronger. For a flames fan that isn't good news. I agree that we are a little weaker this year but hopefully that'll be the catalyst to convince the owners the need for REAL change. not just the illusion of change (which has been happening). I'll admit that managment has been doing good things for the HEAT but so far it's been at the expense of the flames. It's going to be a painful year for the flames. But hopefully for the best in the end ... right?...

Avatar
#19 justDOit
July 13 2011, 09:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'll agree that SJ's d-core is mightily improved, but best in the league?

How about Carle, Coburn, Lilja, Mezaros, Pronger and Timonen? If Pronger can avoid injury, that's a scary group of d-men.

Avatar
#20 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
July 13 2011, 10:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The sharks have been on the verge for years they are so due to go all the way. This may be the piece that does it. Sending Heatly away is just as big a deal as he is not in the room or taking up space on ice during playoffs. If injury is not a factor they will be in the west final in 10 months.

Avatar
#21 Smokey
July 13 2011, 11:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

SuntanOil, most blogs you can`t let your kid read I find anyways. You have 90 percent of good bloggers, but there is the 10 percent who have to get themselves heard by childish dribble and filth. The moderators tolerate it because they obviously want people to have a freedom to post freely, and the rest of bloggisphere have to resort to making comments like this to make the posters feel like ignoramuses.

As for the article, you know your depth is solid when their projections of their d-corps have Murray as their fifth defencemen. Theres gotta be 10-15 teams out there that would have him in their top shut down pair and play him 20-22 mins a night. SJ gone and done a nice job retooling, and balancing out their team. Looks like another top 4 finish for the team in teal.

Avatar
#23 LoweBlow
July 13 2011, 06:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I can't wait to see Murray pummell Kesler in the playoffs!

Avatar
#24 semi_colon
July 14 2011, 08:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
LoweBlow wrote:

I can't wait to see Murray pummell Kesler in the playoffs!

Yeah, I guess you were still waiting after he didn't this year

Comments are closed for this article.