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NYI TOP TEN: Trots' Toughest Defenders

by Jason Lockhart / New York Islanders
Robinson, Bourque, Langway, Coffey among the most formidable

Islanders legend Bryan Trottier scored a franchise record 1353 points, including 500 goals, during his 16 years on Long Island. An NHL Hall of Famer, Trottier made dozens of NHL defensemen look silly after skating through them and depositing one of his 524 career NHL goals, but that's not to say that even the biggest of superstars don't have their difficulties with certain defensemen. Below, in alphabetical order, is Trottier's personal list of most formidable defensemen he faced throughout his illustrious 18-year NHL career.

Ray Bourque (Boston) 1979-2001: Considered one of the greatest defensemen to have played the game, Bourque didn't just know how to put up points – an NHL record, 1579 – but was as responsible as anyone in his defensive end. It wasn't by accident that Bourque was a +528 throughout his 23-year NHL career, finishing a season with a negative plus-minus rating only three times. Always well respected by his teammates and opponents, Bourque finally captured the NHL's Holy Grail with Colorado in his final season, but returned with the Stanley Cup to his adopted city of Boston for a victory parade. Twice he and Trottier met in the playoffs, and twice, the Islanders prevailed.

Dave Burrows (PIT, TOR) 1971-81: Burrows played in only 724 NHL games, but he made a lasting impression on Trottier. The 6-1 defenseman was a three-time All-Star, but played on sub-par Pittsburgh and Toronto teams that reached the second round of the playoffs only twice in ten seasons. Burrows was a member of the 1975 Penguins team that let the Conference Quarterfinal 3-0 lead slip away to Islanders, but Trots missed it by one year.


Paul Coffey (EDM, PIT, LA, DET, HAR, PHI, CHI, CAR, BOS) 1980-2001:
Coffey was not one of the bigger defensemen in the NHL, but his skating ability made him one of the most effective offensive defensemen in the game. However, his speed made him difficult to beat one-on-one. Coffey and his Edmonton Oilers from the 1980s were stopped short by the Islanders in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, but in due time, the young team, which included many future Hall of Famers, finally overcame the Islanders in 1984. Coffey went on to capture three Stanley Cups with Edmonton and one with Pittsburgh.


Rod Langway (MON, WAS) 1978-93: You won't find Langway near the top of any defensemen scoring lists. He made his presence felt in the defensive zone – in front of the net. Some consider Langway the greatest defensive defensemen to play the game, and he was rewarded for his work ethic in 1983 and 1984 by winning the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman. Langway maintained his high level of play after leaving Montreal to play for sub-par Washington. It took him 15 years – his last – to end a season with a negative plus-minus.


Al MacInnis (CGY, STL) 1982-93: Blessed with one of the hardest shots the NHL has ever scene, MacInnis never played in the same conference as Trottier and the Islanders. Their teams never met in the postseason but they had their fair share of regular season battles in their ten seasons together. MacInnis' size and strength made him a physical presence in the defensive zone, getting his big body in the way of pucks and opponents.


Brad Park (NYR, BOS, DET) 1968-85: During his earlier years, Park was always cast in the shadow of the game's premier defenseman, Bobby Orr. But Park held his own as a five-time First Team All-Star and was twice named to the Second Team. As a member of the Rangers, Park battled Trottier and the Islanders for one season before moving to Boston. With the Bruins, Park met the Islanders twice in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Islanders prevailing in both occurrences. The final postseason meeting between Trottier and Park came in the 1983 Conference Finals.


Larry Robinson (MON, LA) 1972-92: At 6-2, 225, Robinson was one of the most imposing defensemen of his time, so it's no surprise Trots put him on this list. Robinson earned six Stanley Cups as a player and another as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2000. There was never a season that Robinson didn't finish as a plus player and in 1976-77, he finished an astonishing +120.


Borje Salming (TOR, DET) 1973-90: A pioneer in the sport of hockey, Salming was one of the first Swedes to make their way to the NHL, doing so in 1973. Salming proved a good catch for Toronto, competing in three All-Star Games and marked as one of the best blueline skaters in the game. Trottier and Salming met twice in the postseason, with each team coming out victorious on one occasion. Salming's excellent skating ability made him equal to the task for even the most gifted of players.


Serge Savard (MON, WPG) 1967-83: Savard wasn't just another member of the prominent Canadiens teams during the 1960s and 70s, he captured a remarkable eight Stanley Cups during his playing days. The smooth skating defenseman and the rest of his Canadiens squad had their way with the Islanders during their early years, especially in the playoffs. Savard didn't score too many goals, eclipsing double-digits only twice, but he was on the ice for many more Montreal goals than opposing goals.

Scott Stevens (WAS, NJ) 1982-2004: MacInnis might have had the hardest shot, but Stevens could have been the hardest hitter of his day. Stevens was noted for his offensive ability during his early years with Washington, but soon earned the reputation of heavy hitter. The Capitals weren't much of a threat for the dominating Islanders of the 1980s, but not even Trots wanted to be caught with his head down when the 215 pound blueliner was looking to line someone up.


Honorable Mention

Bobby Orr (BOS, CHI) 1966-78: Unfortunately for hockey fans all across North America, Orr's career was cut short due to knee problems. Trottier was fortunate enough to dress for two games against the legend, and certainly took a lot out of those experiences. From the bench, whether you were playing for or against him, there was nothing like watching the grace that Orr demonstrated while striding from one end to the other.


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