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Ulmerstandings: Dion's Dominant Start

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

How far is a country mile?

When Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Dion Phaneuf was the best defenceman in the NHL by a country mile, I decided to see if he was right or at least, if the numbers reinforced his statement.

They did.

Behold Ulmerstandings, Volume II.

To get a true understanding of the overall importance of defenceman, I started with the top 10 scoring defencemen in the NHL. There is plenty wrong with that choice, it stresses offence to eliminate all but 10 defencemen and some of the traditionally dominant rearguards, Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, were left out in the cold. That doesn’t mean you don’t want those players on your team. That just means the window we are looking through favors the defenceman having good offensive years right now.

But I also wanted to find out who was having the best overall years within those 10 players. To do so, I looked where they ranked with each other in points, plus-minus, ice time, shorthanded ice time, power play ice time and shots. I chose the criteria before doing the math. The rationale was not based on making any single player the top statistical defenceman but rather coming up with the most important stats for the 10 players who are tops in defencemen scoring.

Finally, any player who wasn’t in the top 10 in any one category was assessed a 10th. Players who were tied were listed at that position. So since Sergei Gonchar and Kimmo Timonen were tied for fourth in points, they were both assessed a fourth. The penalty weighs heavily on players who don’t have an overall game to accompany their shiny offensive numbers.

Interestingly, Phaneuf was the only player who finished 10th in just one category, short-handed time on the ice. Brian Campbell had two, plus-minus and shorthanded time on the ice. By comparison, the 10th rated player, Sergei Gonchar was fourth in points but 10th in every other category.

1. Phaneuf (tor) 31 3rd 2nd 5th 3rd 8th 10th
2 (tie). Campbell (FLA) 42 3rd 10th 4th 5th 5th 10th
2 (TIE). souray (DAL) 42 5th 1st 10th 6th 10th 10th
3. karlsson (ott) 43 1st 10th 10th 2nd 10th 10th
4 (tie). Edler (VAN) 45 4th 10th 10th 8th 8th 10th
4 (tie). Timonnen (PHI) 45 4th 10th 10th 10th 10th 1st
5. salo (VAN) 48 5th 10th 10th 3rd 10th 10th
6. letang (PIT) 49 3rd 10th 10th 10th 6th 10th
7. bergeron (TB) 52 2nd 10th 10th 10th 10th 10th
8. gonchar (OTT) 64 4th 10th 10th 10th 10th 10th

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