At various points throughout the 2011-12 season, NHL.com and its panel of fantasy experts will dissect individual matchups with "Fantasy Face-offs." Torn between two players? Look no further than NHL.com/Fantasy for the edge on the most compelling toss-ups as the twists and turns of the regular season impact your fantasy squad.
Here's how it works:
For each "Face-off," fantasy experts Sergei Feldman and Pete Jensen will make their case as to why a particular player deserves consideration in the particular debate. Resident fantasy hockey guru Matt Cubeta will then juggle the two arguments and reach a final verdict for who deserves the edge.
We continue with NHL.com's preseason fantasy defenseman rankings, where Nashville's cornerstone d-man, Shea Weber, occupies the top-overall spot. Zdeno Chara, who was instrumental all of last season on the blue line for the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, is ranked second among centers.
And, with that, here's NHL.com's take on the matter...
The 2008-09 season was a glimpse of Shea Weber
's potential as a standout fantasy defenseman. His point-generating abilities that season -- 23 goals and 30 assists -- were exemplary numbers for a sound two-way defenseman. His career-best 80 PIMs that season made him a coveted blueliner from a fantasy standpoint.
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 32 | PTS: 48
SOG: 254 | +/-: 7
Weber's scoring numbers have since dipped slightly over the past two seasons (32 combined goals), but his leadership and point production last year (48 pts) gave the Nashville Predators
a league-wide identity. Weber's durability -- 79-plus games played in each of the past three seasons -- has helped him continue to produce strong offensive numbers. Weber also put forth a career-high 254 shots in '10-11 -- third among defensemen in the NHL -- providing evidence that he is creating more offensive opportunities than ever.
Now, with Weber still in his prime and the Predators having paid top-dollar ($7.5 million arbitration award for '11-12 season) to keep him in Nashville, the 26-year-old will feel the pressure and could certainly emerge as the League's top fantasy defenseman this upcoming season. Weber's power-play point total of 17 was well removed from the league leaders in '10-11, but his goal output (16) was tied for fourth among blueliners last season, and his plus-7 rating and 56 PIMs shows he brings an array of positives to the table for fantasy owners.
-- Pete Jensen
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 44
SOG: 264 | +/-: 33
One of the biggest names in hockey, fittingly, is one of the biggest men in hockey and that man is Boston Bruins
defenseman Zdeno Chara
, who didn't get to the upper echelon of NHL defenseman so much on the size of his body as much as the size of his game.
One of the premier blueliners in the League, Chara has been a model of consistency since joining the Bruins in 2006-07. The 6-foot-9 Chara has tallied at least 40 points in each of his past seven seasons. The one-time Norris Trophy winner -- awarded to the best defenseman -- throws the puck on net as often as many top fantasy forwards. Take into account his PIMs (at least 87 in each of his past 10 seasons, including seven seasons of at least 100), and Chara is in the discussion for top fantasy defenders year in, year out.
Don't worry about durability, either, as he has played in at least 70 games the past 10 seasons. On a Bruins club poised to prove last year's magical Stanley Cup-winning run was no fluke, so too will Chara aim to prove he belongs in a pool of the League's elite, and that could only mean great things for your fantasy team if "Big Z" is part of it.
-- Sergei Feldman
FINAL VERDICT: SHEA WEBER
If you break down last season's numbers, the edge slightly goes to Chara. While Weber had two more goals, two more assists and two more power play points than Chara, the Bruins defenseman significantly outperformed Weber in two of the more peripheral fantasy categories: Chara had a plus-33 rating (Weber was plus-7) and 88 PIMs (Weber had 56). Chara also had the advantage in shots on goal, with 264 to Weber's 254 -- not too big of a difference there.
"Big Z" finished the season as the second-ranked fantasy defenseman to Dustin Byfuglien
in standard Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues and the 29th ranked overall player -- Weber was the ninth ranked blueliner and finished 69th overall.
However, these statistics all refer to last season, and this argument isn't about last season.
is on the rise. At the age of 26, Weber is entering his prime and clearly possesses more upside than the 34-year-old Chara. Chara likely will outproduce Weber in the PIMs category and possibly the plus/minus category this season, but Weber has the skills to record more goals, assists, power play points and shots on goal.
Chara might get drafted ahead of Weber in most fantasy leagues, but show patience and grab the younger Weber a round or two later -- you'll be happy you did.
-- Matt Cubeta
Follow us on twitter @NHLcomFantasy