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Best of the Defensive Defensemen

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
This is the fifth in a series of articles asking fans to vote on the best Sharks player at each position as the club enters its 20th year. (Note that players must have spent two years with the Sharks organization and two years in the designated position to be considered. No player was placed in multiple positions.)

Owen Nolan, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were the fan favorites for the three forward positions and Dan Boyle was the top selection for best offensive defenseman.

Now comes the difficult category: best defensive defenseman in Sharks history.

The selection is difficult because there are numerous quality candidates, but also because there’s no tangible evidence to support the selection (like goals scored). A lot of players could have been on the list. And then there’s players like Brad Stuart, who may have been hurt by being a little bit of everything, but not as specific to offense or defense.

MIKE RATHJE (671 GP, 27 G, 128 A, 155 PTS, 439 PIM)
Rathje’s tenure is pretty impressive as he ranks second all-time in games played. His longevity also has him among the Top-10 players in assists, penalty minutes and shots (687). Those are offensive numbers and have nothing to do with why “Rat” is here. At close to 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he was impossible to move around. Those in the game knew how strong he was and in an age of clutch-and-grab, there was nothing a forward could do once he was in Rathje’s radar. Rathje’s intelligence was very underrated as his decision making was always solid.

MARCUS RAGNARSSON (519 GP, 28 G, 125 A, 153 PTS, 392 PIM)
It’s almost a shame that Ragnarsson and Rathje couldn’t be a pairing for this vote. When those two were paired together, they were arguably one of the best shutdown defensive duos in the National Hockey League. Ragnarsson is the only player on this list to have played in an All-Star Game -- impressive for a defensive stalwart. He still ranks seventh all-time in games played, 10th in assists and in penalty minutes. Not only was Ragnarsson extremely strong, he was a very fluid skater as well.

MARC-EDOUARD VLASIC (309 GP, 14 G, 78 A, 92 PTS, 117 PIM)
Vlasic has been a defensive stalwart since his debut in 2006-07. A lot of rookies burst on the scene because of their offensive potential, but they need to learn defense at the NHL level. Vlasic had that knack since Day One. He and his defensive partner always cover the opponent’s top player. It’s his positioning and stick work that help him excel so well, but at 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds, he’s strong enough to push people away from the crease.

SCOTT HANNAN (508 GP, 25 G, 102 A, 127 PTS, 329 PIM)

Hannan was a top-four defenseman almost from the moment he donned a Sharks sweater and still performs at a high level, albeit not for San Jose. Defensively, Hannan was strong in every area. He was strong enough to handle most people in front of the net and yet skilled enough to skate with those he covered. He may not have laid out a lot of open ice hits, but he let people know he was around if necessary.

DOUGLAS MURRAY (289 GP, 5 G, 33 A, 38 PTS, 260 PIM)
Murray is definitely the biggest hitter out of this group. “Sir” is just a beast when covering his end of the ice. Many opponents try to flatten Murray, but often wind up in a horizontal position. Murray is extremely smart at getting to the right spot and will always use his body to protect the puck. He’s a perfect compliment to Dan Boyle’s offensive exploits.

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