Today we start the selection process for Best Defensive Defenseman of 2009-10. There are so many worthy warriors to choose from.
Let's be frank from the start: Best Defensive Defenseman is not a data-based honor. Sure, plus/minus, time on ice and blocked shots should be considered, but there's an excellent chance our first-ever winner will not lead in any of those categories. He might not even finish in the top 10.
We're also well aware how dominant stars ranging from Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom to Zdeno Chara and Scott Niedermayer can be in their own end. You should be aware a major star is not going to win FanHouse's Best Defensive Defenseman.
NHL FanHouse polled 24 NHL coaches, pro scouts and color commentators over the last week. They not only were delighted to hear about our decision to honor the kind of unsung players who rarely get the spotlight, they knew exactly what we meant when we said Best Defensive Defensemen. NHL FanHouse staffers also placed their votes.
Readers are encouraged to vote in the poll and provide their supporting statement in the comments space. Here are the 12 players who received the strongest consideration from our panel.
Scott Hannan, Colorado Avalanche
Zbynek Michalek, Phoenix Coyotes
Willie Mitchell, Vancouver Canucks
Douglas Murray, San Jose Sharks
Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins
Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators
Robyn Regehr, Calgary Flames
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks
Jeff Schultz, Washington Capitals
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks
Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa Senators
Greg Zanon, Minnesota Wild
Although few of the nominees receive any power play shifts, all but one average more than 20 minutes a game. The lone defenseman averaging just a shade under 20 minutes, Schultz of the Capitals, is second in the league behind Alex Ovechkin in plus/minus with a +37. All except Zanon play on teams that would qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs if the regular season ended today. Mitchell has become such an effective defenseman that he received fervent backing from the panel despite missing more than 20 games because of injury.
What the nominees have in common is that their names are always called by their coaches in crucial defensive situations.
Three finalists will be introduced during the first week of April. Thank you for your participation.