Season Preview: Ranking the Western Conference Defensemen

Yesterday I passed along my thoughts about the Eastern Conference’s best defense corps. Each team’s defensemen were individually graded, with extra weight given to a team’s expected top-2 pairings. Today let’s look at the Western Conference.

A+ Grade


Losing Brent Sopel is like losing a girlfriend in college – easily replaced, you just need to know where to look (tip – go where there’s alcohol being served). Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the best 1-2 pair in the NHL.

A- Grade


Yes, Nik Lidstrom is slowing down, but he’s still a top-5 NHL defenseman. There is great depth here, and if Jonathan Ericsson can ever figure it out, this might be the best corps in the league.

Los Angeles

The sky’s the limit for this group, as Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson will soon rival Chicago’s top-2 for league best. There’s a steep drop in talent after these two, but there are some promising kids on the horizon.

B+ Grade

San Jose

Other than Dan Boyle this is not a flashy group, but one that can skate and take care of their own zone. Consistent offense from Jason Demers would be a blessing.


No elite defensemen in this group, but the Canucks have a strong top-4. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Edler is the team’s best defenseman by the end of the year.


Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are a very strong 1-2 but, like Los Angeles, the talent-level after them drops off a cliff. Can get the job done defensively though.

B Grade


A solid top-4, although the book has closed on Jay Boumeester ever becoming an elite player. Not sure if Mark Giordano or Ian White can repeat their seasons of last year, and the rest of the group is definitely not fleet-of-foot.

St. Louis

A solid top-3, with Erik Johnson retaining elite potential. Roman Polak is an underrated defensive d-man, and Alex Pietrangelo could be a good one. They say Eric Brewer is fully-recovered from his back injury. In related too-good-to-be-true news, there’s good land available for purchase in the Florida Keys.

B- Grade


Nothing spectacular here, but they take care of their own zone pretty well. They could really use a stronger puck-mover than John-Michael Liles.


More offensive talent than Colorado, but weaker defensively. If Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a Calder contender they’ll move up these rankings.

C+ Grade


An inconsistent group lacking high-end talent. Jan Hejda was one of the better defensive defensemen in the league two years ago, but regressed last year. They desperately hope Kris Russell can be an impact player
offensively. He played well after Ken Hitchcock stopped eating all the food at the team buffet was fired.

C Grade


Okay in the puck-moving department thanks to Lubomir Visnovsky and Toni Lydman. It’s a physical, journeyman group after that – more comfortable throwing hits than passes. The team really needs Luca Sbisa to take a big step forward.


A group that is less than the sum of its parts, although Marek Zidlicky was solid last year. Cam Barker and Brent Burns are great skaters, but inconsistency and injuries have really held them back. Greg Zanon and Nick Schultz are solid defensive players, but they handle the puck like a grenade.

C- Grade


Like most things Oilers these days, there’s some real promise here, although none of it proven. There’s also little depth beyond the top-4. Not sure there’s a team in the league willing to take the headache named Sheldon Souray off their hands either.

D Grade


You know your team’s in trouble when Stephane Robidas is your best defenseman by a fair margin. There’s some youth here, but it’s inconsistent and without much scoring potential. Kinda like Seth Rogen.

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