Defensive Defensemen

Since the position of defenseman was created, there have been defenders who contributed to the team’s offense and there have been players who didn’t much. But this difference was exacerbated by the expansion of the NHL in 1967 and the phenomenon of Bobby Orr, who destroyed scoring records for defenders, and showed that teams could expect scoring from the back-end in ways they never imagined.

This change essentially created a dichotomy between “offensive” defensemen, who scored a lot, albeit not quite as much as Bobby Orr, and “defensive” defensemen, who didn’t score much at all. For our purposes, we’ve arbitrarily assumed that a “defensive defenseman” is a defender which manged .35 adjusted PPG or less throughout their NHL career.

The Hall of Fame’s attitude towards defensively inclined defenders also changed since expansion. The Hall of Fame has inducted six NHL defensemen from that era who scored less than .35 adjusted PPG (of a total of 16 legitimate candidates they could have inducted). But the Hall of Fame has inducted exactly one player who fits the bill, Rod Langway, to play the majority of his career since expansion.

This leads to three possible conclusions:

  • Rod Langway was the best defensive defenseman since expansion, significantly better than any other, and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame while no other player with a similar skill set deserves the honour. OR
  • There are other players of Rod Langway’s ability who have been forgotten or overlooked because they didn’t get the awards votes (Norris and Hart) that Langway got, and they deserve to be in. OR
  • Rod Langway’s awards votes are a historical curiosity that won’t happen again and he didn’t necessarily deserve them, nor do other players who fail to contribute offensively, and no defensive defensemen should be inducted into the Hall of Fame going forward.

How do we sort out this problem?

Defensive Defenceman

Some players we discuss:

[For the full list we considered, please see this spreadsheet.]

Rod Langway:

We now have a full article on Rod Langway’s case for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

Brad McCrimmon

Brad McCrimmon’s Career:

  • NHL: 1979-1997; 18 seasons, all quality (by DPS)
  • Totals:
    • 81G,
    • 322A for
    • 403P,
    • +448 (10th All Time) in
    • 1222 games; 93.5 PS
    • McCrimmon is 11th All Time in Defensive Point Shares
  • Draft: In his draft class (1979), McCrimmon, drafted 15th overall, is
    • 36th in Goals
    • 24th in Assists
    • 28th in Points
    • 2nd in Plus/Minus
    • 7th in Games Played
  • Era: Of the 50 players to play in at least 1,000 games played between 1979 and 1997, McCrimmon is
    • 45th in Goals and GPG
    • 44th in Assists and APG and Offensive Point Shares
    • 46th in Points and PPG
    • 3rd in Plus/Minus
    • 2nd in Defensive Point Shares
    • 18th in Point Shares
  • 82-game average: 6G, 21A for 27P, +30, 6.3 PS
  • 3-year peak (1984-87): 11G, 40A for 60P, +69; 10.6 PS [by PS]
  • No possession stats
  • Playoffs:
    • 11G,
    • 18A for
    • 29P,
    • +35 in
    • 116 games
    • Era: Of the 60 D to play in 82 playoff games between 1979 and 1997, McCrimmon is
      • 24th in playoff Goals
      • 27th in playoff GPG (doesn’t actually qualify)
      • 43rd in playoff Assists
      • 45th in playoff APG (doesn’t actually qualify)
      • 39th in playoff Points
      • 41st in playoff PPG (doesn’t actually qualify)
      • 9th in playoff Plus/Minus
      • 21st in playoff Games
  • Adjusted:
    • Hockey-Reference:
      • 65G,
      • 267A for
      • 332P
      • Adjusted 82-game average: 4G, 18A for 22P
    • VsX: Doesn’t qualify
  • Trades:
    • Traded at 23 to Philadelphia for Pete Peeters (24)
    • Traded at 28 to Calgary for a 1989 1st Rounder (Steve Bancroft) and a 1988 3rd Rounder (Dominic Roussel)
    • Traded at 31 to Detroit for a 1990 2nd Rounder (David Harlock)
    • Traded at 34 to Hartford for a 1996 6th Rounder (Tim Spitzig)

Brad McCrimmon’s Accomplishments:

  • Top 5 in Norris voting once
  • Top Player:
    • Top 5 Player (by PS) once (‘86)
    • Best Defensive Player (by DPS) once (‘86),
    • Top 5 three times (‘87, ‘89),
    • Top 10 six times (‘85, ‘88, ‘92)
  • Assists:
    • 40 assists once
  • Points:
    • 50 points once
  • Plus/Minus:
    • McCrimmon is one of only 9 players to have a single-season Plus/Minus in excess of +82
    • Led the league in Plus/Minus once,
    • Top 5 six times
  • All Star:
    • 2nd Team All Star once
    • 1 All Star Game appearance
  • VsX Peak: doesn’t qualify

Brad McCrimmon’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Top 4 D (by points) on one Champion (‘89 Flames) and one Runner Up (‘87 Flyers),
    • Injured (missed 8 games) on one Runner Up (‘85 Flyers)
  • World Juniors:
    • Role Player (by points) on one World Junior Championship Bronze (‘78 Canada)

Glen Wesley

Note: We cheated with Glen Wesley, as his early years playing with Ray Bourque bring his career adjusted PPG a bit higher than our cut-off, but he was one of the players who motivated us to have this chat, so we left him in.

Glen Wesley’s Career:

  • NHL: 1987-2008; 20 seasons, 19 quality (by DPS)
  • Totals:
    • 128G,
    • 409A for
    • 537P,
    • +66 in 1457 games (25th); 104.1 PS
    • Wesley is 18th All Time in Defensive Point Shares
    • Per Game: 19:41 ATOI (since 1998-99);
  • Draft: In his draft class (1987), Wesley, drafted 3rd overall, is
    • 12th in Goals
    • 9th in Assists
    • 10th in Points
    • 7th in Plus/Minus
    • 2nd in Games Played
  • Era: Of the 6 defenseman to play in at least 1250 games between 1987 and 2008, Wesley is
    • 4th in Goals, Plus/Minus and Defensive Point Shares
    • 5th (2nd last) in GPG, Assists, APG, Points, PPG, Offensive Point Shares and Point Shares
  • 82-game average: 7G, 23A for 30P, +3
  • 3-year peak (1987-90): 82-game average of 13G, 32A for 45P, +18; 8.3 PS
  • No possession stats
  • Playoffs:
    • 15G,
    • 37A for
    • 52P,
    • -1 in
    • 169 games
    • Era: Of the 74 D to play in at least 82 playoff games between 1987 and 2008, Wesley is
      • 18th in playoff Goals
      • 27th in playoff GPG (doesn’t actually qualify)
      • 24th in playoff Assists
      • 30th in playoff APG
      • 23rd in playoff Points
      • 24th in playoff PPG (last among qualifying D)
      • 53rd in playoff Plus/Minus
      • 7th in playoff Games
  • Adjusted:
    • Hockey-Reference:
      • 123G,
      • 398A for
      • 521P
      • Adjusted 82-game average: 7G, 22A for 29P
    • VsX: Doesn’t qualify
  • Trades:
    • Traded at 25 to Hartford for a 1995 1st Rounder (Kyle McLaren), a 1996 1st Rounder (Jonathan Aitken) and a 1997 1st Rounder (Sergei Samsonov)
    • Traded at 34 to Toronto for a 2004 2nd Rounder (Kyle Wharton)

Glen Wesley’s Accomplishments:

  • Top 5 in Calder voting
  • Top PlayeR:
    • Top 5 Defensive Player (by DPS) twice (‘88, ‘89),
    • Top 10 three times (‘90)
  • Goals:
    • 15 goals once
  • Assists:
    • 40 assists once
  • Points:
    • 50 points twice
  • All Star:
    • 1st Team All Rookie
    • 1 All Star Game appearance
  • VsX Peak: doesn’t qualify

Glen Wesley’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Top 2 D (by points) on two Runners Up (‘88, ‘90 Bruins) and two Final Fours (‘91, ‘92 Bruins),
    • Top 4 D on one Runner Up (‘02 Hurricanes),
    • Bottom Pair D on one Champion (‘06 Hurricanes)

Bill Hajt

Bill Hajt’s Career:

  • NHL: 1973-87; 14 seasons, 11 quality (by DPS)
  • Totals:
    • 42G,
    • 202A for
    • 244P,
    • +320 (24th All Time) in
    • 854 games;
    • 69.1 PS
    • At his retirement, Hajt was 14th All Time in Defensive Point Shares
  • Draft: In his draft class (1971), Hajt, drafted 33rd overall, is
    • 20th in Goals
    • 11th in Assists
    • 13th in Points
    • 4th in Plus/Minus
    • 7th in Games Played
  • Era: Of the 15 defencemen to play in at least 750 games between 1973 and 1987, Hajt is
    • 13th (3rd last) in Goals and GPG
    • 11th (5th last) in Assists and Points
    • 12th (4th last) in APG, PPG and Offensive Point Shares
    • 3rd in Plus/Minus and Defensive Point Shares
    • 9th in Point Shares
  • 82-game average of 4G, 20A for 24P, +31
  • 3-year peak (1975-78): 82-game average of 6G, 21A for 26P, +40; 7.6 PS
  • No possession stats
  • Playoffs:
    • 2G,
    • 16A for
    • 18P,
    • -6 in
    • 80 games
    • Era: Of the 84 D to play in at least 41 playoff games between 1973 and 1987, Hajt is
      • 66th in playoffs Goals
      • 73rd in playoffs GPG (doesn’t qualify)
      • 49th in playoffs Assists
      • 55th in playoffs APG (doesn’t qualify)
      • 52nd in playoffs Points
      • 61st in playoff PPG
      • 62nd in playoffs Plus/Minus
  • Adjusted:
    • Hockey-Reference:
      • 34G,
      • 170A for
      • 204P
      • Adjusted 82-game average: 3G, 16A for 20P
    • VsX: doesn’t qualify
  • Never traded.

Bill Hajt’s Accomplishments:

  • Top Player:
    • Top 5 Defensive Player (by DPS) once (‘80),
    • Top 10 five times (‘77, ‘78, ‘81, ‘84)
  • Plus/MinusL
    • Top 10 in Plus Minus once
  • VsX Peak: doesn’t qualify

Bill Hajt’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Top 4 D (by points) on one Runner Up (‘75 Sabres) and one Final Four (‘80 Sabres)

Dallas Smith

Dallas Smith’s Career:

  • NHL: 1959-62; 1965-78; 16 seasons, 12 quality? (by DPS)
  • Totals:
    • 55G,
    • 252A for
    • 307P,
    • +318 (18th All Time, 11th All Time at his retirement) in
    • 889 games;
    • 69.8 PS
    • At his retirement, Smith was 18th All Time in Defensive Point Shares
  • Era: Of the 18 defencemen to play at least 750 games between 1959 and 1978, Smith is
    • 9th in Goals, GPG, Points and Offensive Point Shares
    • 8th in Assists, APG and PPG
    • 1st in Plus/Minus
    • 6th in Defensive Point Shares
    • 7th in Point Shares
  • 82-game average: 5G, 23A for 29P, +29
  • 3-year peak (1970-73): 82-game average of 7G, 31A for 38P, +62
  • No possession stats
  • Playoffs:
    • 3G,
    • 29A for
    • 32P,
    • +43 in
    • 86 games
    • Era: Of the 59 D to play in at least 82 playoff games between 1959 and 1978, Smith is
      • 56th (t-2nd last) in playoff Goals
      • 58th (2nd last) in playoff GPG
      • 34th in playoff Assists
      • 29th in playoff APG
      • 47th in playoff Points
      • 46th in playoff PPG
      • 4th in playoff Plus/Minus
  • Adjusted:
    • Hockey-Reference:
      • 53G,
      • 241A for
      • 294P
      • Adjusted 82-game average: 5G, 22A for 27P
    • VsX: Doesn’t qualify
  • Never traded.

Dallas Smith’s Accomplishments:

  • Top Player:
    • Top 10 Player (by PS) once (‘71)
    • Top 5 Defensive Player (by DPS) once (‘71),
    • Top 10 three times (‘73, ‘76)
  • Plus/Minus:
    • Led the league in Plus/Minus once,
    • Top 5 three times
  • All Star:
    • 4 All Star Game appearances
  • VsX Peak: doesn’t qualify

Dallas Smith’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Top 2 D (led the playoffs in Plus/Minus) on one Champion (‘72 Bruins),
    • Top 4 D (led the playoffs in Plus/Minus) on one Final Four (‘69 Bruins),
    • Top 4 D (by points) on one Champion (‘70 Bruins), Runner Up (‘74 Bruins) and one Final Four (‘76 Bruins)

Terry Harper

Terry Harper’s Career:

  • NHL: 1962-81; 19 seasons, 14 quality (by DPS)
  • Totals:
    • 35G,
    • 221A for
    • 256P,
    • +254 (22nd All Time at his retirement) in
    • 1066 games;
    • 78.3 PS
    • Harper is 21st All Time in Defensive Point Shares (5th All Time at his retirement)
  • Era: Of the 13 players to play in at least 1,000 games between 1962 and 1981, Harper is
    • 13th (last) in Goals, GPG, Points, PPG and Offensive Point Shares
    • 12th (second last) in Assists and APG
    • 2nd in Plus/Minus
    • 1st in Defensive Point Shares
    • 6th in Point Shares
  • 82-game average: 3G, 17A for 20A, +20
  • 3-year peak (1973-76): 80-game average of 5G, 22A for 27P, +24; 7 PS
  • No possession stats
  • Playoffs:
    • 4G,
    • 13A for
    • 17P,
    • +8 in
    • 112 games
    • Era: Of the 18 D to play in 82 playoff games between 1963 and 1981, Harper is
      • 14th in playoff Goals
      • 14th in playoff GPG (doesn’t qualify)
      • 17th (2nd last) in playoff Assists
      • 18th (last) in playoff APG
      • 16th (3rd last) in playoff Points
      • 18th (last) in playoff PPG
      • 13th in playoff Plus/Minus
  • Adjusted:
    • Hockey-Reference:
      • 33G,
      • 211A for
      • 244P
      • Adjusted 82-game average: 3G, 16A for 19P
    • VsX: doesn’t qualify
  • Trades:
    • Traded at 32 to LA for a 1975 1st Rounder (Pierre Mondou), a 1976 1st Rounder (Rod Schutt), a 1974 2nd Rounder (Gary MacGregor) and a 3rd Rounder (Paul Woods)
    • Traded at 35 with Dan Maloney (24) and a 1976 2nd Rounder (Jim Roberts) for Marcel Dionne (23) and Bart Crashley (28)

Terry Harper’s Accomplishments:

  • Top 5 in Norris voting once,
  • Top 5 in Calder voting
  • Top Player:
    • Best Defensive Player (by DPS) once (‘64),
    • Top 5 three times (‘66, ‘75),
    • Top 10 five times (‘70, ‘71)
  • Plus/Minus:
    • Top 5 in Plus/Minus twice
  • All Star:
    • 4 All Star Game appearances
  • VsX Peak: doesn’t qualify.

Terry Harper’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Best D (by points) on one Final Four (‘63 Canadiens),
    • Top 2 D (by points, maybe led the playoffs in plus/minus) on one Champion (‘66 Canadiens),
    • Top 4 D (by points) on one Champion (‘71 Canadiens) and one Runner Up (‘67 Canadiens),
    • Role Player (by points) on three Champions (‘65, ‘68, ‘69 Canadiens) and one Final Four (‘64 Canadiens)

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