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Top 10 Best Defensemen in NHL History

Ranking the best NHL Defenseman of All Time as Bobby Orr leads the way. Also where Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidstrom, Rob Blake and more rank

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By Fan Rankings | August 14, 2022 - 11:44 AM

The second to last line of defense in hockey, defensemen are the guardians of the hash marks in. The hardest part of playing defense is not screening his own goalie. The NHL has had some great defensemen during its long time, and here are the top ten.




Honorable Mention

Doug Wilson

Team(s): Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks

Doug Wilson has a pretty cool trivia fact of being another player drafted twice in his eligible year. Drafted 6th overall by the Black Hawks and 5th overall by the Racers in 1977.

Wilson played for the Black Hawks from 1977 to 1991 before going to the San Jose Sharks, where he was the first captain in team history.

He never won a Cup, but was close with the Sharks as a GM. In 1,204 games, he scored 237 goals, 590 assists for 827 points.

Accolades:
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (2020)
  • Norris Trophy winner (1982)
  • 1st Team All Star (1982)
  • 2x Second Team All Star (1985, 1990)
  • 8x NHL All Star (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1992)




Top 10 NHL Defenseman

10. Rob Blake

Team(s): Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks

It is crazy to think that Rob Blake retired almost 13 years ago. Drafted 70th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings and spent the majority of his career in California. 

After a decade with the Kings, he signed as a free agent with the Colorado Avalanche. He spent five years in Colorado, winning a Stanley Cup.

He then returned to Los Angeles and then retired as a Shark. In 1,270 NHL games, he scored 240 goals and 537 assists for 777 points.

Accolades:
  • NHL All-Rookie Team (1991)
  • 8x NHL All-Star Game (1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (1998)
  • NHL First All-Star Team (1998)
  • 3x NHL Second All-Star Team (2000, 2001, 2002)
  • Stanley Cup champion (2001)




9. Brian Leetch

Team(s): New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins

Drafted 9th overall by the Rangers in 1986, he may be the greatest player to come out of Texas. He spent the majority of his career with the Rangers before spending two seasons with the Leafs and Bruins.

He won a singular Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. In 1,205 games, he scored 247 goals and 781 assists for 1,028 points.

Accolades:
  • 2x James Norris Memorial Trophy (1992, 1997)
  • 2x NHL First Team All-Star (1992, 1997)
  • 3x NHL Second Team All-Star (1991, 1994, 1996)
  • Stanley Cup champion (1994)
  • Conn Smythe Trophy award winner (1994)
  • Calder Memorial Trophy (1989)
  • NHL All-Rookie Team (1989)
  • 11x NHL All-Star (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003)
  • 100 greatest NHL players, as compiled by The Hockey News Hockey Hall of Fame - 71 (2009)




8. Nicklas Lidstrom

Team(s): Detroit Red Wings

Howe was the greatest forward for the Red Wings, Lidstrom was the greatest defensemen. Lidstrom spent his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, retiring in 2012.

He won four Stanley Cups during his career and was a 12-time All-Star. In 1,546 NHL games, he only scored 264 goals, but had 878 assists for 1,142 points. He is currently a scout for the Red Wings.

Accolades:
  • NHL All-Rookie Team (1992)
  • 4x Stanley Cup winner (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)
  • 12x NHL All-Star (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
  • 10x NHL First All-Star Team (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011)
  • 2x NHL Second All-Star Team member (2009, 2010)
  • 7x Norris Trophy winner (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011)
  • Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2002)
  • Member of the Triple Gold Club.
  • 2x Viking Award winner (2000, 2006)
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (2015)




7. Larry Murphy

Team(s): Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings

Larry Murphy had a long 21 season NHL career and played for a lot of teams. He played for the Kings, Capitals, North Stars, Penguins, Leafs and Red Wings.

In 1,615 NHL games, he scored 288 goals and 929 assists for 1,217 points. He won four Stanley Cups, two with Pittsburgh and two with Detroit. He retired in 2001 and spent some time as a color commentator.

Accolades:
  • 4x Stanley Cup champion (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998)
  • 3x NHL All-Star (1994, 1996, 1999)
  • 3x NHL Second All-Star Team (1987, 1993, 1995)
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (2004)




6. Denis Potvin

Team(s): New York Islanders

Denis Potvin was the keystone of the Islanders 1980s dynasty for the team’s defensive core. Drafted 1st overall in 1973, Potvin spent his entire career with the Islanders, retiring in 1988. He won four straight Stanley Cups with the Islanders from 1980-1983. He was the first defensemen to reach 300 goals in a regular season career.

Accolades:
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy winner (1976, 1978, 1979)
  • Calder Memorial Trophy winner (1974)
  • Stanley Cup champion (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)




5. Phil Housley

Team(s): Buffalo Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs

If you thought Larry Murphy moved around, he has nothing on Phil Housley. Housley was drafted 6th overall by the Sabres in 1982 and played there until 1990.

He then went on to play for the Jets, Flames, Devils, Capitals, Flames, Blackhawks, and Leafs. He never won a Stanley Cup and represented the United States multiple times, including a gold medal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He had 1,232 points in his 1,495-game career.

Accolades:
  • NHL All-Rookie Team (1983)
  • NHL Second All-Star Team (1992)
  • 7x NHL All-Star (1984, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 2000)
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (2015)




4. Al MacInnis

Team(s): Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues

Al MacInnis had a long career, too long for only one Cup as a player. Drafted by the Flames, he played for them for ten years, winning the Cup in 1989.

He left for St. Louis and became arguably the best defensemen that St. Louis ever had. He briefly played in 2003, only playing three games before retiring.

He won his second Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019 as an executive. In 1,416 games played, he scored 340 goals and 934 assists for 1,274 points.

Accolades:
  • 4x First Team All-Star (1990, 1991, 1999, 2003)
  • 3x Second Team All-Star (1987, 1989, 1994)
  • Conn Smythe Trophy (1989)
  • Stanley Cup Champions (1989, 2019)
  • Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award (1994)
  • James Norris Memorial Trophy (1999)




3. Paul Coffey

Team(s): Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins

Coffey started his NHL career with Edmonton in 1980 after they drafted him 6th overall. He played seven seasons in Edmonton, winning four Stanley Cups, before moving to Pittsburgh.

In his fourth year in the Steel City, he won his final Stanley Cup. He then played for the Kings, Red Wings, Whalers, Flyers, Blackhawks, and Hurricanes before retiring as a Bruin. In 1,409 games he scored 396 goals and 1,135 assists for 1,531 points.

Accolades:
  • 3x James Norris Memorial Trophy (1985, 1986, 1995)
  • 4x NHL First All-Star Team (1985, 1986, 1989, 1995)
  • 4x NHL Second All-Star Team (1982, 1983, 1984, 1990)
  • 14x NHL All-Star (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997)
  • 4x Stanley Cup champion (1984, 1985, 1987, 1991)
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (2004)
  • The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players - 28 (1998)



 

2. Ray Bourque

Team(s): Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche

Bourque was a longtime Boston Bruins, being drafted in 1979, 8th overall by them. He spent the better part of 20 seasons in Boston, being a consistent backbone for a Bruins team that never won anything.

With the Bruins looking at a rebuild, they moved on from Bourque, sending him to the Avalanche for a few players and a pick. He played 37 games for the Avalanche during the 1990-2000 season and playoffs.

The next season, he and the Colorado Avalanche won the 2001 Stanley Cup and Bourque went out on top. In 1,612 games played, he scored 410 goals and 1,169 assists for 1,579 points.

Accolades:
  • Calder Memorial Trophy (1980)
  • 5x Norris Trophy (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994)
  • King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1992)
  • Lester Patrick Trophy (2003)
  • 13x NHL First Team All-Star (1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2001)
  • 6x NHL Second Team All-Star (1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1999)
  • NHL All-Star Game MVP (1996)
  • The Hockey News' list of the one hundred greatest hockey players of all time - 14 (1998)
  • Stanley Cup champion (2001)
  • 100 Greatest NHL Players (2017)




1. Bobby Orr

Team(s): Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks

While not statistically the greatest defensemen in NHL history, he is probably the most beloved and legendary.

Orr played in the NHL from 1966 to 1979, before retiring due to injuries to his leg. He played for the Bruins for most of his career, minus 26 games as a Black Hawk.

Orr is best known for his Stanley Cup goal vs The Blues where he flew through the air. He won two Stanley Cups as a Bruin. At the time, he was the youngest Hall of Fame inductee at 31 years old. He had 915 points in 657 games played.

Accolades:
  • Calder Memorial Trophy winner (1967)
  • NHL Second All-Star Team (1967)
  • 7x NHL All-Star (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975)
  • 8x NHL First All-Star Team (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975)
  • 8x James Norris Trophy (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975)
  • 6x NHL Plus/Minus leader (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975)
  • 2x Art Ross Trophy winner (1970, 1975)
  • 3x Hart Memorial Trophy winner (1970, 1971, 1972)
  • 2x Conn Smythe Trophy winner (1970, 1972)
  • 2x Stanley Cup champion (1970, 1972)
  • NHL All-Star Game MVP (1972)
  • Lester B. Pearson Award (1975)
  • Hockey Hall of Fame (1979)



How would you rank these great National Hockey League Defensemen? Rank below to be added in the NHL Power Rankings 

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