The National Hockey League currently has a repeat defending Stanley Cup champion in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the other 30 teams in the National Hockey League have a mission to dethrone the champions and not to let them turn a repeat into a three-peat. This NHL season looks like it is going to be one of the most interesting seasons that the league has seen in quite some time.
There is so much tension going around the league, with the Penguins fighting to win the Stanley Cup for a third year in a row against all odds. The rest of the league is trying to put a roster together that can compete with the Penguins. A lot of moves were made this offseason as it was one of the most busiest off seasons in recent memory. One part of the game that is important to have a solid blue line. The blue line is very important to make sure that they can help their goaltending. If you don't have a solid blue line then your team has to rely on their goaltending to carry them, and in an 82 game season that is a lot to ask for one person.
Yes, the Penguins managed to win a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang and a very shaky blue line, but other teams don't have the luxury of having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at center. The Predators made the Finals and came very close to knocking off Pittsburgh, getting there primarily due to their ridiculously stacked blue line. It just goes to show you there is more than one blueprint to competing for the Stanley Cup.
With that being said here are the rankings of every team's blue line from worst to best.
31 Vancouver Canucks
Top Six: Alexander Edler, Chris Tanev, Michael Del Zotto, Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher.
The Canucks are in a rebuilding mode, and their defensive pairings show it. Edler is a solid defenseman, and Del Zotto and Tanev are okay, but after that there is nothing that sticks out. Vancouver is in for a long season if their defensemen can't help take some of the workload off of their starting goaltenders' shoulders.
Jacob Markstrom looks like he will be the number one goaltender for the Canucks as of now. The Canucks present day team does not look like they will be in contention for the Stanley Cup for this season and for the foreseeable future. Look for the times to be tough in Vancouver and it does not help that their blueline lacks much punch from the backend.
30 New Jersey Devils
Top Six: Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore, Ben Lovejoy, Will Butcher and Michael Kapla.
The Devils have struggled to find their identity in the National Hockey League since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings. New Jersey has also been looking for a new face of the franchise once Zach Parise left in free agency to play for his hometown team the Minnesota Wild.
The Devils' blueline has not been good in recent memory, and this year looks like it will be more of the same. Have Cory Schneider face a lot of shots, and hope that the Devils can score some goals for him up front. That tactic will not only fail to win the Devils games, but it will also be the definition of a struggle for the Devils to have another rough season in 2017-18.
29 Colorado Avalanche
Top Six: Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov, Tyson Barrie, Mark Barberio, Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm.
The Avalanche have not been the same team due to injuries, and their talent up front not being healthy. Colorado has not had a good past couple of seasons of having success to take some of the workload off of their goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche defense is led by Erik Johnson who was taken with the number one overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft.
Colorado has not had a solid group on the blue line since the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup Title in the 2000-2001 season. Look for the Avalanche to have another rough season in 2017-2018 due to the fact that their goaltender will be dealing with a lot of shots per game due to the fact that their top six defenseman are not a good fit together.
28 New York Islanders
Top Six: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Adam Pelech.
The Islanders don't look like they will be contending for any Stanley Cup Title in the forseeable future. Especially when their blue line is not that good, which means a lot of shots go to the goaltenders and it is up to them to make sure they can keep the majority of shots out of the net per game. That is a tough style to play in the National Hockey League, and it will come back to bite teams down the stretch when they are looking for a playoff spot.
Look for the Islanders to struggle in 2017-2018, and with some big questions that have to be answered this off season what will the Islanders do.
27 Dallas Stars
Top Six: John Klingberg, Marc Methot, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns.
Now the Stars have widely improved this offseason by getting some talent at goaltender, and at forward. The one thing that is keeping them from being a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup is the fact that their defense just can't measure up to others in the Western Conference. The Stars have a good core up front, but their blue line will be the weak point of this team.
John Klingberg is a great offensive defenseman, and guys like Marc Methot, and Dan Hamhuis have been in the league for a while now. Other than that can they really trust anybody on the blueline for them. Newly acquired goaltender Ben Bishop will not want to be taking a lot of shots in 2017-18 so look for Dallas to try and acquire some talent on defense, but for now they do not have a good defensive group in front of Bishop.
26 Florida Panthers
Top Six: Aaron Ekblad, Michael Matheson, Keith Yandle, Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen.
The Panthers need a big time upgrade at defense, and can potentially get that from within if their young talent on defense develops well. Florida's goaltenders are Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer who are currently splitting time. It is hard for the Panthers to find out which goaltender is the best fit as the number one starter when their defense does not help in keeping pressure off their goaltenders.
Florida struggled last season with getting the puck out of the zone, and had some inconsistent goaltending because of it. Look for the Panthers to address their issues on defense sooner rather than later, but look for Florida to get a big upgrade, ideally a blueliner who could partner up with Ekblad.
25 Buffalo Sabres
Top Six: Rasmus Ristolanien, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe and Viktor Antipin.
Buffalo is a young team that is looking for some guidance in the Eastern Conference. With their core being very young the Sabres are trying to do their best to construct a roster of talented veterans, to help out their young talent. Defenseman Rasmus Rostolanien leads the charge for their defenseman, and he is only 22 years old.
The Sabres have a chance of being a very good hockey team in the next couple of seasons, but they need to progress the way that they can, and hope that everybody wants to remain together as a unit. Look for Buffalo to try and hope that their blue line can give some help to Robin Lehner in 2017-18, but look for them to be two years away from being a solid defensive team.
24 Arizona Coyotes
Top Six: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kevin Connauton, and Luke Schenn.
The Coyotes made some improvements this offseason. They added two veteran defensemen in Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers while adding a new goaltender behind them in Antti Raanta.
The Coyotes are getting better on the blue line, but now they have to focus on keeping shots on net at a minimum on first time starter Raanta. Arizona is looking to bounce back, and make the postseason again. It will be tough if their blue line doesn't help the way that the Coyotes hoped they will. Look for Arizona to be on the rise soon, but the blue line has to have a year under their belt as a cohesive unit before they can be ranked higher.
23 Vegas Golden Knights
Top Six: Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa and Jason Garrison.
The Golden Knights have a decent blue line for their first ever season as a team in the NHL. They have a young talented defenseman in Colin Miller, which adds to the veteran presence that the Golden Knights have on their team.
Then after that we have three guys in McNabb, Schmidt, and Sbisa that are the wild cards for Vegas's blue line. Looking forward the Golden Knights could potentially make a good solid run in their first ever season, but one thing that could hold them back is their blue line. If they can't keep pressure off of Marc-Andre Fleury then Vegas will be in for a long first season in the National Hockey League.
22 Detroit Red Wings
Top Six: Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Xavier Ouellett, Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Nick Jensen.
The Red Wings missed the postseason for the first time in a very long time last season and one of the big reasons why was the lack of talent that they had on defense. What did Detroit do this offseason? Well, they went out and signed two-time Stanley Cup Champion Trevor Daley.
Detroit is looking to bounce back and make the playoffs, but they have not made it out of the first round since moving over to the Eastern Conference. Look for Detroit's blue line to be better than last season, but it will still struggle to keep the puck out of the defensive zone.
21 St. Louis Blues
Top Six: Alex Pietrangelo, Joel Edmundson, Colton Parayko, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, and Vince Dunn.
The Blues have lost some of their core over the past few seasons in David Backes, Kevin Shattenkirk, etc. but they still have a good solid defenseman who is the captain of their team in Alex Pietrangelo. St. Louis has been a solid team in the Western Conference over the past few seasons, but this could be the year that they take a step back.
St. Louis's blue line besides Alex Pietrangelo does not look impressive to say the least. They do have a young talent in Colton Parayko who can be the next best defenseman for the Blues, other than that their blue line is not impressive. Look for St. Louis to struggle in 2017-18, and the huge reason for that is because of their blue line.
20 San Jose Sharks
Top Six: Brent Burns, Paul Martin, Justin Braun, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dylan DeMeo and Brenden Dillion.
Now nothing against this veteran heavy Sharks defense, but I do not think they are that good as a unit. The only thing going for them is the fact that they have Brent Burns as their premier defenseman. Other than that I am not really sold on any of their other defensemen.
Paul Martin and Justin Braun are solid defensive defensemen, but I think San Jose made a big mistake signing Vlasic to an extension for as long as they did. San Jose basically signed Vlasic for the remainder of his career, and gave him an average salary per season that he does not deserve. Look for the Sharks to regret that during the 2017-18 season, and for their defense as a whole to struggle.
19 Philadelphia Flyers
Top Six: Ivan Provorov, Andrew MacDonald, Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, and Radko Gudas.
The Flyers are looking like they want to be back in business in 2017-18, and are trying to make it back to the postseason. One big thing that they need to do is to make sure that their blue line can help their goaltending situation.
With Philadelphia acquiring a new goaltender it looks like they are entering a new era which they hope can start the bounce back of the Flyers franchise. Look for guys like Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere to step their game up in 2017-18, and to help lead the group of defenseman to help bring the Flyers back to the postseason.
18 Boston Bruins
Top Six: Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, and Charlie McAvoy.
The Bruins are a team that squeezed into the playoffs last season, but they are going to need some big time help from their blue line. They have some young talent in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy to add on with their veteran presence of Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug, and Zdeno Chara.
Boston has potential to be a good team, but if they can create less work for Tuukka Rask then the Bruins can beat almost anybody in the National Hockey League. Look for the Bruins to exceed expectations, but they are going to need everybody on the blue line to play their absolute best throughout the whole season.
17 Winnipeg Jets
Top Six: Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Dustin Byfuglien, Dmitry Kulikov, Tyler Myers and Tobias Enstrom.
The Jets have some big time play makers on the offensive end, but if their blue line can play as well as the Jets hope they can, then they can be contenders in the Western Conference. Winnipeg has some talent on the defensive end, especially players who can put the puck in the net. With Byfuglien and Myers having as great of a slap shot as they do, it provides some problems for other teams.
Look for the Jets to take it to some of the teams in the Western Conference, especially if the blue line can dominate the way that the Jets believe that they can. It is up to Byfuglien to lead the blue line to help the Jets become a better team in 2017-18.
16 Carolina Hurricanes
Top Six: Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Noah Hanifin, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury.
The Hurricanes are a young team that are looking to see what they can do to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. For starters the young Hurricanes team has a pretty good defensive group, which combines young talent, with some talent that has already played in the National Hockey League.
Carolina has added a new goaltender to the mix in Scott Darling, and added another young talented defenseman in Trevor van Riemsdyk. These two can potentially be what the Hurricanes needed to take that big leap. Look for the Hurricanes to have some growing pains in 2017-2018, but in the next couple of seasons Carolina should be a legitimate contender.
15 Montreal Canadiens
Top Six: Shea Weber, Karl Alzner, Victor Mete, Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, and David Schlemko.
Montreal has had some trouble with the blue line last season and they went out and got two defenseman that they believe can help make a difference. Karl Alzner and David Schlemko have been the big acquisitions that Montreal and Carey Price hope can help lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup Final. Victor Mete was a pleasant surprise for the team in the preseason and worked his way into the top six.
One thing about this defensive group is that they have not worked together for a long period of time, and they don't have any chemistry yet. Look for Montreal to hope that Shea Weber, Karl Alzner and company can help lighten up some of Carey Price's workload going into the 2017-18 campaign. If the blue line can do that then look for Montreal to be a contender in 2017-18.
14 Chicago Blackhawks
Top Six: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Michal Kempny, Connor Murphy, Gustav Forling, and Ville Pokka.
The Blackhawks don't have the same amount of talent that they normally have on defense, but they do have some young talent who could help them out for the future. Adding that young talent to go along with two talented veterans like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook show good signs that this could work for Chicago.
The Blackhawks look to compete year in and year out, and these younger guys are going to have to learn how to play in big time games. Looking ahead guys like Connor Murphy and Gustav Forling look like they could be the key to help Chicago remain as a contender. With them helping to create less of a workload for Corey Crawford could provide wonders for the Chicago.
13 Edmonton Oilers
Top Six: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Darnell Nurse, and Eric Gryba.
The Oilers have a young defensive core that can at times struggle with getting the puck out of their zone. With guys like Klefbom, Larsson, and Nurse as the core of this young defensive corps means a lot to the Oilers. They need their defense to help complement their offense if they want to go anywhere in 2017-18.
Look for Edmonton to hope that their young defenseman grow as a cohesive unit as they will look to try and make it back to the playoffs for back to back seasons. The Oilers have potential to be a top ten defensive team if their core can grow together and play well together.
12 Toronto Maple Leafs
Top Six: Morgan Rielly, Ron Hainsey, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev, Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen.
Toronto's top four defenseman are solid young players that can help shape this team into a contender for the Stanley Cup Title. Zaitsev, Gardnier, and Rielly are the young talented defenseman that Toronto wants on their roster. Now by the end of the year they can potentially make a move for a veteran defenseman which will bump the Maple Leafs in the top 10 as a blue line unit.
Until that potential move they are just on the outside of the top ten. The Maple Leafs will create some space for their blue line guys to produce on the offensive end, but at the end of the day Toronto is going to have to rely on their offense to carry the team into the postseason.
11 Calgary Flames
Top Six: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Matt Bartowski and Michael Stone.
We come to the last team that is just outside of the top ten. The Flames have a solid blue line that loves to produce. Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano are a solid top line pairing, while adding T.J. Brodie to go along with Travis Hamonic. Their top four is a solid group that can help Calgary this season.
The Flames are looking to try and make the playoffs again for the third time in four seasons, and hope that they can avoid the Ducks in the playoffs. Look for Calgary's blue line to produce offensively and defensively in a way that can help make the Flames a contender for the Stanley Cup in 2017-18.
10 Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins' top six defenseman are Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Matt Hunwick, Olli Maatta, and Chad Ruhwedel. They are also without Ian Cole who will be apart of that top six when healthy. Pittsburgh has two talented defenseman in Kris Letang, and Olli Maatta who can help create chances in the offensive zone for one of the most lethal offenses in the league today.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions are fun to watch every night, and it is because they have talent on all three zones on the ice at all time. This team does not have a weak link, and will do whatever it takes to three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions. Look for Pittsburgh's blue line to help the team contend again in 2017-2018.
9 Los Angeles Kings
Top Six: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbot, Jake Muzzin, Christian Folin, Oscar Fantenberg and Alec Martinez
Los Angeles is looking to bounce back after a rough 2016-17 season, and their defensive group is not looking like what it was during their Stanley Cup runs, but it is a solid top six. What I really like about their group is that they don't stack one pairing with two of their better defenseman.
They put their three top defenseman in Doughty, Muzzin, and Martinez on different lines so they always have one of their better defenseman on the ice. With Martinez out at the moment the Kings will look for Kurtis Macdermid to step up in Marinez's absence. Look for the Kings to make a huge run this season due to their excellent blue line.
8 Washington Capitals
Top Six: Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, Aaron Ness, and Taylor Chorney.
Washington relies on their defense to be solid year round, due to the amount of money that they are paying their top four defenseman. With Niskanen making a $5.75 million cap hit, Orpik making a $5.5 million cap hit, Dmitry Orlov making a $5.1 million cap hit, and Carlson making a rough estimate $4 million cap hit, shows how much they have invested in their defense.
The Capitals have shown that they have a solid top two pairings, but their bottom pairing this season does not look as good as it has been in the past. Look for the Capitals to be one of the top teams in the NHL during the regular season, but if they can avoid Pittsburgh in the playoffs they can be legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.
7 Anaheim Ducks
Top Six: Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Francois Beauchemin, Brandon Montour
One thing that the Anaheim Ducks always are is championship contenders year in and year out. Their blue line has struggled in the playoffs, but they tend to play sound defensive hockey all year around.
Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen are out for a while. Those two defenseman are a huge part of the Ducks' defensive group.
With the way that they can move the puck in and out of the defensive zone for Anaheim, their blue line will be infinitely better. They'd better hope that John Gibson stays healthy come playoff time this year.
6 Columbus Blue Jackets
Top Six: Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Jack Johnson, David Savard, Ryan Murray and Gabriel Carlsson.
Columbus has a solid defensive group that is mixed with a former number one overall selection in Jack Johnson, to go along with their young talented defenseman Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. Werenski and Jones are the focal point of this defensive group as they are the main reason why Columbus was as good as they were in 2016-2017.
Now in 2017-2018 the Blue Jackets look to continue to do more of the same especially if they would like to be known as contenders in the Eastern Conference. Look for their top five defenseman to be solid while Gabriel Carlsson looks to be the only wild card this season for the Blue Jackets.
5 Ottawa Senators
Top Six: Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Wideman, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki and Thomas Chabot.
Now at the moment the Senators are without Erik Karlsson due to injury which means that Fredrik Claesson is up on their roster. When Karlsson comes back this team has a great solid cohesive blue line that can give any team in the National Hockey League trouble.
Ottawa needs to be healthy if they are going to be successful, but they need Erik Karlsson to hold down the fort so to speak. Karlsson is the best offensive defenseman in the league and can create opportunities for the offense in the offensive zone. He is also a great solid defender that shuts down his opponents. Look for Ottawa to start rolling once Karlsson is back and healthy.
4 New York Rangers
Top Six: Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skeji, Nick Holden, and Steve Kampfer.
The Rangers are a solid team that is looking to comeback after their disappointing end to their 2016-17 season. They added Kevin Shattenkirk to their team, which help makes their blue line top five in the league right now.
New York is led by captain Ryan McDonagh who is a big part of the Rangers' blue line. He is the reason why they are so successful, and he also holds everybody accountable. Look for the Rangers to be successful this season due to three players on the blue line. Those players are Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Ryan McDonagh who together make an insane top three defenseman trio.
3 Minnesota Wild
Top Six: Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeron, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Kyle Quincey, and Mike Reilly.
The Wild have a solid group on the blue line that helps the Wild be as successful as they have been over the past few seasons. Since they signed Ryan Suter, the Wild have been a playoff team every season and Suter has been a huge part of it. Minnesota has build a solid culture over the past few seasons, and it has been because of their stellar blue line play.
The top four of Minnesota's blue line is solid, while the bottom two are good but not great. Look for the Wild to be in contention again in 2017-18, but they are going to need more help for their blue line then they have had in seasons prior.
2 Tampa Bay Lightning
Top Six: Victor Hedman, Jake Dotchin, Mikhail Sergachev, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, and Dan Girardi.
The Lightning have one of the best defense corps in the league, and it has a mix of young talent, that makes it a solid blue line. From top to bottom this defensive group looks very solid, and they look like they don't have any weaknesses on defense. Tampa Bay has a solid lineup on the blue line as they put a veteran with a younger talent which helps the Lightning have a solid defenseman on the ice at all times.
Look for Tampa Bay if healthy to compete in the Eastern Conference this season and to give the Penguins a run for their money. Tampa Bay is the real deal and it is because they have a solid blue line in front of their young goaltender.
1 Nashville Predators
Top Six: Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Matt Irwin.
At the moment Ryan Ellis is out for the Nashville Predators so his spot is being replaced by Samuel Girard. The reigning Western Conference Champions are in the same spot as they were in a season ago with their stacked blue line which was a huge part of the reason why they went to the Stanley Cup in 2016-17.
Their side of the trade that offseason worked out in their favor as P.K. Subban helped lead the Predators to their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history, while Shea Weber and the Canadiens got bounced out in the first round.
Look for the Predators to continue their success especially with bringing back the majority of the blue line from a season ago.
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