Two summers ago, the Southeast Division lost one of its better defensemen when Dan Boyle was exiled to the left coast. Last summer, Jay Bouwmeester departed the Sunshine State for Alberta. This summer, Keith Ballard was moved from Florida to Vancouver in as great a distance trade as the NHL has to offer. The exodus of some of the Southeast's top rearguards has left the overall depth of Division "D" a bit on the shallow side as we await the full arrival of the next wave of Southeast studs, guys like Victor Hedman, Dmitry Kulikov, Jamie McBain, Karl Alzner and John Carlson.
Just how weak is the crop of blueliners? Let's count down the top ten....
10. Dennis Wideman ( )
Wideman saw his point totals and plus/minus drop off the table for the Bruins last season (down from 50 points and a plus-32 rating) as most of that team imploded, but he is still a solid defenseman with the puck and one who can play a lot of minutes (and he'll get 'em in Florida).
9. Tom Poti ( )
At five-on-five, Poti was among the most effective players in the NHL in 2009-10 and was just 0.01 points-per-sixty behind Mike Green at five-on-four. The Caps missed him dearly in Game 7 of their first round playoff series against Montreal. [For more on Poti's 2009-10 season, check out his Rink Wrap.]
8. Bryan McCabe ( )
The much-maligned McCabe turned in another decent campaign for a woeful Florida squad. Yeah, that's all I've got.
Bogosian had a bit of a sophomore slump, as his goals and assists per game dropped, and his plus/minus plummeted from plus-11 to minus-18. Still, he's a young blueliner (six months younger than John Carlson, in fact) with an incredibly bright future that seems to be just around the corner.
6. Tim Gleason (Carolina Hurricanes)
Gleason set career bests in goals and points per game last season, but that's not his game. Rather, he's a hitter and a shutdown defender. Throw in that decent offensive contribution and you've got yourself a player.
Kubina spent 2009-10 in Atlanta and improved his plus/minus rating by 15 over the previous season and topped 30 assists for the first time in four seasons. Now he's back where he spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career and looks to be in a good situation to succeed.
Like fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom, Enstrom hasn't missed a game through his first three NHL seasons. And like Backstrom, Enstrom is a heck of a distributor, finishing 2009-10 fourth among rearguards in helpers. All this from the 239th pick in the 2003 Draft.
Last season Schultz became the first defenseman since Chris Pronger a decade earlier to finish a season with a plus-50 rating or better. He was the Division's top defensive defenseman and one of the best values in the League (not to mention the highest-rated defenseman in the NHL at five-aside, by one metric). Not bad for a guy who started the season as a healthy scratch. [For more on Schultz's 2009-10 season, check out his Rink Wrap.]
During a season filled with injuries in Raleigh, Pitkanen served as the defensive backbone for the Hurricanes (despite missing a fair number of games in his own right). He led his team in ice time, earning an average of almost three more minutes per game than his previous season. And while playing big minutes for a team that was a bottom-dweller for most of the year will wreak havoc on one's plus-minus, Pitkanen made up for it by leading all Carolina defensemen - by a large margin - in offensive production.
Once again Green proved to fans and critics alike why he is the best defenseman in his division - and one of the best in the League. He led all defensemen in just about every statistical category, served as the quarterback for the Caps' lethal (regular season) power play, played over twenty-five minutes a night, trailed only teammates Alex Ovechkin and Jeff Schultz in plus-minus, and for the second year in a row was rewarded with a Norris Trophy nomination and First All-Star Team honors. [For more on Green's 2009-10 season, check out his Rink Wrap.]
So there you have it - the top ten Southeast Division defensemen. Alright, now tell us where we're wrong.