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The Puck Stops Here

Top Defensive Zone Starters

I continue my summer sabermetrics and hockey series by looking at defensive zone starts.  This is the opposite of offensive zone starts.  These are players who are on the ice for more defensive zone faceoffs than offensive ones.  These players are chosen by their teams to play tough defensive roles.  They are often the unsung hero of their team who does the dirty work with little recognition.  Some of these players should be Selke Trophy candidates.  The context of excess defensive zone starts is useful to make Corsi into a more individualized ranking as it helps to show which players play a more defensive role on their team and will thus suffer in terms of their puck possession.

Here are the top 20 players in the 2013/14 season by excess defensive zone starts:

Rank Name Team Zone Starts
1 Boyd Gordon Edmonton 487
2 Jay McClement Toronto 361
3 Marcus Kruger Chicago 347
4 Manny Malhotra Carolina 324
4 Paul Gaustad Nashville 324
6 Brandon Bollig Chicago 311
7 Brian Boyle NY Rangers 294
8 Matt Hendricks Edmonton 241
9 Kyle Brodziak Minnesota 238
10 Ben Smith Chicago 231
11 Brad Richardson Vancouver 227
12 Carl Gunnarsson Toronto 219
13 Matt Cooke Minnesota 217
14 Dion Phaneuf Toronto 216
15 Dominic Moore NY Rangers 213
16 Nikolai Kulemin Toronto 207
17 Tomas Plekanec Montreal 187
18 Brian Gionta Montreal 173
19 Zenon Konopka Buffalo 160
20 Shea Weber Nashville 159

Boyd Gordon of Edmonton clearly leads the league in excess defensive zone starts.  He does so by a large margin of over 125 starts.  After him comes a natural grouping of six players.  The Chicago Blackhawks despite being a top team have two in this group in Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig (they have a third on the list in Ben Smith at 10th place).  The only team with more players on this list than the Blackhawks is the Toronto Maple Leafs with four.  Toronto is a team that had many more defensive zone starts on the team level so this might be expected.  The fact that so many Blackhawks are on this list shows an interesting tactical decision.  The Hawks make an effort to get their best offensive players offensive zone starts and hence there must be a defensive crew that takes the defensive draws.  These are more unsung Hawk players.  Perhaps the best player on this list comes at the end in Shea Weber - who was a Norris Trophy nominee. 

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Da lil Guy's avatar

So are we able to draw any conclusions from any of this?

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 07/31/14 at 01:00 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

So are we able to draw any conclusions from any of this?

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 07/31/14 at 01:00 PM ET

Yep. The aforementioned players head to the south side of the rink a lot more often than not.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 07/31/14 at 04:04 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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