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Top 20 Defensive Zone Starters

I continue my sabermetrics and hockey posts by looking at the players with the largest excess of defensive zone starts.  These are players who play tough defensive roles with their teams and as a result their offensive numbers and puck possession numbers will suffer.  In order to compare them with players who have more traditional usage, this must be taken into account.  It is the opposite of the offensive zone starters that I have already looked at.

Here are the 20 players with the highest number of excess defensive zone starts in 2010/11:

2010/11 Top 20 Defensive Zone Starters
Excess Defensive Zone Starts 
1Steve OttDal


2Manny MalhotraVan


3Jarred SmithsonNas


4Zenon KonopkaNYI


5Adam BurishDal


6Raffi TorresVan


7Greg ZanonMin


8John MaddenMin


9Samuel PahlssonCBJ


10Vern FiddlerPho


11Jannik HansenVan


12Dave BollandChi


13Mike WeaverFlo


14Eric NystromMin


14Blair BettsPhi


16Taylor PyattPhx


16Jay McClementCol


18Joel WardNas


19Mattias OhlundTB


20Brent BurnsMin


This is a group of defensive specialists.  Only four are defencemen (Greg Zanon, Mike Weaver, Mattias Ohlund and Brent Burns).  The rest are forwards.  This is largely due to depth.  Teams have four lines of forwards and three of defencemen, so they can better afford to have forwards saved for defensive situations.

Steve Ott leads the list.  He played a tough defensive role on the Dallas Stars, but he did not play against the same top level competition that Manny Malhotra did, so I do not think he is as good a defensive forward.  Both were used in defensive situations.

There are good teams that specifically saved players for their defensive zone starts.  Vancouver’s line of Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen all appear here.  Dave Bolland of the Chicago Blackhawks is also on this list. 

The Minnesota Wild have the largest number of players on this list with four (Zanon, John Madden, Eric Nystrom and Burns).  This is due to their being a bad team that is stuck with a lot of defensive zone starts.

This group of players is a group of players who were used in defensive roles.  They are players who played tough roles with their teams.  These players had varying levels of success in those roles.  We can combine these numbers with Corsi ratings to begin to determine how well any of them played.

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list should have said the following teams need to learn to use all four lines

Posted by mike on 08/06/11 at 05:26 PM ET


It would probably be helpful to know how many games these players played and what percentage of their starts where in the defensive zone.  Might give a little more context to the raw numbers.

Posted by Garth on 08/06/11 at 06:13 PM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

whew, glad there are no Redwings

Posted by Rdwings28 on 08/06/11 at 07:11 PM ET


is there really a question about how much ice time and how many games these guys play really? at first glance im sure everyone has a good idea but sure i hear you nothing wrong w/ diligence

Posted by mike on 08/07/11 at 12:44 AM ET


btw it just occurred to me that there is a heavy amount of western conf. players on that list

Posted by mike on 08/07/11 at 12:54 AM 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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