D-men are very hard to scout, very hit or miss when it comes to the draft…much like QB’s in the NFL. And so one day I got to wondering if you could take what you look for in a QB and apply it to a d-man. What is the one thing that all high end d-men have in common? Intelligence.
Now, you could say this for most success stories in most walks of life, but I could give you A LOT more examples of successful forwards that aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. I won’t…but I could. Meanwhile name the top end d-men that didn’t have a very high IQ. I’m sure there were 1 or 2, but as I always say don’t give me the exception to the rule, give me the rule.
Denis Potvin, very high IQ. Larry Robinson, very high IQ. Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios, Scott Neidermayer, Chris Pronger, Nik Lidstrom, the list goes on and on and on. All top end d-men have VERY HIGH IQ’s.
So I came up with my own little 4 step program on how to look at d-men when drafting them.
1) High IQ – as I have already stated but I believe it is the number 1 thing to look for in a d-man. Defense is a position where you have to react, not act. That requires a high IQ to be succesful.
2) Skating ability – 2 and 3 are interchangeable but in the post lockout NHL if the player is slow he likely isn’t anything more than a 4th defenseman at best. If he can skate however he likely will be more succesful with the way the game is currently being played. He doesn’t have to be able to fly (though obviously that doesn’t hurt), but he can’t be a statue. Dan Boyle and Lubo Visnovsky are 2 d-men that really only have these top 2 traits yet they are high end d-men.
3) Size – if you now have all 3, you are looking pretty damn good. I believe size is pretty straight forward and like I said you could switch 2 and 3 and still likely be an ok d-man, but again I will take skating ability over size. However if he has all 3 of these traits, this player will be a top 4 d-man. Heck look at Tom Gilbert. The guy has been pretty sub par since his rookie season, yet the Oilers continually give him chance after chance and the rumour mill suggests they could still get a nice return on him despite average play and a so-so contract.
4) Edge – if you have all 4 of these traits your name is Chris Pronger, or Shea Weber, or Rob Blake, or Scott Stevens and on and on. A guy can be a stud d-man with only 3 of these 4 traits. But if he has all four he is likely a BEAST…at worst a number 2.
There have been a lot of d-men that have lacked the edge needed to take there game to the next level (Tom Poti, Eric Brewer, etc), but they have had long careers and made a lot of money while being top 4 defensemen in the league for a long time.
Hey let’s face it, there will never be a day that we have a fool proof system. But I really believe that if scouts look at these 4 qualities, in this order, that it would really help cut down the busts on the blueline. And I’m very sure that despite coming up with this on my own that there are a lot of scouts and GM’s that follow this formula already in some form.