Observations From the Rink: Is The Stay at Home Defensive Defencemen Extinct?

The defensive defencemen is extinct. They’re gone and they aren’t coming back!

Like what the hell?

That’s what most of the uneducated hockey world want to believe.

There’s a misconception in some parts of the hockey world that the stay at home defencemen that makes the simple play, that takes the body, that’s physical and moves the puck is totally obsolete and in fact extinct.

It would appear the stay at home honest defender’s importance doesn’t exist in the minds of young players and coaches in today’s era.

We all know better right?

As one NHL Scout told me, “they think it’s an insult when we say that they are defensive defencemen.”

There has been so much emphasis on the highly skilled puck moving defencemen these days, that young draft eligible defenders and defencemen throughout every level in the game have a preconceived notion that they have to be totally committed offensively to get noticed, appreciated and in many cases drafted and play at the next level.

That’s simply not the case.

The need for the defensive defencemen that are committed to their own zone is as valuable now or even more valuable than ever before.

The NHL Scout then said something that I never ever considered.

You see when you are surrounded by knowledgeable hockey people you have to be like a sponge, you have to take it all in and ask the right questions and sometimes the tough questions.

When you can talk hockey with NHL Scouts you better damn well listen, especially the ones that are open to sharing.

You see sharing is learning, learning is growing and when it comes to the scouting world, any new philosophical perspective is critical not only for personal growth in the field, but it vastly increases the evaluation and projection process.

When NHL Scouts talk, I listen.

This long-time scout discussed their organizations new philosophy to describe defencemen and their focus moving forward.

It may very well be an old philosophical observation or mindset or it may very well be cutting edge, either way it’s brilliant and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard defencemen classified in that way.

The NHL organization in question can’t lay claim to the analogy or the origin of the concept, but they have certainly implemented it and there’s no doubt it will bolster their draft productivity.

The origins of the concept has to remain off the record, but let’s just say I’m truly not surprised where it came from because it’s truly brilliant.

The NHL organization have starting to discuss zones when identifying, evaluating and projecting defencemen.

Yes, zones quite simply put, how many zone defencemen are you?

You see the term defensive defencemen might be extinct in some people’s minds, but the need and their value is still ever present.

The NHL organization’s focus moving forward will be identifying defencemen as a one, two or three zone defencemen.

It removes the perceived stigma with being identified or labeled as a stay at home defensive defencemen.

Again it might not sound groundbreaking and you may have heard it used before, but I think it’s freaking earth shattering.

Ok let’s try to apply the concept and evaluation tool on an active NHL defender.

Let’s use future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara.

Would you consider Chara to be a stay at home, defensive defencemen?

Would Chara be insulted being an classified like that?

First off, who gives a “rats ass”, how they define you as a player, if you have the talent at skill to be drafted into the NHL I wouldn’t give two shits what they called me, but you see the agents would beg to differ on that one.

Smoke and mirrors can only get you so far.

Ok, back to Chara, where would categorize him.

In this framework, Chara would be a two and half zone defencemen.

Chara has the ability to make plays and move the puck efficiently and effectively in his zone and the neutral zone.

Nevertheless, he’s not going to be a dynamic offensive force or elusive offensive threat in the “O zone”, but he will still bring offence with his mobility and ability to move the puck and generate offence with his amazing shot.

That being said, in this classification system, Zdeno Chara is a two and half zone defencemen.

It’s as simple as that.

There’s no grey area or augmented bull shit, in that evaluation or projection. What you see is what you get, it’s a realistic qualification of what the player brings to the table.

So what current NHL defencemen are full three-zone defencemen?

Thomas Chabot? Samuel Girard? Roman Josi? or Torey Krug?

You see today’s players are trying to conform to the stereotypical hockey rhetoric rather than just focusing on their strengths, playing to their identity and working on their weaknesses.

Why try to be something you are not?

The stay at home, defensive defencemen is fully extinct, in the minds of many, because coaches believe they have to have a defence corps full of outstanding puck moving offensive defencmen that can generate offence or can rush the puck at a moments notice.

Clearly it’s just not the case.

The game needs one and half or two zone defencemen just as much as the flashy three zone defender.

What about Drew Doughty?

The LA King defender was named to all Decade Team.

What classification would he have?

You see this system allows players to progress and regress or settle into their rightful category.

There’s always room to improve, but it also potentially signifies the ceiling for the defender as well.

Think about it, how much do you think a solid two zone defencemen deserves to make in today’s NHL?

How much would a one and a half zone defencemen make?

If you are great in your own zone, and a good puck mover on top of that with some sandpaper to your game and you’re mobile, you’ll probably get a pretty damn good pay day when the time comes.

Who wouldn’t want to get paid anywhere from 2.25 million to 5 million a year for being a dominant two zone defencemen?

The next time you want to typecast a young passionate defencemen think about this technique instead of planting tons of bull shit into their minds.

Maybe let the kid figure out what type of defencemen they want to become rather than forcing the issue and always leaning towards an offensive puck mover.

How about teaching them the game in all three zones?

How about giving every defender on the team a chance to experience every zone to see how they handle the puck, pressure and different in game situations?

Wow, what a concept, growth and development.

The defensive defencemen will go extinct if we continue to get backward thinking coaches pressuring kids in becoming something they are not.

Can you imagine a Head Coach of a Midget AAA or Bantam AAA Program or junior hockey for that matter not giving their young defencemen time to develop or enhance their skills in all three zones?

Is it about developing, winning or typecasting, you be the judge?

Don’t worry about the stay at home defensive minded defenders they still exist, they are just criticized and unappreciated by the masses for not being flashy enough, but trust me they are as valuable now more than ever before.

Let’s start developing defencemen, let’s explain the importance of being a well rounded complete defensive player first rather than strictly a one dimensional player jumping into the play and making poor decisions with the puck.

Let’s show them video of their mistakes, let’s provide instant feedback during the game and practice so they can adapt, grow and trust the process, the position and their role on the team.

What a concept! It’s all about the zones, that’s how NHL Scouts are evaluating and projecting draft eligible defencemen.

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