During the 2000s, the debate over who was the best NHL defenceman is similar to the discussion as to which goaltender was No. 1.
Much like Martin Brodeur, who was a cut above everybody else at his position, Nicklas Lidstrom was the undisputed top defenceman during that time. Winning two Stanley Cup championships with the Detroit Red Wings along with six Norris Trophies from 2000-2009, he had one of the best decades of any player ever.
Although no defenceman asserted that kind of dominance during the 2010s, these are the three whose standout efforts put them in the realm of being the top defender of the decade.
The most versatile blueliner of the decade, Duncan Keith was a total factor at both ends of the ice.
Simply put, Keith has been a workhorse for the Chicago Blackhawks over the years. His performance during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs alone was enough to at least place him in contention for being the best since 2010.
During that post-season, the Winnipeg native logged the most even-strength minutes among defencemen since 1997 (588:52), demonstrating his value to his club during all situations. Additionally, he was the only defender over the course of the decade to log more than 30 total minutes per contest (31:07) in a single Cup run while playing 10 games or more. Couple that kind of workload with a 21-point playoff and you get the only blueliner to win the Conn Smythe Trophy — unanimously, I may add — from 2010-2019. Keith was a vital part of three championship runs in Chicago.
His regular-season success is equally impressive. Since the start of the new decade, the former second-round draft selection has recorded the sixth-most points at his position, and the fifth-highest time on ice per match. He also managed to win both the 2010 and 2014 Norris Memorial Trophy, making him just one of two players this past decade to win it on multiple occasions.
Erik Karlsson has taken what it means to be an offensive defenceman to new heights since 2010.
We can all agree that scoring has largely decreased in the NHL while the skill level of goalies has improved significantly since the 70s and 80s. This makes it that much more impressive to see Karlsson listed as the only player in the top-10 of points-per-game by a defenceman all-time to have never appeared in an NHL contest prior to 1990.
His 557 points this decade top all rearguards, while no other defender in that stretch aside from the Swedish sensation has tallied more than 400 assists. He has also logged the third-highest total of minutes per match since the start of 2010.
His two Norris Trophies make him and Keith the only blueliners to earn the distinction of repeat recipients this decade. His incredible breakout 2011-12 campaign where he won his first Norris Trophy vaulted him into stardom, as the defenceman notched 19 goals and 78 points.
Although he hasn’t had overwhelming team success in the post-season, his .79 points-per-playoff-game are the third-highest of the decade. Not to mention, his stellar play during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs helped Ottawa exceed expectations en route to making it all the way to the Eastern Conference final.
Karlsson is as skilled offensively as any defender since the start of the century, making him one to remember from this time.
While the Los Angeles Kings may go down as one of the best teams of the decade, their best player during this era has been Drew Doughty.
The second-overall selection of the 2008 NHL Draft has been everything the franchise could ask for, and then some. Since 2010, Doughty has averaged the second-highest total of minutes-per-game (26:41) among blueliners. He’s also been a consistent contributor offensively, as his 413 points in that duration are seventh at the position.
It’s said that sometimes the best ability is availability, and one thing each and every Kings game over the last five years has had in common is Doughty’s presence in the lineup. The rearguard hasn’t missed a regular-season contest since 2013-14, which is impressive considering the physical nature of his game. He’s 12th among all defencemen since 2010 in hits, throwing 1,270 checks in that span.
Over the course of the 2010s, he’s finished third in the voting for the Norris once, second on two occasions, and first once which occurred during the 2015-16 season. That year, he tallied 14 goals and 51 points, finishing as a top-10 power-play point producer and averaging the third-most minutes per-night in the league.
(This video is NSFW thanks to some of Doughty’s chirps. Trash-talking just so happens to be another feather in his cap.)
The 11-year pro can also boast that he is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. During both trips to the Cup, Doughty led all defenders in playoff points.
His blend of both physicality and offensive talent has made him dominant at the position, and one of the more entertaining players in the league.
Luckily during the 2010s, there was no shortage of star power at defence. While many blueliners were superb during this time, these three have mounted the most convincing arguments to be considered the best of the decade.
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