The five best foursomes (defensemen) in the Western Conference
Every team in the Western Conference has their power-play quarterback, their primary offensive defenseman, the player that we all depend on for consistent numbers to help our fantasy teams. Picking Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, or Dustin Byfuglien is typically an automatic decision depending on your league set up and draft position. Dynamic duos like Ekman-Larsson/Yandle and Shattenkirk/Pietrangelo are not exactly news to any knowledgeable hockey fan. But when you look at overall defensive depth from a fantasy hockey perspective, which teams in the Western Conference should be most feared? Which teams should we lean towards when looking for a depth option for our rosters?
This week’s edition of the Wild West is about having some fun, using some subjectivity, and analyzing each team’s top four fantasy producing defenseman combined by their total points, power play points, plus/minus, and shots on goal. Let’s take a look at the five most fearsome fantasy foursomes in the West.
#5 – Winnipeg Jets (Byfuglien, Trouba, Enstrom, Bogosian)
With Dustin Byfuglien leading the way with 43 points so far, good for third overall in scoring among defensemen in the league - it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Winnipeg with one of the top five most fearsome foursomes in the West. Meanwhile rookie Jacob Trouba sits at 47th in the NHL defensemen scoring with 22 points in 45 games. Tobias Enstrom has chipped in with 19 points in 60 games, good enough for 60th overall - putting three Jet blue liners in the top 60 in league scoring to date.
Total Points: 93 (5th in the West)
Power Play Points: 31 (5th in the West)
Plus/Minus: -9 (9th in the West)
Shots on Goal: 479 (2nd in the West)
-Byfuglien ranks first overall in SOG among all NHL defensemen with 204 shots fired so far this year.
-Bogosian’s respectable 112 SOG rank him 16th in the West and 25th overall among all defensemen.
#4 – Phoenix Coyotes (Yandle, Ekman-Larsson, Morris, Stone)
Clearly the high scoring duo of Keith Yandle (tied for 6th in scoring among NHL defensemen) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (tied for 23rd) lead the way for the Coyotes. Their combined 67 points makes them the third highest producing tandem in the Western Conference this season. The team’s next best option Derek Morris is chipping it at around a .35 point per game pace while leading the team’s blue line in plus/minus at plus eight so far this year. Michael Stone rounds out the West’s fourth best fearsome foursome with 14 points in 47 games but has rookie Connor Murphy clipping at his heels.
Total Points: 98 (4th in the West)
Power Play Points: 40 (3rd in the West)
Plus/Minus: -21 (11th in the West)
Shots on Goal: 414 (6th in the West)
-Rookie Connor Murphy has eight points in his first 26 games and currently sits at plus four. Murphy will likely be the team’s fourth best fantasy option as early as next year.
-Yandle’s 22 power play points this season rank him second overall in the league (first in the West) among all defensemen.
#3 – Nashville Predators (Weber/Josi/Jones/Ellis)
Some may be a bit surprised to see Nashville ranked so high on this list. To be honest, I found myself quite surprised after ranking out the four categories. The team’s depth speaks for itself though, with three blue liners among the top 60 scoring defensemen in the league. Shea Weber is currently tied for 6th with 38 points, Roman Josi is 30th with 25 points in 49 games, and Seth Jones is having a decent rookie season with 21 points in 59 games ranking him 49th highest scoring D-man. Ryan Ellis has also chipped in with 16 points this year and is leading the Predators blue line in plus/minus with a plus five.
Plus/minus is the Achilles heel on this talented blue line corps. With the team struggling offensively this year and with Weber and Josi facing the opposition’s top lines every night, it is not a surprise to see them both sitting at minus 10 respectively. Seth Jones is also working through a learning curve in his first season and is currently minus 20 on the season.
Overall though, the team’s top four fantasy defenseman are having a solid season and have earned their number three ranking in the West.
Total Points: 100 (3rd in the West)
Power Play Points: 41 (2nd in the West)
Plus/Minus: -35 (13th in the West)
Shots on Goal: 429 (3rd in the West)
-Blocked shots were not included for ranking purposes in this article but if your league counts blocked shots, the Nashville franchise is a gold mine. Weber is third overall with 130 blocked shots, Josi is 19th with 106 blocks, Jones is 42nd with 81 blocks, and Ellis is 76th with 54 blocks. These are pretty nice peripherals from Nashville’s quality foursome.
-Weber is currently tied for 5th among all defensemen with 19 power play points.
#2 – St. Louis Blues (Pietrangelo/Shattenkirk/Bouwmeester/Jackman)
Barely the bridesmaids in these rankings and with three players sitting among the top 20 scoring defensemen in the league, it was difficult to keep the St. Louis quartet out of the top spot. Alex Pietrangelo (41 points, 16 PPP, plus 16, 109 SOG) and Kevin Shattenkirk (36 points, 20 PPP, plus 12, 135 SOG) lead the way. Both are in the top ten in defenseman scoring at fourth and ninth respectively. Meanwhile Jay Bouwmeester is having a solid year with 32 points in 57 games, good enough for 17th among all D-men. Both Bouwmeester and the team’s barely fourth best fantasy option Barrett Jackman lead the back line with a plus 17 rating.
The Blues fantasy foursome ranked near the top in points, are first in the West in power play points, and carry a healthy plus/minus. The top four take fewer shots than a number of other teams in the West, but that can likely be attributed to the offensive depth that is spread out among the team’s top three forward lines. It was close, but in the end the runner up ranking went to the Blues defense.
Total Points: 123 (2nd in the West)
Power Play Points: 45 (1st in the West)
Plus/Minus: 60 (3rd in the West)
Shots on Goal: 398 (7th in the West)
-Jackman is more valuable in PIM circles (with 52 so far this season) and in the blocked shot department where he is 24th overall with 98 blocks this season.
-Pietrangelo carries extra value if blocked shots count in your league. He currently sits fifth overall with 122 blocks on the year.
#1 – Chicago Blackhawks (Keith/Seabrook/Leddy/Hjalmarsson)
The Blackhawks have one of the most feared and consistent defensive units in the league. This is also the case from a fantasy perspective. All four members of Chicago’s fantasy foursome currently sit in the top 45 in scoring among all defensemen. Duncan Keith is currently the top scoring defenseman in the West (2nd overall) with 48 points, Brent Seabrook is tied for 12th with 34 points, and both Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson are tied at 42nd overall with 23 points respectively.
This foursome has also taken a combined 427 shots on goal, good for fourth in the conference. They are also a combined plus 69 on the year, ranking them second in the West. Brent Seabrook leads the way in this department with an impressive plus 24 placing him fifth overall among NHL defensemen.
We could go on and on, but let’s get to the point. In the end the final nod went to the Blackhawks quartet who managed to find their way into the top five in each of the four rankings that were considered. They were given the edge over St. Louis as they ranked ahead of the St. Louis foursome in three out of the four categories.
Total Points: 128 (1st in the West) Power Play Points: 35 (4th in the West) Plus/Minus: 69 (2nd in the West)
Shots on Goal: 427 (4th in the West)
-Anaheim’s fantasy foursome (Fowler, Lindholm, Lovejoy, Beauchemin) ranked first in plus/minus with a combined plus-82.
-Not a surprise but the Edmonton Oilers foursome (Justin Schultz, Petry, Ference, Belov) ranked last in every category.
-A bit of a surprise - Calgary’s foursome (Giordano, Wideman, Brodie, Russell) are sixth overall in the West in total points (88) and tied for sixth overall in power play points (29) with San Jose’s foursome (Boyle, Vlasic, Demers, Irwin). Keep in mind, Calgary’s foursome could have ranked higher if not for Wideman’s and Giordano’s extended layoffs this season due to injuries.
-Vancouver’s foursome (Bieksa, Garrison, Edler, Hamhuis) have taken the most combined shots on goal with 494 so far this season.
-Sticking with Vancouver but on a more depressing note. Alex Edler is currently minus-23 on the season which is the worst rating for all defensemen in the Western Conference. Edler is only ahead of Buffalo’s Tyler Myers (minus-26) and Mike Weber (minus-32).
-Go Darryl Sutter Go. The Los Angeles Kings foursome (Doughty, Voynov, Muzzin, and sadly Regehr) have combined for a total of 78 points so far this year, good enough for 11th overall in the West. Doughty sits at a respectable 20th overall with 30 points in 59 games.
Dallas is a fantasy hockey writer for DobberHockey. He hasn’t tweeted yet, but you can follow him @dallasg_11