I’ve always been interested in how the game has changed since the 2004-05 lockout and as time has passed, we have gotten a larger and larger sample size of how players have performed since that dramatic lockout. As we are now in the 12th season since that time, I figured a look at the top players since that era would be interested. As it’s difficult to compare players between positions, I’ve split it into forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. It should be noted that I place a fairly high value on longevity. As a note to the defensemen, I found them notably harder to judge than the forwards, as not all that they do shows up on the stat sheet. Regardless, here’s my take on the defensemen:
- Andrei Markov
While Markov had already established himself as a solid defenseman by the time the post-lockout era came around, it was starting in 2005 that he became one of the best defenders in the NHL. After a couple of strong seasons with 46 and 49-point seasons, Markov really popped off in the 2007-08 season, scoring a career-best 16 goals and adding 42 assists for 58 points. He finished 6th in Norris voting and did so again the following year when he had 52 assists and 64 points, finishing 2nd to Mike Green in the point race. After three very injury-prone seasons, Markov came back and picked off where he started, being a reliable 40-50-point defenseman every year, even though he’s now 38 years old.
- Drew Doughty
The Los Angeles Kings have been one of the most dominant puck possession teams for years and an argument can be made for Drew Doughty being a big reason for their dominance. Doughty has been a King ever since he joined the NHL in 2008 and has been reliable all-around defenseman for his entire career. While his rookie campaign was good, his sophomore year was incredible, scoring 16 goals and totally 59 points, finishing third in Norris voting. Doughty was a surprise pick for team Canada’s defense corps in 2010, but proved to be a big part of their Gold medal victory. Fast-forward to 2015-16 and Doughty finally won the first Norris of his career. At just 27 years of age, he may still have many more great years to come.
- Brent Burns
Brent Burns is one of the few players who has successfully swapped between playing as a defenseman and a forward during his NHL career. Back with Minnesota in 2007-08, Burns showed offensive prowess on the blue line, scoring 15 goals and 43 points as a 22-year old. After an extended stint swapping between forward and defender in both Minnesota and San Jose, he finally stuck with one position for a more extended time, playing as a San Jose defenseman starting in the 2014-15 season. Burns actually out-produced himself, scoring 17 goals and 60 points. He impressed even more in the 2015-16 season, scoring an amazing 27 goals and 75 points, totals almost unheard of from defenseman. At the time of the writing of this, Burns was on pace to become the first defenseman since Mike Green to both score 30 goals and more than a point-per-game in a full season.
- Dan Boyle
It was already well-established that Boyle was a star defenseman heading into the post-lockout era, but he was also only just entering his prime at 29 years old. Boyle’s 2006-07 season was the best offensive seasons of his career, where he set career-highs for goals (20), assists (43), and points (63). Boyle also finished 4th in Norris voting that season. For the first seven years after the lockout with both Tampa Bay and San Jose, Boyle was a reliable offensive force that could be depended on for around 50 points-per season from the back end. Even as he aged into his late 30s, Boyle was still a reliable defender, even scoring 10 goals in his last season as a 39-year old.
- Kris Letang
Ever since breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season, Letang has slowly but surely improved over time. Letang had a notable burst of offense in the 2010-11 season, scoring 50 points and finishing 6th in Norris voting. While he was injured, his 2011-12 season was actually remarkably even better, scoring 42 points in just 51 games. Letang’s 2012-13 really began to turn heads as he did the unthinkable, scoring more than a point-per-game, with 38 points in 35 games during the shortened season. Letang finished third in Norris voting. After an off year rife with injuries, Letang was back at it, scoring 54 points in only 69 games followed by an incredible 2015-16 season, scoring 67 points in just 71 games, finishing 4th in Norris voting. At just 29, it’s intriguing to think of what Letang could achieve with the rest of his career, especially if he gets his injury problems under control.