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Top five NHL defensemen of the 2000s
Though he may not have the Norris Trophy pedigree that the other gentlemen on this list have, no one can deny that this Russian powerplay specialist has been one of the most dominant blueliners of the past decade. With his blistering slapshot, Gonchar was a goal-scoring machine for the Washington Capitals during the early part of the 2000s, notching a career-best 26 goals during the 2001-02 campaign.
Though a little longer in the tooth by the time he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins, Gonchar continued to put up good numbers, and his threatening presence at the point allowed stars like Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) to work their magic down low on the lethal Pens' powerplay. Twice during his time with the club he broke the 60 point barrier and in 2008 and 2009 he helped the club reach the Stanley Cup Finals, winning his first Stanley Cup in the latter year.
What the Ottawa Senators were thinking when they let this guy go in favor of Wade Redden(notes), I'll never know. At 6'9" tall and over 260 lbs, Chara is an absolute monster on the defensive end. His absurdly long reach and his incredible strength allow him to win almost every one on one battle he engages in.
As good as he is in his own end he is every bit as effective in the offensive end of the rink. Possessed of the hardest slapshot in the NHL Chara is a huge threat from the point from the powerplay, routinely rocketing the puck past goalies who've barely had the chance to flinch before the red light turns on. He isn't just a one-trick pony though. Chara is also an underrated passer, and he even pulls duty at the front of the net from time to time, using his enormous frame to screen opposing goaltenders.
Chara also has a Norris Trophy on his resume, and is one of only four players in the decade to earn the prestigious award.
Though not as physically imposing as Chara, at 6'6" tall and 210 lbs, Chris Pronger can certainly hold his own in the physical department. Add to his size a mean streak a mile wide and you've got a recipe for a rearguard that absolutely no one in their right mind wants to play against.
Pronger started the 2000s off in style, winning not only the Norris Trophy that year but the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP as well - a rare feat for defensemen. From 2000-09 Pronger served with the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers, helping the Oilers to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, and the Ducks to Stanley Cup glory in 2007. He plays huge minutes each and every night, has a cannon on the powerplay, and is one of the best in the league at making a tape to tape breakout pass.
Though some would put Pronger as the second best defenseman of the 2000s I felt this recently retired star edged out his former Anaheim Ducks teammate for the honor. During his playing days Niedermayer was a winner at every level of hockey he competed at, winning Memorial Cups in junior hockey, Olympic gold medals in international play and Stanley Cups at the NHL level.
Niedermayer started off the 2000s the same way, helping the Devils to the 2000 Stanley Cup. He would repeat the feat in 2003, earning his second ring of the decade and third with the team overall. The following season he won the Norris Trophy, interrupting Nicklas Lidstrom's(notes) stranglehold on the trophy. In 2007, after moving on to join his brother Rob on the Anaheim Ducks, Niedermayer nabbed himself yet another cup, and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for good measure.
No. 1 - Nicklas Lidstrom
As great as the other d-men on this list were in the 2000s, they were all distant runners-up to this man. Lidstrom was in a class of his own during the span from 2000-2009. During that span he won an incredible 6 Norris Trophies, making him the most decorated defenseman since the days of Bobby Orr.
During that same time he helped the Detroit Red Wings to Stanley Cup glory in 2002 and again in 2008, his third and fourth championships with the club. With that 2008 victory Lidstrom became the first European-born player ever to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
He was the highest scoring defenseman of the decade, registering well over 500 points from 2000-2009, and was the quarterback of a consistently deadly powerplay that was one of the main reasons the Red Wings were so successful. One of the smartest, most consistent players of all time, Lidstrom was not only one of the greatest defensemen of the 2000s, but one of the greatest of all time.
*Note: This article was written by an Associated Content Contributor. To become a Contributor and start publishing your own sports articles, go to Associated Content.Sources: