Friday, August 15, 2008

Best US Defenseman: Leetch or Chelios?

Since Brian Leetch's selection for the USA Hockey Hall of Fame the question has been raised whether he should be considered the best American defenseman of all time?

Some have suggested that Chris Chelios might have that distinction. And they would be wrong.

The career statistics show that Leetch, 247-G,781-A, 1028-pts in 19 seasons, was much better than Chelios, 185-G, 763-A, 948-pts in 27 seasons.

Also diminishing the reputation of Chris Chelios is the cheap shot he put on Brian Propp during the 1989 playoffs. Chelios was playing for Montreal at the time.

In Game 1 of the 1989 Stanley Cup playoff series between the Canadians and the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Flyers lost in six games, Propp sustained a concussion from an unpenalized hit by Chris Chelios, where Chelios blind sided him with an elbow. Propp fell to the ice hard, hitting his head against the ice. Chelios quickly became the most hated man in Philly.

Here's the replay of that hit:

The aftermath:


via HockeyBuzz

Related Articles by Categories


  • The Puck Stops Here said...

    Chelios is far better defensively. That is why he has been a useful NHL player well beyond his prime.

    And afterall defense is an important part of the position called defenceman.

    If you stick only to offence as you do in most of your post, you should be arguing Phil housley is the best defenceman ever.

  • jb said...


    I don't think that citing CC's longevity is a strong argument for saying he is better. Leetch had offers to play during most of the 2006–07 season and he could have continued a'la Chelios.

    I think most Rangers fans would agree that Leetch was as good or better than what we had on the ice the last few seasons. Seeing him at his number raising ceremony, he looked like he could have stepped on the ice for a few shifts.

    I like the assessment of Leetch's defense by Mike Richter. Who noted that while not a banger, Leetch's skating ability enabled him to position himself perfectly for breaking up rushes and slowing oncoming opponents. His puckhandling along the boards and outlet passes were among the best you'll see.

    Granted Chelios does have 3 Norris trophies to Leetch's two. But, as the only American-born winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, Leetch has a leg up in the individual hardware department.

    An interesting debate. I see you have an analytical bent to the game, perhaps you'll compose a more in-depth defense of CC.

  • blow-me-down said...

    I certainly loved Leetch's game more than Chelios. That is subjective. Leetch gave me tingles watching him do stuff that Chelios never did, granted I've been a Rangers fan my entire life. Still, I think I am objective when I say Leetch had no inclination to perform some of the what I will call 'intent to injure' plays that I saw Chelios commit a number of times through his career. And since Chelios couldn't hold a candle to Brian when it came to creativity and the ability to turn a game (or a Stanley cup championship final series) around.

    I don't dislike Chelios, he's just a different type of player than Leetch. The Leetch type don't come around very often, the guy reminded me of Orr with what he could do, and few do that, at least for me.

  • jb said...

    Chelios has his fans.

    On the list of the 100 greatest hockey players published by The Hockey News in 1998, Chris Chelios was number 40, and Brian Leetch was number 71. Defenseman listed ahead of Chelios included Paul Coffey (#29), Denis Potvin (#19), Ray Bourque (#14) and Bobby Orr (#2).

    I think Chelios is a different type of player than this group, who were more offensive threats. I think Leetch's game is closer to this group. Bourque is the one I'm most familiar with and he's my favorite. I don't think Bourque or Orr had the inclination to hit with the 'intent to injure.' Not sure about Coffey and Potvin.

    Leetch and Chelios both played on the 2002 Olympic Men's Hockey team, with Phil Housley, Chris Drury and Mike Richter. They won the silver in Salt Lake City, losing the gold to Canada. I don't remember any of the games. But I wonder if they were teamed up, and I'd be curious to see the stats, playing time, etc. they each had.

New York Rangers (@NYRangers) | Twitter

NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) | Twitter

NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) | Twitter

The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) | Twitter

John Giannone (@jaygeemsg) | Twitter

Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) | Twitter

Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) | Twitter

Stephen Valiquette (@VallysView) | Twitter

Rick Carpiniello (@RickCarpiniello) | Twitter