Stay-at-home defensemen earn glory through toughness, grit and consistency. These players perform the dirty work, defending against the best scorers in the NHL. Brad Marsh was the last of the old-school stay-at-home d-men, scoring a mere 198 points in 1,086 games, a record low for the 1,000-game-plus club. He was also one of the last players to play without a helmet.
The modern version of the stay-at-home defenseman also chips in a bit of offense, an underrated part of Adam Foote’s game. He was known more for his ability to shut down some of the best forwards of his generation.
Stay-At-Home Defense Evolved in the ’90s
The new breed of elite stay-at-home defensemen joined the NHL around the same time that Brad Marsh retired. Adam Foote and Vladimir Konstantinov redefined the role with crushing body checks and better offense. These defensemen were elite because they contributed more than just defense.
It’s not a coincidence that Konstantinov and Foote won two Stanley Cups apiece. Vladimir could have won a few more rings if it wasn’t for the tragic limo accident that cut short his career. Foote was more fortunate, enjoying a 20-year career that also included an Olympic Gold Medal and a World Cup of Hockey trophy.
Elite stay-at-home defenseman add a bit of Larry Robinson’s offensive style to Brad Marsh’s consistency. “Big Bird” won six Stanley Cups as a member of the dominant, 1970s Montreal Canadiens. Robinson was one of two players to earn a plus-minus rating above +100, along with Bobby Orr. Larry nearly broke Orr’s mark of +124 in 1976-77, when the Canadiens set the record with 132 points during an incredible 60-8-12 regular season.
Bobby Orr redefined how defensemen play in the offensive zone, becoming one of the best three players in NHL history. Larry Robinson set a new standard for stay-at-home defenseman. Robinson contributed scoring and strong physical play, inspiring modern defensive play.
Defensemen Need More Skill Than Ever
The NHL continues to grow worldwide, improving the quality of hockey played at the highest level. Stay-at-home defensemen have adapted to the increased speed, skill and physicality of NHL hockey. Forwards are better than ever, reducing the margin of error for defenseman.
Stay-at-home defenseman must be more mobile than ever, with enough skill to make superb outlet passes that relieve pressure. The recently retired Rob Scuderi’s the last of a dying breed, enjoying a long career despite a Brad Marsh style of play.