What to do about defense? The importance of this position, much more so than any other, varies dramatically from league to league. In some formats, defense can win you a championship. In others, it's completely an afterthought. So before worrying about who to rank where, find out how much you should care.
The good news when it comes to this position, is that it's much easier to predict than the other positions. While goalie leaders fluctuate wildly from year to year, the top defensemen are typically consistent and predictable. If you're playing on CBS, or another site that actually values the role of defensive scoring, be sure to grab 2 of the top 10 here.
Now that you have that settled, let's take a look at who you should be focusing on this season.
1. Shea Weber (NAS)
Weber was rewarded this summer with a huge contract, and he's about to show the NHL that he deserved it (and the next big money deal coming next summer). He's my pick for Norris and fantasy MVP on the blueline this season. The last three seasons, he's put up goal totals of 23, 16 and 16. And he's just now entering his prime years.
2. Keith Yandle (PHO)
Yandle finally cracked the title of "best defenseman that nobody talks about" last season. He was at or near the top of the defensive scorers all season long. A quick look at his stats by season shows he's heading in the right direction, with dramatic increases in points in each of his 5 seasons with Phoenix. You'll have to spring early to snag this superstar defenseman this time around.
3. Dustin Byfuglien (WIN)
Byfuglien was pure gold for the first half of the season, putting him on pace for insane goal and point totals. He cooled off significantly mid-winter, but still finished with an impressive 20 goal, 53 point performance in his first season back on defense with the Thrashers. He'll be the face of the Jets this season and will likely given free reign to roam and do his thing. Expect another solid return on your early investment with him this time around.
4. Drew Doughty (LA)
Doughty was a bit of disappointment with "just" 11 goals and 40 points in his third season. That's mostly due to the insane totals he posted as a sophomore. There's little doubt that he'll rebound and put up another 50+ points this time around as the Kings continue to strengthen their ability to score goals all around. Now if he would just sign that contract and get on with it...
5. Mike Green (WAS)
It's hard to know what category to put Green in, and what to expect from him this time around. Should we write off last season as an injury-laden fluke? Even in the 49 games he did play, he posted a meager 24 points. Was that playing hurt, or was it an adjustment to the new Capitals defensive system? No doubt, he's a powerful offensive force, but will be able to get back to that incredible 70+ point territory. I'm betting he gets close.
6. Zdeno Chara (BOS)
Chara has been a model of consistency for fantasy defensemen over the past 8 seasons, sticking around the 40 point territory, contribuing with about 10 or so goals, and piling up the PIMs. You can't ask for much more, and you know what you'll get. Draft him with confidence.
7. Kris Letang (PIT)
Letang finally registered that break out season that Penguin fans had been waiting for. His 50 points and 101 PIMs contributed to the 3rd best overall fantasy value at this position last year. With Goligoski gone, Letang is the undisputed puck-moving leader for Pittsburgh and will get all the playing time (even strength and power play) that he can handle. Expect another great season for Letang.
8. P.K. Subban (MON)
Subban did not disappoint in his rookie season. He put up 14 goals, 38 points and 124 penalty minutes. It's surprising he didn't merit much Calder consideration with those numbers. And if that's the starting point, the sky is the limit for this young pup. Anything less than 45 points would be a disappointment in his sophomore season.
9. Lubomir Visnovsky (ANA)
Visnovsky surged like crazy in the second half of last season, finishing with more fantasy points than any other defenseman. A whopping 18 goals and 68 points will be hard to repeat. No doubt he's a solid pick, but to assume he'll be the #1 guy again this season is too much for me to risk. Let someone else overpay in the first couple of rounds.
10. Niklas Lidstrom (DET)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of last season shouldn't have come as a surprise at all. This guy just doesn't age. And for that reason (and many others), I can't bring myself to rank him outside the top 10. Expect another 10 goals and 50 points from the best defenseman of our generation.
To see the rest of my top 60+ defense rankings, visit: http://www.landsharkhockey.com/LS/tools/DraftRankings.aspx. You can also customize your own list there.