Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Over-owned defensemen

Updated: January 20, 2010, 4:34 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

After focusing on several underappreciated fantasy defensemen in this space last week, this strikes me as the appropriate occasion to highlight a small group of those owned in far too many leagues. Even after accounting for the estimated amount of inactive ESPN.com fantasy team owners, these percentages are way too plump. Remember the dead weight alluded to in the last edition of this column? Well, here are some solid examples:

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Dan Boyle, SJ (2)
3. Duncan Keith, Chi (4)
4. Zdeno Chara, Bos (3)
5. Chris Pronger, Phi (5)
6. Andrei Markov, Mon (6)
7. Sergei Gonchar, Pit (7)
8. Drew Doughty, LA (8)
9. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (11)
10. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (9)
11. Mark Streit, NYI (13)
12. Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (10)
13. Brian Campbell, Chi (14)
14. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (16)
15. Scott Niedermayer, Anh (12)
16. Stephane Robidas, Dal (15)
17. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (22)
18. Brian Rafalski, Det (21)
19. Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm (18)
20. Shea Weber, Nsh (20)
21. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (17)
22. Brent Seabrook, Chi (25)
23. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (28)
24. Ryan Whitney, Anh (19)
25. Matt Carle, Phi (24)
26. Erik Johnson, StL (26)
27. Bryan McCabe, Fla (29)
28. Tyler Myers, Buf (30)
29. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mon (27)
30. Sheldon Souray, Edm (23)
31. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (31)
32. Pavel Kubina, Atl (34)
33. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (33)
34. Kyle Quincey, Col (32)
35. Marek Zidlicky, Min (38)
36. Alex Goligoski, Pit (40)
37. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (36)
38. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (35)
39. Cam Barker, Chi (42)
40. Zach Bogosian, Atl (41)
41. Braydon Coburn, Phi (37)
42. Andy Greene, NJ (39)
43. Rob Blake, SJ (43)
44. Filip Kuba, Ott (47)
45. Joni Pitkanen, Car (46)
46. Craig Rivet, Buf (45)
47. Alexander Edler, Van (44)
48. Anton Stralman, Cls (52)
49. Ryan Suter, Nsh (49)
50. Kris Letang, Pit (51)
51. Sami Salo, Van (50)
52. Dennis Wideman, Bos (48)
53. Keith Yandle, Pho (53)
54. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (54)
55. Derek Morris, Bos (55)
56. Kurtis Foster, TB (56)
57. John-Michael Liles, Col (70)
58. Victor Hedman, TB (58)
59. Dennis Seidenberg, Fla (59)
60. Tom Gilbert, Edm (60)
61. Mark Giordano, Cgy (61)
62. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (62)
63. Ian White, Tor (63)
64. Denis Grebeshkov, Edm (64)
65. Matt Carkner, Ott (65)
66. Chris Butler, Buf (66)
67. Tom Poti, Was (67)
68. Niklas Kronwall, Det (57)
69. James Wisniewski, Anh (68)
70. Jack Johnson, LA (69)
71. Mattias Ohlund, TB (71)
72. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ (72)
73. Matt Gilroy, NYR (73)
74. Randy Jones, LA (74)
75. Brent Burns, Min (75)

Why is the Vancouver Canucks' Shane O'Brien owned in 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues? With five points on the season, it can't be due to his scoring abilities. And it's not like the guy has a history of lighting it up. His ice time isn't overwhelming either, so the appeal must lie with his penalty minutes. Yes, O'Brien can be scrappy and has 55 PIM to this point, but 13 other active NHL blueliners have more. And all but two have more points. O'Brien isn't worth the roster space in any other than the deepest of fantasy leagues.

The New York Rangers' Wade Redden is clearly still riding out his reputation earned from several productive seasons in years past with the Ottawa Senators. Since hitting a high of 50 points in 65 games back in '05-'06, Redden has been in steady decline and is now on pace for his worst season since entering the NHL back in '96. Used sparingly with the man advantage, the 32-year-old veteran is on pace for a measly 15 points. He's owned in more than 46 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and an end to the fantasy love affair with Redden is well overdue.

Two members of the New Jersey Devils' organization are being used in fantasy play more heavily than deserved. First off, Johnny Oduya (66 percent ownership), is a weak asset, with only two points and 18 penalty minutes to date. But at least Oduya puts in some solid minutes and carries a teensy smidgen of potential, unlike Cory Murphy, who's owned in nearly 65 percent of leagues. Sure, Murphy is holding his own with 22 points in 31 games this season -- with the Lowell Devils in the AHL. He hasn't played a game in the NHL since Nov. 19. Please, if Murphy is on your fantasy roster, remove him immediately.

Rising and Falling

Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta Thrashers (up two spots): Only a few defensemen can boast about contributing as consistently as Enstrom has since October. With nine multipoint games since the start of the season, the 25-year-old Swede has only twice gone longer than two straight games without registering a point. The go-to blueliner on the Thrashers' No. 1 power-play unit, Enstrom deserves a spot in the top 10.

John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche (up 13 spots): Message received, loud and clear. Since being benched in two consecutive games at the end of December, Liles has smartened up considerably by registering seven points in his past six games, including five in his past three. Coach Joe Sacco likely won't have much issue with his pricey defenseman any longer. Sometimes being made a healthy scratch does a talented player a world of good.

Ryan Whitney, Anaheim Ducks (down five spots): Scott Niedermayer may own the team's worst plus/minus of minus-17, but at least he's still contributing offensively. Ryan Whitney hasn't registered a single point since the day after Christmas. He's experienced a depreciation in ice time per game -- a dip from over 24 minutes, on average, in December to just over 22 minutes in January, plus he's also seeing fewer opportunities with the extra skater. Whitney's in a slump, that's all there is to it.

Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers (down seven spots): At minus-11, Sheldon Souray has just one point for the Oilers in the past month. Certainly the team as a whole is having a rough go of it, with one lonely win since the second week of December, but other defensemen are still managing to contribute. Lubomir Visnovsky has three points in his four games back from injury, and Denis Grebeshkov is making a mark on the scoreboard with some regularity. As a veteran, Souray has to buck up.

Power Play Performers

Whether you credit the return of a healthy Daniel Alfredsson, or the boost provided by a new goaltending coach, or the semi-inspired effort of the sporadically underachieving Alex Kovalev, there's no denying the Ottawa Senators are playing much better hockey these days. With four straight wins, there's clearly a jump to their collective step. And as the team performs better, so will Filip Kuba. The Senators' No. 1 offensive defenseman is no worse for wear after missing four games with a hand injury, as indicated by his two assists in his return on Monday.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE