I don’t think anyone has made a comprehensive list of defensive rankings for SNES, so here it is. The definitive list!
This is not about team defence. This is about defensemen only; I have not considered forwards or goaltenders. This is based on Classic League rules (i.e. penalties on, no line changes), so depth of defence has very little weighting here. There is also some bias here as I tend to prioritize size and mobility over shooting and passing, when it comes to defensemen.
I will begin with the bottom 6 and periodically release the rest of the list in groups of 5, by updating this post. Let me know your thoughts below.
Boston - Bourque is the best defenceman in the game, and Wesley is an underrated partner who can defend adequately and chip in offensively with his smooth skating.
New Jersey - Stevens is a star who can do it all. Fetisov, despite his lack of speed, is an extremely effective player. He has a rare combination of massive size, agility, stickhandling and passing.
Washington - Iafrate is like an untamed beast, with a killer slapshot and a beautiful skullet. Hatcher has intimidating size, but lacks agility and can get caught flat-footed.
Los Angeles - Blake is a talented, physical defenseman. McSorley is huge and imposing, but skates like a Zamboni, tends to bobble the puck, and take bad penalties.
Detroit - Coffey is known for his dynamic skating and scoring, but weighs in at a deceptive 212 lbs. The added weight allows him to take care of his own end too. Chiasson is adequate in a supporting role.
Chicago - Chelios has good skills but lacks the size needed to be a true star in the game. Smith is very solid across the board and might actually be the more valuable player, given his heavyweight status.
Hartford - In the confines of this game, Zalapski is a star defenseman who can get the job done at both ends of the ice. Weinrich leaves something to be desired, but can use his size and straight-ahead speed to be a force at times.
Edmonton - Both Manson and Kravchuck have good size and above average skills. Often overlooked and underrated, this is the best Canadian-team pairing.
Pittsburgh - Murphy and Samuelsson form a solid but bland pair that get the job done supporting the Pens’ superstar forwards. Samuelsson tends to lay the lumber on guys, so you’ll have to put up with his penalties.
New York Rangers - Patrick is very solid in all categories, but Leetch can be problematic in his own end. He’s a lightweight with below average speed. Instead, try the steady, if unspectacular, Kevin Lowe.
Calgary - MacInnis and Suter provide excellent mobility and offense, but lack the weight needed to stop the heavier forwards found on most top teams.
Winnipeg - Housley is supremely skilled and skates like the wind. But the wind is also one of many things that will easily knock him to the ice. Numminen is decent, but Olausson will add some size without sacrificing any skill.
Quebec - While not overly skilled or large, Duchesne is an above-average defender that can skate and compliment the skilled forwards. Leschyshyn has nice size and speed, but handles the puck like a grenade. That said, he’s been known to enter “beast mode” once in a while.
Toronto - Ellett is a nice two-way player that doesn’t get enough recognition. Replace no-skill-Gill with Macoun, who has a great moustache.
Montreal - I look at the Desjardins / Schneider pairing and I want it to be that classic size / skill pairing. Problem is, Desjardins isn’t that big and Schneider isn’t that skilled. Meh.
Vancouver - Lumme and Lidster are solid, but unspectacular. They both have good stickhandling, so won’t bobble the puck much. They survive by getting in the way and moving the puck to the Canucks skilled forwards as soon as possible.
St. Louis - Brown has a great shot, and he and Butcher are 212 lbs which is nice. But both have skating issues. In fact, Butcher skates like a dump truck with a flat tire.
Buffalo - Svoboda has great mobility, but gets eaten up in his own zone by most capable forwards. Smehlik and Bodger are big bodied stay-at-home guys that will create congestion in the D-zone, but don’t expect them to do much else.
Anaheim - Kasatonov is a hidden gem. He’s basically Fetisov with more speed but less D awareness. He has the size, stickhandling and passing you like to see in a top D-man. Plug in a big body like Ladouceur for a pairing that’s arguably better than some non-expansion teams.
New York Islanders - Malakhov has nice size at 220, but he lacks skating speed, much like the smaller Kasparaitis. Neither of them are good stickhandlers or passers. No quality bench players available either.
Dallas - “Stars” isn’t the first term that comes to mind when assessing the Dallas D. Tinordi has decent size but that’s about it. Sjodin is a lightweight with nice agility, but lacking any other offensive skills. Unfortunately there are no capable replacements. Enjoy!
Florida - Murphy is a very strong skater. He’s like a poor man’s Glen Wesley. This alone elevates the Florida D above the other expansion teams, save Anaheim. Cirella is a plug.
Philadelphia - Galley, Yushkevich, and Hawgood are almost like clones.. mediocre clones. They are all 196 lbs (which is less than ideal), and lack the speed, stickhandling, and passing skills. Galley is probably the odd man out.
San Jose - Wilson has some offensive tools including a big shot, but he has average size and mobility. Neil Wilkinson is also a defenseman on this team.
Ottawa - Despite a team-leading 63 points in 92/93, Maciver got no love from the ratings guys. He’s small, slow and has no offensive skills. Brad Shaw, also a terrible player, is slightly larger.
Tampa Bay - Hamrlik and Beers. These guys have great names!