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Nashville defensemen Ryan Suter (L) and Shea Weber

In an era when all sports, not just hockey, are striving for great offense and big numbers, the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators are certainly a franchise that is going against that grain in an old- school way. The core of their franchise is not built around a great offensive presence, the way the Washington Capitals are with Alexander Oveckin or the Vancouver Canucks are with the Sedin twins. Instead, the Predators are built around defense, namely goaltender Pekka Rinne, and elite defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Drafted in the first (Suter, 7th overall) and second (Weber, 49th overall) rounds of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, these two blueliners have become the cornerstone of a Predators franchise that has made the playoffs six times since Suter and Weber were drafted. But who, as they say, is the best of the best? Which of these two defensemen is truly better than the other? Is it Canadian Shea Weber? Or American Ryan Suter?

Tale of the Tape (all numbers are current, as of the 2012 NHL All-Star Break):

Shea Weber
6’4”, 232 pounds
448 games played, 90 goals, 158 assists, 248 points, +39 +/- rating, 351 penalty minutes
Awards and Honors: 2010 Olympian (Team Canada), 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2009, 2011, 2012 NHL All-Star. 2010 Norris Trophy Nominee

Ryan Suter
6’1”, 198 pounds
510 games played, 36 goals, 184 assists, 220 points, +35 +/- rating, 392 penalty minutes
Awards and Honors: 2010 Olympian (Team USA), 2010 Olympic Silver Medalist, 2010 Team USA alternate captain, 2012 NHL All-Star

The Case for Shea Weber

First and foremost, he’s the team captain. His leadership ability is unquestionable. At 6’4”, 232 pounds, he’s a massive physical presence, and he knows how to use his body to fight for the puck and check opposing players. He is also one of the hardest puck-shooters in the game, with a shot that’s been clocked at over 104 miles per hour. In addition to being able to defend in his own end, he’s a great offensive presence. Despite having played 62 fewer games than Suter, Weber has 64 more goals, and 28 more total points than Suter. And however slight, he does have a +/- rating that is four points higher than his American counterpart. And in one time when Suter and Weber played each other with something at stake, when Weber’s Canada and Suter’s America played for the Olympic Gold Medal in 2010, Weber’s side came away with the gold medal.

The Case for Ryan Suter
While he’s not the goal-scorer or the behemoth physical presence is, Suter is better in his own ways. He is a great set-up man in the offensive zone, as evidenced by his 184 assists (26 more than Weber). Suter is also far more durable; both he had Weber have been in the NHL since 2005, but Suter has played 62 more games than Weber has. The Madison, Wisconsin native has been named an alternate captain for Team USA’s Olympic Hockey team, and the Nashville Predators have bestowed the same honor upon Suter, showing that the leadership and high character of Suter has been recognized not just at the professional level, but at the national level.

The Case against Shea Weber
Durability is the biggest issue with Weber. He’s only ever played one full season in the NHL (2010-11), and as said before, he’s missed 62 more games than Suter has. Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about.

The Case against Ryan Suter
Weber has been recognized as the team captain, as an All-Star three times, and as a finalist for the Norris Trophy (given to the league’s top defenseman). Suter, on the other hand, has only been named to one All-Star team, and has never been nominated for a Norris Trophy. Again, not much to complain about, but there are a few categories in which Suter lags behind Weber.

Final Verdict:
While Ryan Suter is undoubtedly one of the best American players in the NHL at his position, the edge in this head-to-head matchup has to go to Shea Weber. He’s an Olympic Gold medalist, a three-time All-Star, and he’s been nominated as the league’s best defenseman once. He has more career goals and total points than Suter, and possesses great two-way ability, being able to produce offensively while being able to stonewall opposing players with ease, given his massive frame and matching skill set.  Suter has similar ability in all those facets, from offensive output to defending skill, but not quite at the level Weber possesses.

By lead columnist Arun Morace


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