Brian Campbell was never the best, but his longevity stands out among NHL peers
Few NHL defensemen were as productive as Campbell over the past dozen years.
Brian Campbell officially hung up the skates on an impressive 17-year NHL career on Monday. He’s joining the Blackhawks’ front office, where he’ll keep trying to make a positive impact off the ice, just like he always did on it.
In the history of the NHL, Campbell’s accomplishments might not seem that grand. He never won a Norris Trophy or led the league in a major statistic. His only major award was the 2012 Lady Byng Trophy. Campbell’s most impressive hardware, by far, is the 2010 Stanley Cup he won with the Blackhawks.
And yet, despite never quite being one of the NHL’s best defensemen, his longevity places him among the best at his position in recent memory. Few players have a 12-year stretch as good as the one that Campbell just completed.
To get an idea of this, here’s a look from Hockey-Reference’s Play Index at the most productive defensemen in the NHL since the start of the 2005-06 season, Campbell’s first full one in the league. The only three blue liners to record more points since then are likely Hall of Famers:
- Duncan Keith, 511 points
- Shea Weber, 485 points
- Zdeno Chara, 472 points
- Brian Campbell, 463 points
- Dion Phaneuf, 462 points
Now, this isn’t necessarily a list of the best defensemen of the era. You wouldn’t use straight points to evaluate these guys, and it’s worth noting Erik Karlsson didn’t make his debut until 2009. He’d almost definitely be topping that list if he was around for the full term like most of these players were.
But when you’re looking at the most consistent defensemen of Campbell’s time, he’s absolutely among them. Part of that is unmatched durability. The only two defensemen to play more games than Campbell’s 915 since 2005-06 are Jay Bouwmeester (928) and Brent Seabrook (923).
(On a side note, if you were wondering why the Blackhawks have been so successful over the years, the good health of Keith and Seabrook would likely be high up on the list.)
The list goes on with Campbell standing out among his peers with a dozen years of high-level performance. Here’s how he ranks in various stats among NHL defenseman since 2005:
- Goals: 22nd (88)
- Assists: 2nd (385)
- Points: 4th (463)
- Shots On Goal: 27th (1,270)
- Plus-Minus: 14th (+83)
- Games Played: 3rd (915)/
And Campbell also stood out as one of the best possession-driving defensemen of his time. Among blue liners to appear in at least 500 games since the start of the 2007-08 season, when Hockey-Reference began tracking possession stats, only eight players have posted a higher Corsi Relative than Campbell. That means that among defensemen to play a ton of minutes over the past decade, only a few have seen their teams’ possession numbers swung to such a high degree based on whether they’re on the ice.
- Mark Giordano, +4.4 percent Corsi Relative
- Erik Karlsson, +4.4 percent Corsi Relative
- P.K. Subban, +3.6 percent Corsi Relative
- Kris Letang, +3.5 percent Corsi Relative
- Mike Green, +2.9 percent Corsi Relative
- Brent Burns, +2.8 percent Corsi Relative
- Victor Hedman, +2.8 percent Corsi Relative
- Dan Boyle, +2.7 percent Corsi Relative
- Brian Campbell, +2.7 percent Corsi Relative
- Cody Franson, +2.6 percent Corsi Relative*
If you’re going just by straight even strength Corsi, Campbell has the sixth-best percentage (53.5) of any defensemen with at least 500 games played since 2008.
In the end, what you have with Campbell there is almost the complete package for a superstar defenseman. The only thing missing, really, was the kind of elite shooting ability that often rounds out the package for Norris Trophy winners. Campbell drove possession at even strength, racked up assists, and played in all situations. He was also extremely durable, which is crucial when you’re talking about players on guaranteed contracts.
The Blackhawks only got a chunk of Campbell’s prime in the NHL, but they still came together for his greatest triumph in 2010. It helped cement the bond that he and his family now have with Chicago, which he’s decided to call home upon hanging up the skates.
It may be a long shot for Campbell to get into the Hall of Fame given his lack of trophies and special accolades. He still had one of the best runs of any NHL defensemen in recent memory, though, something you can see plainly from the numbers.
*Hey, speaking of Franson, the Blackhawks should try to sign him.