Chris Snell

Chris Snell was a brilliant offensive defenseman, controlling the play with his uncanny passing ability and superior understanding of the offensive game. Snell was a defenseman who relied on intelligence more so than physicality or slap shots.

Snell was an amazing passer, both in terms of breaking the transition offense and quarterbacking a power play. While he could lead a rush, he was at his best springing it. He could marshal the offense, knowing exactly where every player on the ice was and how to knife the puck through the heart of the defenders.

Everywhere he went he was an offensive force and among the best defenseman. From novice to midget all the way to the Ottawa 67's of the OHL he was honored as the best blue liner. He was a gold medal champion with Team Canada at the '91 WJC, and a fantastic minor league player. He actually set the AHL record for most points by a defenseman when he scored 96 points for St. John's in 1993-94.

Yet he never stuck in the NHL.

Drafted by Buffalo, he was released after two years in the minors. He signed for one year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, enjoying the big 96 point season with their farm team while getting his first cup of NHL coffee, playing two games with the Leafs. His big break came in 1994-95 when he signed on with Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings. With the Kings' blueline decimated by injury, Snell played much of the lockout-shortened season with the Kings, appearing in 32 games and scoring 2 goals and 7 assists. He often played with none other than Marty McSorley.

So why did this fantastic defenseman struggle at the NHL level? At 5'11" and generously listed at 200lbs, he was below average size of NHL defensemen in the 1990s. Back then especially the NHL definitely favored big, physical defenders, and undersized d-men were rare. Snell, with little upper body strength, tried to play a positional game of defense, relying on an active stick. He avoided the corners and slot, leaving these duties to better suited partners like McSorley. And as gifted as he was at reading the play offensively, he struggled with defensive reads, and often ended up running around the defensive zone.

At every level below the NHL Chris Snell was one of the best defensemen on the ice. After his season in Los Angeles he signed on with Chicago, playing one season strictly with their farm team. He would then move on to Germany for several seasons, retiring in 2003 after blowing out a knee.

Nowadays Snell teaches elite youth hockey players at Beyond The Pond Hockey.


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