The most exciting play in hockey is the end to end rush. A defenseman starts out behind his own net and skates through an entire team to score a goal. This slide show is designed to honour and rank those offensively skilled players who have played defense in the NHL.
Offensive defensemen were popularized with the coming of Bobby Orr in 1966-67. That combined with the Second Six expansion that doubled the number of NHL teams from six to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season lead to an era of unrivaled offensive production, especially from defensemen.
Most of the players on this list come from 1967 on. The Original Six era featured a conservatism of play that frequently quashed any offensive creativity from defensemen. Players from that era were severely limited in what they were allowed to do offensively and often ostracized or traded if they tried to do more.
Likewise, earlier than that, slowly evolving offside rules and different rules for what constituted an assist severely limited what kind of statistically counted offensive contribution even the most skilled defenders could make. Throw in the fact that the slap shot wasn't popularized until Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion had success with it in the early 1950's and it's easy to see why the offensive contribution from defensmen in those era's was often minimal.
This list then will be highly weighted towards defensemen who have played in the last 45 years in the NHL. Players from earlier eras who are included often don't have comparable statistics. In these cases I'm relying on anecdotal evidence. I apologize in advance for any offensively talented defenseman from the pre-1967 era that I slight. I'd love to hear from anyone who has thoughts or even memories of some of those earlier offensively talented defensemen forced to play in a much more circumscribed role.
Now here they are, the 50 greatest offensive defensemen of all time.