As the defensive position in hockey developed, two types of defensemen eventually emerged. They are known as defensive or "stay-at-home" defensemen and offensive or "puck-moving" defensemen.
The offensive defenseman usually takes on the role of power play quarterback and often has the big shot and distributing skills to work the point. He is also known for rushing the puck and his ability to create offense and rack up the points.
There have been many great scoring defensemen in the history of the NHL. Here are the top 50 offensive defensemen of all time.
The list kicks off with a rising superstar. Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber entered the league in 2005-06 to play in 28 games, scoring ten points. He would play his first full season in 2006-07.
That season, he showed off his talent, scoring an impressive 17 goals and 40 points. He dipped to only 20 points the season after that, but came back with a vengeance in the 2008-09 season, co-leading all defensemen with 23 goals and scoring 53 points.
He scored 16 goals and 43 points the year after that, and currently sits with 16 goals and 47 points this season. He is currently the captain of the Predators and his a front-runner for the Norris Trophy. In addition to his offensive game, Weber is an extremely physical presence, and is known for his booming slapshot from the point. He was been known to rip the puck through the net on occasion.
When all is said and done, I believe Weber will be the proud owner of more than one Norris Trophy.
After scoring only two goals and 12 points in his first full NHL season during 2006-07, Mike Green came out of absolutely nowhere the following season to score 18 goals and 56 points. The 2008-09 season though, was the banner year for Green.
During that season, despite missing time due to injury, he broke Mike O'Connell's record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman, scoring in eight consecutive games. He finished that season with an unprecedented 31 goals and 73 points in only 68 games, becoming the first defenseman to score 30 goals since Kevin Hatcher in 1993. He was the runner up for the Norris Trophy.
He repeated his offensive prowess during the 2009-10 season, netting 19 goals and 76 points in 75 games. Green has been hampered by injury this season and has only scored 24 points, but he and the Capitals are ready to make another playoff run. Expect Green to shoot up this list in the coming seasons.
We haven't seen much of Andrei Markov these past couple of seasons due to injury, but when he's fully healthy, there are few better scorers on defense currently in the NHL. He entered the NHL in 2000 with the Montreal Canadiens, but didn't show flashes of his ability until a couple of years later.
During the 2002-03 season, he scored 13 goals and 37 points, but it was after the lockout that he truly came into his own. He scored 10 goals and 46 points during the 2005-06 season, finally topping the 40 point mark. He did it again the following season with 46.
The 2007-08 seasons saw Markov take his game to another level and score 16 goals and 58 points. He improved on that for the 2008-09 season with 12 goals and an incredible 64 points, placing second on the Habs in scoring.
Markov has only been able to play in 52 games over the last two seasons, but when he is healthy again, he will likely be able to pick up where he left off.
Reijo Ruotsalainen had a short career, but despite the small sample size, everyone knew he could score. The Finnish defenseman made his debut with the New York Rangers in 1981 and made an immediate impact, scoring 18 goals and 56 points.
He outdid even that in his second season with the Rangers, scoring 16 goals and 69 points. He rattled off two straight 20 goal seasons after that, including 28 in 1984-85, which still stands as the Rangers's single season record for goals by a defenseman. He played his last season with New York in 1985-86, tallying 17 goals and 59 points.
After playing in Switzerland, Ruotsalainen joined the Edmonton Oilers for the rest of the 1986-87 season. He scored 13 points in 16 games and seven more in the playoffs as he and the Oilers won the Stanley Cup.
He returned to the NHL two seasons later with the New Jersey Devils, but was traded back to the Oilers as they went on to win the Stanley Cup again in 1990. Ruotsalainen left the NHL for good after that season, but had made an impression as a high scorer, and possibly the best skater in the league.
Brian Rafalski was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New Jersey Devils in 1999. He had been previously labeled as "the best player not currently in the NHL" after spending a few years playing in Finland. He made an immediate impact with the Devils, scoring 32 points, and improving to a whopping 52 in his second season.
Rafalski tallied two more 40 point seasons and nabbed a couple of Stanley Cup titles along the way. He had his second 50 point campaign during 2006-07 and signed a five year deal with the Detroit Red Wings in that off season.
He had his finest season in his first year as a Red Wing, with 13 goals and 55 points, as the Wings captured the Stanley Cup, Rafalski's third title. He established a new career high the following season with 59 points, as this time the Wings were defeated in the Finals. He has tallied over 40 points in his last two seasons, and is currently a leader on a Detroit blue line ready to make another run.
Lubomir Visnovsky was a late round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2000, but managed to make the team that year and did not disappoint, recording 39 points as a rookie. However, he was not able to top 30 points until the lockout, leading many to call him a fluke.
After the lockout however, he proved them all wrong. He led the Kings in scoring with 67 points, including 17 goals, becoming the first defenseman to lead his team in scoring after the lockout. He followed that up with an 18 goal, 58 point performance.
After an underwhelming 2007-08, Visnovsky was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. However, during parts of two seasons, he battled injury and was unable to get settled with the team. He was traded again to the Anaheim Ducks in 2010, where he finished the season strong with 13 points in 16 games.
In his first full season with the Ducks, Visnovsky currently leads all defensemen in scoring, with 67 points through 80 games, including 18 goals, and is in the running for his first Norris Trophy.
Al Iafrate became known almost as much for his "skullet" as he was for his booming slapshot and scoring ability. He began his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but did not break out until the 1987-88 season, when he scored 22 goals and 52 points. He scored 21 goals and 63 points two seasons later and had established himself as an offensive star.
He was traded to the Washington Capitals in 1991 and recorded 17 goals and 51 points in his first full season there. He followed that up with an impressive 25 goal, 66 point performance. Unfortunately for Iafrate, injuries started to decimate his career after 1994.
After two seasons away from hockey, he returned in 1997 with the San Jose Sharks, where he played 59 games over parts of two seasons. However, he could not fully get over his injuries and was forced into retirement in 1998 at the age of 32.
Fredrik Olausson had an extremely productive career, but this is seen largely by those who look back on it. He entered the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets in 1986 and recorded 36 points in his rookie season. He broke out in the 1988-89 season, netting 62 points. He didn't score below 40 for another five seasons, when he was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in 1993.
Olausson bounced around the league for a few years before ending up with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in for a second stint in 1998. He recorded 56 points that season, his best season since his days with the Winnipeg Jets. He tallied 15 goals and 34 points the season after, before going to play a season in Switzlerland.
He returned to the NHL in 2001 with the Detroit Red Wings. He played 47 games with the team and finally won the Stanley Cup. He then joined the Mighty Ducks for a third stint with the team and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals before leaving the NHL for good in 2003.
Dan Boyle was signed by the Florida Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 1998 and has been one of the better scoring defensemen in the NHL ever since. Boyle played in Florida until 2002, when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was with the Lightning than Boyle's offensive game took form. He scored 13 goals and 53 points in his first full season there, assisting the Lightning with making the playoffs. He dipped down to only 39 points the following season, but the Lightning captured the Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames. He returned strong after the lockout with another 53 point season.
The 2006-07 season was Boyle's finest to date. He scored 20 goals and 63 points en route to being named to the NHL's second all star team. After suffering a tendon injury and missing most of the 2007-08 season, Boyle was traded to the San Jose Sharks after the Lightning threatened to place him on waivers, where he was likely to be taken by the Atlanta Thrashers.
His first season in San Jose was fantastic. He scored 16 goals and 57 points, leading Sharks defensemen and earning another berth on the second all star team. Boyle's 2009-10 was similar, with 15 goals and 58 points. Still with the Sharks, Boyle is ready to take another run at the Stanley Cup this season.
Since breaking into the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1998, Kaberle has quietly been one of the better offensive defensemen in the league. He scored 40 points in his second season and never looked back, continuing to contribute at a high level for the remainder of his NHL career.
His best seasons came after the lockout, when the new NHL rules catered to Kaberle's slick skating, free wheeling style. Never a goal scorer, Kaberle is instead known as an elite playmaker. This is evidenced by 58 of the career high 67 points he scored during 2005-06 coming off of assists.
He racked up two more 50 point seasons before playing in only 57 games in 2008-09 due to injury. He returned strong with a 49 point performance during the 2009-10 season. His Maple Leafs career ended in 2011, when he was dealt to the Boston Bruins to assist in their Stanley Cup run.
This will mark his first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2004.
Mathieu Schneider is a very well traveled NHLer, dressing for ten different teams over the course of his 21 season career. He came into the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens in 1987, but didn't break out until the 1992-93 season, when he scored 13 goals and 44 points en route to helping the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
He recorded 20 goals and 52 points the following season, signifying that his offensive game had arrived. He was then traded to the New York Islanders in 1995 and recorded 47 points in his second season on Long Island. He then spent parts of three seasons in a Maple Leafs uniform before being traded to his hometown New York Rangers in 1998.
After two seasons with the Rangers, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings in 2001, where he scored 51 points in his first season. He was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 2003, finishing that season with 50 points. His best season came in Detroit at the age of 36, when he scored 21 goals and 59 points during the 2005-06 season. After another 50 point season with Detroit, he signed with the Anaheim Ducks.
He spent one season with the Ducks before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers. He was traded mid-season back to the Montreal Canadiens, where he finished the season strongly. He split the 2009-10 seasons between the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes, and currently is a free agent.
Much like many players on this list, Craig Hartsburg had a short, but productive career. He was drafted sixth overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1979 and impressed immediately with 14 goals and 44 points. He had a similar sophomore campaign, but his third season really showcased his talent.
He scored 17 goals and 77 points in the 1981-82 season, immediately justifying his lofty draft position. He was named the captain of the North Stars after that season and followed it up with a 62 point performance. He began to experience injury problems the following year, playing in only 58 games over the next two seasons.
He returned for a full season in 1985-86 and picked up where he left off with 57 points, and then a 61 point season after that. Unfortunately for Hartsburg, injuries bit him once again, this time claiming his career. He retired in 1989, having played only 57 games in his last two seasons.
Ian Turnbull entered the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973 and recorded a mildly impressive 35 points. It was in his third season though that he broke out with a total of 20 goals and 56 points.
The next season was even better for Turnbull. He scored 22 goals and 79 points, which still stands as the single season scoring record for a Maple Leafs defenseman. During that season, Turnbull played the most memorable game of his career. The game was played on February 2nd, 1977 against the Detroit Red Wings. Turnbull scored an incredible five goals on five shots. He is still the only defenseman to score five goals in a game over 30 years later.
Turnbull then turned in two consecutive 60 point seasons, cementing his place as an elite offensive defenseman. He played in Toronto until 1981, when Harold Ballard dismantled the team and sent him to the Los Angeles Kings. Injury then ended his career in 1982 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Though he later became known as the lockdown defensive defenseman with the booming body check, Scott Stevens was a prolific scorer during the first part of his career. He was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Capitals in 1982 and recorded 45 points in just his second season. He scored 21 goals and 65 points the following year, making his presence as a scorer known.
He tallied a then career high of 72 points in the 1987-88 season, which came sandwiched between a pair of 60 point seasons. Stevens, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with the St. Louis Blues in 1990 and was immediately named their captain. He scored 49 points, but was then shipped to the New Jersey Devils as compensation for the Blues signing Brendan Shanahan.
After scoring 17 goals and 59 points in his first season as a Devil, he was named the team's captain in 1992. During the 1993-94 season, he led the Devils in scoring with a career high 78 points as the team advanced to the eastern conference finals.
Stevens took on a new role after that season, that of shutdown defenseman. The change paid off as the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995. From 1995 to his retirement in 2004, Stevens only surpassed 30 points once, but the Devils won the Stanley Cup twice more. He was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dave Babych was an excellent scoring defenseman with an equally, perhaps more, spectacular mustache. Drafted second overall in 1980 by the Winnipeg Jets, Babych broke right in with 44 points in his rookie season. He established himself as a prolific scorer over the next two seasons, with 68 and 74 point seasons, respectively. He continued to score at a superstar rate for the Jets, until he was dealt to the Hartford Whalers in 1986.
He continued his high scoring ways in Hartford, never going below 40 points in any of the full seasons he spent there. The Whalers then left Babych unprotected in the 1991 expansion draft, where he was selected by the Minnesota North Stars, but immediately traded to the Vancouver Canucks.
He took on a more defensive role in Vancouver, topping out at 32 points in 1993-94 when the Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He played for the Canucks until 1998, when he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings during the next season, and he retired in 1999.
Chris Pronger was taken second overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1993 and spent two unspectacular seasons with the team before being traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Brendan Shanahan. Pronger was actually not much of an offensive contributor during his first three seasons in St. Louis.
He was named the team's captain in 1997 and broke out with a 47 point campaign in 1998-99. He fully hit his stride during the following season, when he scored 14 goals and 62 points. He led the Blues to the Presidents' Trophy, culminating in a Norris Trophy win. He was also awarded the Hart Trophy, the first defenseman to take the honor since Bobby Orr in 1973.
He produced at a near point per game rate during the 2000-01 season, with 47 points in 51 games. He missed most of the 2002-03 season, but returned the next year with a 54 point campaign.
He signed a massive contract with the Edmonton Oilers to begin after the lockout. He scored 56 points for Edmonton that year and dragged the Cinderella team to the Stanley Cup Finals with 21 points in the playoffs, but they were defeated by the Carolina Hurricanes.
He infamously requested a trade after only one season and was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks. He scored 59 points in 66 games during his first season there as the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. He tallied two more 40 point seasons for the Ducks before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers.
He scored 55 points during his first season in Philadelphia and another 18 in the playoffs as the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He and the Flyers are poised to make another Stanley Cup run this season.
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1976, Randy Carlyle spent two relatively unproductive years with the team. When he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, his career began to take shape. He scored 47 points during his first year in Pittsburgh, and followed that up with a 36 point season.
He wowed everyone during the 1980-81 season though. He tallied 16 goals and 83 points, en route to winning the Norris Trophy. He is the only Penguins defenseman to date ever to win it. Fresh off that season, he was named the Penguins' captain and scored 75 points in only 73 games in the 183-84 season.
He served as the Penguins captain until 1984, when he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. He continued his scoring ways, scoring 13 goals and 51 points there, and scoring double digit goals four seasons in a row. His final 40 point season came in 1988-89, and he retired as a Jet in 1993.
Kevin was the offensive half of the Hatcher brothers, while his brother Derian held down the fort on the defensive end. Kevin Hatcher's first full season was in 1985-86, and saw him record only 19 points. His offensive game came to fruition during the 1987-88 season, when he scored 14 goals and 41 points. He wouldn't dip below 40 points until the lockout shortened 1995 season.
Breaking out with a 24 goal, 74 point performance in 1990-91, Hatcher was becoming known as one of the premier offensive defensemen in the game. His performance during the 1992-93 season cemented that status. He led all defensemen with 34 goals and tallied 79 points, incredible totals.
He was traded to the Dallas Stars in 1995, where he joined his brother, Derian. He spent two seasons in Dallas before being shipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins. His three seasons in Pittsburgh were very productive, scoring 54 and 48 points in his first two seasons there, and another 38 in his last.
He played one year each for the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes before retiring in 2001.
One of the most beloved New York Rangers of all time, Greschner entered the NHL in 1974 and had an impressive rookie season with 45 points. He regressed in his sophomore campaign, but hit 47 points in his third year.
The 1977-78 season was Greschner's best. He scored a career high 24 goals and 72 points. He continued to produce at a high rate, netting 17 goals and 53 points in the following season, but perhaps the finest moment of his career came in the playoffs that year. The Rangers were battling the heavily favored New York Islanders in the semi-finals when Greschner scored the series winning goal in game six that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens.
He would top the 20 goal mark in the next two seasons, including a career high of 27 in the 1980-81 season. Back injuries began to affect Greschner, but he battled through them and remained a high scoring defenseman.
The injuries began to really take their toll around 1987, so Greschner shifted his game. He became a lockdown defensive defenseman, retiring in 1990 rather than sign with another team after the Rangers stated they were not interested in signing him.
Though Reinhart played largely in the shadow of Al MacInnis and Gary Suter in Calgary, his contributions were very important. He was the oldest of the three and the only one who played for the Flames while they were in Atlanta, which he did during his rookie season. He also scored 47 points during that rookie season.
The first season in Calgary was even more impressive, as he scored 18 goals and 67 points as he led the Flames through the playoffs with 15 points in 16 games. His finest offensive season came in 1982-83, when he scored an impressive 75 points. He helped to lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1986 with 18 points in the playoffs.
Despite the continued offensive contributions, injuries began to affect Reinhart, as he played only 14 games during the 1987-88 season. He joined the Vancouver Canucks the following season, missing out on the Flames' Stanley Cup win.
Despite back to back 57 point campaigns in Vancouver, in which he only played in 64 and 67 games respectively, Reinhart was forced into retirement at the age of 30 due to his back back.
What you are looking at right there is quite possibly the greatest playoff beard in NHL history. Don't let the gray fool you though, Niedermayer was still quite the scorer.
Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1991, he broke in immediately, scoring 11 goals and 40 points, extremely impressive numbers, considering the ultra-defensive style the Devils played at the time. He scored 10 goals and 46 points the following season as the Devils advanced to the eastern conference finals. They would win the year after, as Niedermayer scored 19 points during the lockout shortened season.
He wouldn't top 40 points again until the 1997-98 season, when he scored a career high 14 goals and 57 points, following that up with a 46 point performance. He continued to score in the 30s, capturing two more Stanley Cup Championships along the way. The 2003-04 season was a special one for Niedermayer. He served as the team's captain for most of the year as Scott Stevens was injured, and his 14 goals and 54 points earned him the Norris Trophy.
After the lockout, he signed a four year deal with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to go play with his brother, Rob. He was immediately named the Ducks' captain and now free from the defensive system, posted a career high of 63 points. The following season was even better. The newly named Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup on the back of Niedermayer, who led all NHL defensemen with 69 points and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff performance.
Despite contemplating retirement, he returned for the next three seasons, posting totals of 59 and 48 points in his last two seasons.
Rob Blake broke into the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings full time in 1990, when he impressed by scoring 12 goals and 46 points. After some regression during his second season, he tallied 16 goals and 59 points in his third, and helped the Kings get to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.
He topped those highs with 20 goals and 68 points in the 1993-94 season, but would only play 30 games over the next two seasons, due to the lockout and injury. Upon return from his injury, Blake was named the team's captain in 1996.
He responded to his new leadership title by winning the Norris Trophy in 1998 with 23 goals and 50 points. This is also the last time to date that anyone has won the Norris Trophy while posting a minus rating. After two more productive seasons with the Kings, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. He was an instant fit with the Avs.
He scored 19 points in the playoffs as he and the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. Blake never dipped below 13 goals in his four full seasons in Colorado, with a high of 16 goals and 56 points coming in the 2001-02 season.
He signed back with the Kings in 2006, but insisted that Mattias Norstrom remain the captain. Norstrom however, was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2007, and Blake was re-named captain. He served in the role for one more season, before joining the San Jose Sharks.
He returned to form with a 45 point season in his first in San Jose, and was named captain for his second. After dipping to 30 points, Blake retired in 2010.
Steve Duchesne was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Kings in 1984, and entered the NHL two years later. His NHL career got off to a strong start, with a 13 goal, 38 point rookie season. He took off in his sophomore year, netting 16 goals and 55 points, and followed that up with an even more impressive 75 points. He also scored 25 goals that season, the first of three straight 20 goal seasons.
He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991 in a move that brought Wayne Gretzky's former linemate Jari Kurri to Los Angeles. He played only one season in Philly, as he was then traded to the Quebec Nordiques in the massive deal for prospect Eric Lindros.
It was with the Nordiques that he had his best season, netting 20 goals and 82 points. Duchesne spent much of the 1990s on the move, as he was then traded to the St. Louis Blues. He spent two years in St. Louis before being traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he had his first 40 point seasons since his 82 in Quebec. He was traded back to the Blues after two seasons in Ottawa, where he scored 56 points, and signed with the L.A. Kings as a free agent on a one year deal.
However, in keeping with the trend, he was traded back to the Philadelphia Flyers at the 1999 trade deadline. Finally, in search of some stability, he signed a three year deal with the Detroit Red Wings in 1999. He retired in 2002 after winning the Stanley Cup, which had eluded him throughout his career.
Sandis Ozolinsh was one of the more exciting NHL players I've ever seen. His end to end rushes were dazzling and his skating ability was incredible. He was a second round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks and joined the team for the 1992-93 season, playing in 37 games and tallying 23 points.
He broke out in his sophomore season, with 26 goals and 64 points, and helped the Sharks into the playoffs. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 and immediately became a key contributor, scoring 13 goals and 50 points during the remainder of that season. He scored 19 points in the playoffs as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup.
He scored 23 goals and 68 points the following year and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. He netted 51 points during the following season, and hit the 50 point plateau again two seasons later. He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2000 and scored 44 points in his first season there, despite injuries beginning to break him down.
He split the next season between the Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers, and returned to form with a 14 goal, 52 point performance. He was on the move again the next season to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, where he helped them into the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the New Jersey Devils.
He later spent parts of two seasons with the New York Rangers before returning to the Sharks for the 2007-08 season. He currently plays with the KHL's Dinamo Riga.
While Chris Chelios is most remembered for his longevity, he was also a significant offensive contributor for the first portion of his career. Playing his first full season in 1984-85 with the Montreal Canadiens, Chelios scored 9 goals and 64 points. He scored 34 points in only 41 games the next season and helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, his first championship.
He tallied 20 goals and 61 points two seasons later, and scored 15 goals and 73 points during the 1988-89 season, winning his first Norris Trophy. He was named a co-captain of the Canadiens the following season, but was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990. He scored 61 points his first season in Chicago, where he would spend the better part of the decade. He helped to lead the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, but they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. His 73 points in the 1992-93 season earned him another Norris Trophy.
Chelios continued to produce greatly for Chicago and was named the team's captain in 1995. He responded with a 72 point 1995-96 season, winning his third and final Norris Trophy. His offensive game began to decline slightly, and he was traded to the rival Detroit Red Wings in 1999. He never again scored 40 points, but was a key defensive presence for Detroit for the next decade, helping them win the Stanley Cup twice, in 2002 and 2008.
Chelios finally retired at the incredible age of 48, after suiting up for 10 games with the Atlanta Thrashers during the 2009-10 season.
Believe it or not, that is the face of a thirty-something year old man. At first glance, King Clancy's totals do not look like anything impressive. But when you consider that offensive defensemen were not found in his era, they are. When you also consider that there was no such thing as a secondary assist, they become doubly impressive.
Despite being only 5'7", Clancy developed a reputation of being both one of the fastest and toughest players of his era. Entering the NHL with the original Ottawa Senators in 1921, Clancy blossomed in his third season, when he scored 8 goals and 16 points in only 24 games. He scored an extremely impressive 14 goals during the next season.
He had his best season in 1929-30, when he scored 17 goals and 40 points in only 44 games. He was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he spent the remainder of his career. While in Toronto, he topped the 10 goal mark three times and helped them win the Stanley Cup.
His legacy is preserved by the NHL with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the player who combines leadership abilities with humanitarian contributions to the off ice community.
Jeff Brown's career wasn't a long one, but he had cemented himself as one of the best scoring defensemen of his era. He broke into the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques in 1985, and displayed his scoring talent in his second season, when he tallied 29 points in only 44 games. Playing in 78 games the season after, Brown scored 16 goals and 53 points. After a 21 goal, 68 point display the following year, it was apparent what a talent Jeff Brown was.
He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1990 and spent a very productive portion of his career there. He scored 59 points in each of the next two seasons, and an impressive 25 goals and 78 points in 71 games during the 1992-93 season.
He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 1994 and became a key contributor in their surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring 15 points in the playoffs before the Canucks were defeated by the New York Rangers. He tallied 31 points in only 33 games the next season, and was traded to the Hartforf Whalers in 1996, where he completed that season with 55 points.
Injuries got the better of him for the remainder of his career, and retired as a member of the Washington Capitals due to post-concussion syndrome.
Sergei Gonchar has been one of the more quietly productive defensemen over the course of his NHL career, which is still in action. He broke into the NHL in 1995 with the Washington Capitals and made his offensive talent known the following season when he scored 15 goals and 41 points. Despite scoring only 21 points, Gonchar and the Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, but were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings.
He showed off his goal scoring ability during the 1998-99 season, when he potted 21 goals and 31 points, having the rare distinction of scoring more goals than assists while on defense. He turned it on full time next season, scoring 18 goals and 54 points, the first of eight consecutive 50 point seasons, and did not dip below 11 goals in that time, racking up a career high of 26 in 2001-02, as part of a 59 point season.
He was traded to the Boston Bruins in 2004 as part of the Capitals' massive fire-sale, where he finished the season. He signed a five year deal with the Penguins after the lockout. He continued to produce at an impressive rate in Pittsburgh, tallying 58 and 67 points in his first two seasons. His third season in Pittsburgh saw him score 65 points and help lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals, where he was again set down by the Red Wings.
He missed most of the 2008-09 season, but returned for the final 25 games of the season and the playoffs. The Penguins were victorious this time, as Gonchar won his first Stanley Cup. Injuries hobbled him again the following season, but he scored an impressive 50 points in 62 games. His contract up at the end of the season, he signed a three year deal with the Ottawa Senators.
Currently playing with Ottawa, Gonchar has struggled this season, but given his impressive career, still has a chance to redeem himself in the coming years.
Drafted by the New York Rangers 85th overall in 1990, Zubov broke into the NHL during the 1992-93 season, where he recorded 31 points in only 49 games. The following season though, would be a banner year for Zubov. The sophomore defenseman scored 12 goals and an unbelievable 89 points to lead the Rangers in scoring. He was also a key contributor as the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years, and Zubov became one of the first four Russian players to win the Stanley Cup.
He scored 36 points in only 38 games the following season, but was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the off-season along with Petr Nedved in exchange for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson, a deal that is now seen among the worst in Rangers history. After an impressive 66 point season in Pittsburgh (in only 64 games), Zubov was again traded, this time to the Dallas Stars.
With the Stars, Zubov began an incredible stretch of 11 consecutive 40 point seasons. He scored 51 points in the 1998-99 season as the Stars won the Stanley Cup. He continued to contribute for Dallas, but it was the 2005-06 season that was his best in a Dallas uniform. He scored 13 goals and 71 points and earned his first Norris Trophy nomination, despite more than a decade of extremely impressive play.
Zubov's 2007-08 season was looking to be a special one, as he recorded 35 points, but was injured and ended up playing in only 46 games. He was again beset by injury and played in just ten games in the following season.
He subsequently left the Stars to go play in the KHL, where he currently plays.
Börje Salming was one of the first players to really break open the league for future European stars. Undrafted, he was scouted and subsequently signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973 and performed well in his first season, scoring 39 points.
He did his best to dispel the idea that European players were soft, which he did by remaining an extremely durable player throughout his career. After a similar sophomore season, he broke out during the 1975-76 season, scoring 16 goals and 57 points and showing the world just how talented Swedes could be.
He scored 78 points the following season, the first of four consecutive 70 point seasons. Despite years of playoff futility in Toronto, Salming became a fan favorite and is still a favorite at the Air Canada Center. His offensive game began to decline later in his career.
He was infamously suspended for the entire 1986-87 season after telling a reporter he had used cocaine many times. However, he was reinstated just eight games into the season. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings for one season in 1989, and left the NHL in 1990. He later became the first Swedish player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
Reed Larson is a name that is almost never mentioned when speaking of NHL defensemen. It has partly to do with the fact that Larson spent a large portion of his career with the Detroit Red Wings while they were known as the "dead things". Larson was the standout though, as he scored 19 goals and 60 points in his first full season as the Wings actually made the playoffs.
After an 18 goal, 67 point performance the following season, Larson began a streak of five consecutive 20 goal seasons, but the Wings would only see the playoffs during one of them, which was the last, but they were put out in the first round.
Larson continued to contribute, and was traded to the Boston Bruins in 1986, but was never able to really stick in Boston. He subsequently played for the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Minnesota North Stars, and Buffalo Sabres, ending his NHL career as a Sabre in 1990. Nevertheless, he stands out in history as the first American player to score 200 career goals.
If he weren't bothered by injuries throughout his career, it is possible that Guy Lapointe could have been much higher on a list like this. He entered the NHL full time in 1970, and had an impressive rookie season with 15 goals and 44 points, as the Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup that season.
1972-73 brought Lapointe's finest offensive season to date with 19 goals and 54 points as the Habs once again came away with the Stanley Cup. After another 50 point season, Lapointe scored 28 goals and 75 points during the 1974-75 season. The 28 goals still stands as a record for goals in a season by a Canadiens defenseman.
He tallied a 68 point season the year after, and established a new career high with 76 points in 1976-77 as the Canadiens won the first of four consecutive championships, Lapointe's third. Lapointe was still producing points up until he won his sixth championship with Montreal in 1979.
Injuries began to hit him the following season, as his play declined. He was traded to the the St. Louis Blues in 1982, where he spent parts of two seasons. He then signed with the Boston Bruins for the 1983-84 season, retiring when it was over after scoring 18 points in only 45 games.
From the moment Larry Robinson's career began, he was an intimidating presence on the Montreal Canadiens' blue-line. But it wasn't just for his size, which he had plenty of, but also his speed and mobility.
The big defenseman entered the NHL in 1972-73 to play 36 games. He didn't contribute much offensively, but his presence was a factor in Montreal's Stanley Cup win that year. But it wasn't until the 1974-75 season where he broke out. He tallied 14 goals and 62 points that season, as the Canadiens advanced to the conference finals.
Robinson scored a career high 19 goals and 85 points, in addition to an incredible +120, in 1977 as the Habs once again won the Stanley Cup, the first of four consecutive championships. He also won his first Norris Trophy that season. He scored 65 points the following year, but turned his game up even more in the playoffs, scoring 4 goals and 21 points in only 15 games to take home Conn Smythe Trophy honors.
He scored 14 goals and 75 points in only 72 games during the 1979-80 season, but the Canadiens' reign as champions ended in the semi-finals. Robinson continued to be the star of the Canadiens' defense though, and even at the age of 35, scored 19 goals and 82 points as the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1986.
He joined the Los Angeles Kings in 1989 and played there for three seasons, retiring in 1992. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
Unlike quite a few players on this list, Gary Suter was far from a heralded star player. He was drafted 180th overall by the Calgary Flames in 1984, but made the team just a season after. He showed everyone what he could do immediately and was awarded the Calder Trophy in 1986 after an 18 goal, 68 point rookie season.
He continued to be an offensive dynamo for Calgary, including a 21 goal, 91 point season, who had a near unstoppable scoring defense with Suter and Al MacInnis. He scored 62 points in 63 games as he and the Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, and rang off two consecutive 70 point seasons after that.
He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1994, where he continued to rack up points. He scored 20 goals and 67 points during the 1995-96. He continued to star for the Blackhawks until 1998. His rights were then traded to the San Jose Sharks, who signed him to a deal.
He was only able to play in one game his first year in San Jose, but tallied no less than 33 points per season in those three years in San Jose, retiring in 2002.
Mark Howe is the second defenseman to be thwarted by a Boston Bruin. Howe would likely have been considered the best defenseman of his era if not for that Ray Bourque guy. He played with his father Gordie in the WHA for six seasons before entering the NHL in 1979 with the Hartford Whalers at the age of 24. He impressed immediately with a 24 goal, 80 point season and followed it up with 65 points in 63 games the following year. However, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982, his career truly blossomed.
He tallied 20 goals and 67 points in his first season with the Flyers, finishing as a Norris Trophy finalist for the first of three times. His powerhouse Flyers team went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985, but were put down by the Edmonton Oilers. Howe had his best season the following year. He scored 24 goals and 82 points and led the league with an amazing +85, but lost the Norris Trophy to Paul Coffey, who had the second best scoring season for a defenseman of all time.
Howe and the Flyers went back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1987 only to meet the Oilers once again. In an epic seven game series, the Oilers once again came away with the victory. Hobbled by injuries, Howe signed with the Detroit Red Wings in 1992 to chase the Stanley Cup.
He was not the same offensive player, he was a key member of Detroit's defensive corps. The Red Wings advanced to the finals in 1995, but were swept by the underdogged New Jersey Devils. Unable to win the Cup, Howe retired at the age of 40.
I debated with myself at length on whether to even include Lidstrom in this slideshow, because it is apparent that he is not human, but instead is a hockey playing robot. That is the only way to explain how he is still producing the way he is.
A third round pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989, Lidstrom entered the NHL in 1991 and immediately impressed with an 11 goal, 60 point season. In addition to a scorer, Lidstrom established himself as a leader in the Red Wings' locker room as well. He was an integral part of the Stanley Cup winning teams in 1997 and 1998, recording 57 and 59 points in those seasons respectively.
But like a fine wine, Lidstrom only got better with age. He won his first of a three-peat of Norris Trophies in 2001 when he scored 71 points, a season after scoring 20 goals and 73 points. He scored 59 points in 2001-02 and led the Red Wings to yet another Stanley Cup championship, also capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming the first European to do so.
He had perhaps his finest season after the lockout when he scored 16 goals and 80 points and won his fourth Norris Trophy, beginning a second three-peat. With the retirement of Steve Yzerman after that season, Lidstrom also inherited the Red Wings' captaincy.
In 2008, he scored 70 points to win his sixth Norris Trophy and led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup, becoming the first European trained player to win the Stanley Cup as captain of a team. Now at the age of 40, Lidstrom has scored 16 goals and 62 points this season and could very well end up with his seventh Norris Trophy.
In addition to his offensive prowess, many consider Lidstrom to be one of the top three defensemen of all time.
Now the general manager of the San Jose Sharks, Doug Wilson was a prolific scorer during his NHL career, beginning with his rookie season when he scored 14 goals for the Chicago Blackhawks. His third season brought the point production, tallying 12 goals and 61 points.
He became the first Blackhawk to win the Norris Trophy since Pierre Pilote in 1965 in 1982. That season he scored 85 points, including an astounding 39 goals. He remained an extremely high scoring defenseman, scoring 70 points twice more in his career and producing at over a point per game rate twice.
He was a seven time all star with Chicago and is still the club's highest scoring defenseman, and it's fifth overall leading scorer. He was then acquired by the San Jose Sharks in 1991 for the franchise's first ever season and was named their first captain.
He was only able to play 86 games over the next two seasons with San Jose, but managed to score a total of 12 goals and 48 points over that time, showing he still possessed his offensive ability. He retired in 1994 and became the Sharks' general manager in 2003, a position he still holds.
One of the original crops of "offensive defensemen", Red Kelly only spent the first twelve seasons of his 19 season career on defense. Kelly broke into the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 1947, but his offensive ability did not manifest itself until the 1949-50 season, when he recorded 15 goals and 40 points. From there on out, he was a scoring machine, topping 10 goals until 1958, and scoring 40 points all but twice in that span. His best scoring season as a defenseman came in 1950-51, when he tallied 17 goals and 54 points.
Kelly also holds the distinction of winning the Norris Trophy the first year it was awarded in 1954. He completed that season with 16 goals and 49 points to capture the trophy. He is also the latest defenseman to win the Lady Byng Trophy, which he won three times while playing defense. Kelly's stint with the Red Wings was an extremely successful one, as they won the Stanley Cup four times in his 12 seasons there. In addition to his scoring and passing skills, Kelly was also a physical and checking presence. Famously, he broke his ankle in 1959, but the Red Wings organization covered it up. However, Kelly's play was noticeably affected.
The following season, when asked by a reporter, he replied that it may have been his ankle. Management was infuriated and worked out a trade to send Kelly to the New York Rangers, but Kelly threatened to retire rather than play for the Rangers. Another deal was worked out and Kelly was sent to the Maple Leafs.
That was also the last of Kelly as a defenseman, as Leafs coach Punch Imlach converted him to center. He thrived at center, even scoring a career high 70 points in his first full season with the Leafs. After earning four more Stanley Cup championships with Toronto, he retired in 1967.
Larry Murphy is one of the more overlooked players in NHL history. He was drafted fourth overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1980 and started his career with a bang, scoring 16 goals and 76 points, setting the still standing record for points and assists by a rookie defenseman. He scored 22 goals and 66 points the following season, and it was apparent that great things were on the horizon. He was then traded to the Washington Capitals in 1983, where he would spend parts of the next six seasons.
He established a new career high in points with the Capitals with 81 in the 1986-87 season, a defensive scoring record that still stands for that team. He was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1988, where he remained productive until he was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. He instantly became an integral part of the Penguins defense and would win his first Stanley Cup when his team met the North Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals that year and defeated them in six games.
He scored 77 points the following season as the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup Champions. He continued his success in a Penguins uniform with 85 and 73 point seasons in his next two. His final season in Pittsburgh was the lockout shortened 1995 season, after which he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs were a struggling team at the time, and Murphy was the scapegoat for the fans. He was mercilessly booed during his two years in a Leafs jersey, as his large contract became synonymous with the team's struggles. He was finally dealt to the the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and was a key piece in their Stanley Cup win that season. He scored 52 points the season after as the Red Wings won the Cup once again. He spent the rest of his career with the Red Wings, retiring after the 2000-01 season, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Phil Housley is one of the more well-traveled players on this list, suiting up for eight different teams over the course of his 21 year career. Drafted sixth overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1982, the league didn't have to wait long to see his talent, as he scored 19 goals and 66 points in his rookie season.
He wowed the following year as well, topping 30 goals and hitting the 77 point mark. He played in Buffalo until 1990, topping 60 points ever season he was there, including a career high of 81 in 1989-90. He was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 1990 and continued to flourish, finishing as a runner up for the Norris Trophy in 1991, and scoring a career high 97 points in 1991-92.
He was on the move again, this time to the St. Louis Blues. His stay was short lived however, as he was sent to the Calgary Flames as compensation for the Blues signing Al MacInnis. He produced at a point per game rate his first season in Calgary, with 43 points in 43 games, but was traded to the New Jersey Devils.
Finally seeking some stability, he signed with the Washington Capitals after the season, but was claimed on waivers once again by the Calgary Flames two seasons later. He spent three seasons in Calgary, his longest stint with a team since his years with the Winnipeg Jets. He even topped the 50 point plateau for each of his first two seasons in Calgary.
He was once again placed on waivers in 2001 and claimed by the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he remained until the following season's trade deadline, when he was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but only managed to play one game for them. Despite his long and serviceable career, Housley was never able to win that elusive Stanley Cup. He reached the finals in 1998 with the Capitals, but they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Much like Doug Harvey, who you will see later on, Pierre Pilote helped to change the defensive position. In his era, offensive play by a defenseman was not the norm, but Pilote did it with excellence. After topping 30 points in his third season, he only dipped below that mark twice more in his career, one being his final season.
He led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 1961, scoring 15 points in the playoffs and likely would have been awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy had it existed. He was named the Blackhawks' captain in 1961, a role he would serve in until he left the team in 1968.
He won his first of three consecutive Norris Trophies in 1963, and scored an astounding 14 goals and 59 points in the 1964-65 season, which was the record for defensemen in the pre-expansion era.
He was known both for his iron man streak of 376 consecutive games and also his impressive end to end rushes. He retired in 1969, after spending that season as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the only other team he ever played for. His number was retired by the Blackhawks nearly 40 years later. The 77 year old Pilote finally saw his number raised to the rafters in Chicago on December 12th, 2008.
After being drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1981, MacInnis played his first full NHL season during 1983-84, and made his talent evident with 45 points in only 51 games. He continued to impress into the playoffs with 14 points in 11 games. He also became known for his fearsome slapshot, even destroying opposing goalie Mike Liut's mask once.
He quickly became one of Calgary's offensive leaders, topping 65 points in each of his next two seasons, as well as helping to lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1986, where they were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens. The following season, he began a stretch of six consecutive 70 point seasons that only ended when he played only 50 games during the 1992-93 season.
He and the Flames went back to the finals to face the Montreal Canadiens again in 1989, this time coming out on top. MacInnis scored an impressive 31 points in the playoffs and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. He also scored 28 goals and 103 points during the 1990-91 season, becoming the fourth defenseman to join the "100 club".
After conquering Calgary, MacInnis signed an offer sheet with the St. Louis Blues in 1993, ending his run with the Flames. As compensation, the Blues sent Phil Housley and two draft picks the other way.
He played in only 32 games in his first season with the Blues(partially due to the lockout), but appeared in all 82 games the following season, scoring 61 points. He teamed with Chris Pronger to form one of the more fearsome defensive pairings in the NHL. Though he would never again put up the gaudy numbers he had in Calgary, he scored 20 goals and 62 points in the 1998-99 season to capture his only Norris Trophy.
With Chris Pronger injured for most of the 2002-03 season, MacInnis was named the interim captain and put the team on his back, tallying 68 points. His career would end due to an eye injury only four games into the 2003-04 season. He finished as the third leading scorer among defensemen in NHL history.
If not for Bobby Orr's presence, Brad Park would be known as the best defenseman of his era by far. The two were constantly compared, but Bobby Orr just had that extra something. Still, Brad Park was no slouch.
An adept stickhandler, and also a physical presence, Park entered the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1968. However, it was the 1971-72 season where he truly broke out. He scored 24 goals and 73 points en route to helping to lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they appropriately faced Bobby Orr's Bruins. Just like it was in the awards column, Bobby Orr won out as the Bruins defeated the Rangers in six games.
Park continued to shine on Broadway, scoring at over a point per game mark for the next two seasons, and a career high of 25 goals and 82 points in 1973-74. He was named the captain of the Rangers for the following season, succeeding Vic Hadfield.
The 1975-76 season brought a huge change. Bobby Orr was only able to play ten games that season, so the Bruins swung a blockbuster trade with the Rangers. They acquired Brad Park and Jean Ratelle in exchange for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. With Orr sidelined and subsequently leaving the team, Brad Park was now the leader on Boston's blue line.
The move did not slow down Park in the least, as he scored 67 points in his first full season with the Bruins and 79 points the season after. He played for the Bruins until 1983, when he signed with the Detroit Red Wings. He took on the role of a veteran leader, but was still able to score 58 and 43 points in his final two seasons.
Brian Leetch was selected by the Rangers ninth overall in 1986. He broke into the NHL for a cup of coffee in 1988, tallying an impressive 14 points in 17 games, but when he arrived for his first full year, he showed off his true talent.
Leetch played in 68 games in the 1988-89 season, scoring an incredible 71 points and 23 goals, which still stands as the record for goals by a rookie defenseman. He was awarded the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Leetch was now the offensive leader of his Rangers squad. It was the arrival of Mark Messier though in 1991 when the Rangers began to take shape.
That season, the Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy as Leetch scored an incredible 22 goals and 102 points, becoming the fifth and final defenseman to date to cross the 100 point barrier. He was awarded his first Norris Trophy that season. He was on his way to having a productive season the next year, but broke his leg and only played 36 games.
He returned in 1993-94 to lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup. He scored an unprecedented 11 goals and 34 points in the playoffs to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy. Leetch remained a consistent threat for 20 goals and 70 points, and won his second Norris Trophy in 1997. He was named the Rangers captain that year after the departure of Mark Messier, but never saw the playoffs again in a Rangers uniform. Messier returned in 2000, but the team still struggled. Leetch was shockingly traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004 and reached the conference finals with them.
He signed with the Boston Bruins after the lockout and played one season with the team, scoring five goals and 32 points in 61 games before retiring. He was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Eddie Shore epitomized "old time hockey". He entered the league with the Boston Bruins in 1926 and scored an impressive 12 goals. Shore played in an era when offense by a a defensive player was not just uncommon, but completely unheard of. So even though Shore's numbers are not impressive by today's standards, he may be known as the NHL's first offensive defenseman.
He topped the ten goal mark an unprecedented five consecutive seasons, with a career high of 15 coming in 1930-31, two seasons after leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship. Eddie Shore was also a massive physical presence. Though he was hardly the biggest guy on the ice, he was certainly the toughest.
He wasn't at all afraid to play rough and was a brutal hitter. Perhaps Shore's largest accomplishments are his Hart Trophy wins. He won the Hart Trophy an unprecedented four times, a number no defenseman has surpassed. You would have to imagine that if the Norris Trophy was in existence, he'd have won nearly every season he played.
Potvin was selected by the young New York Islanders in 1973 as the first overall pick. At the time, Bobby Orr was dominating the league, and Potvin was to be his heir apparent for the NHL. He did not disappoint.
He won the Calder Trophy in 1974, and scored 76 points the following season to lead the Islanders to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. He scored an incredible 98 points the following season and won his first of three Norris Trophy. It was evident then that Bobby Orr's heir had arrived.
In 1978-79, he scored 31 goals and an unbelievable 101 points, becoming only the second defenseman after Bobby Orr to hit the 100 point mark, and was awarded his third Norris Trophy. Following that season, Clark Gillies gave up the captaincy to Potvin.
The change in captaincy seemed to work as the Islanders won their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups in 1980. Potvin was a prolific playoff scorer, and despite injuries beginning to hamper his play throughout the 1980s, he remained a superstar.
Unlike a few names on this list, Potvin was a punishing physical presence who would not hesitate to get rough and hit frequently. He also served as the Islanders' captain until 1987, when he handed it to Brent Sutter. Potvin retired in 1988 as the all time leading scorer among NHL defensemen.
Compared to some of the other defensemen on this list, Harvey's numbers don't seem like anything especially impressive. But Harvey played in an era where offensive play by a defenseman was uncommon, and even discouraged. Harvey was a pioneer for the modern offensive defenseman.
He entered the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens in 1947 and played only 35 games in his first season. Harvey didn't even crack 30 points until the 1952-53 season and it was that season that he also won his first of six Stanley Cup Championships, but scoring points isn't all an offensive defenseman is supposed to do. Harvey was an adept stick handler, which is something he frequently turned to due to his lack of size.
Harvey was an expert at stealing the puck, and once he accomplished that, all bets were off. With his speed and stick handling ability, he turned the Canadiens into an offensive powerhouse, serving as the general on the ice and directing where the puck was to go. His offensive ability reached new heights in the 1954-55 season, as he scored 49 points and won his first of four consecutive Norris Trophies, and seven overall.
Harvey was also a vocal critic of hockey players' salaries, and helped to organize the players association. Canadiens management didn't like this, and sent Harvey to the basement dwelling New York Rangers in 1961. Harvey was the Rangers' player-coach for his first season in New York and also captured his seventh and final Norris Trophy that season. He remained with the Rangers until 1964 and played for a series of minor league teams(and a two game stint with the Detroit Red Wings) until 1968 when he joined the St. Louis Blues for a final season, retiring for good in 1969.
Even though the Colorado Avalanche jersey Bourque is pictured in was not the one he wore for most of his storied career, I still chose to use that picture. For me, and many other NHL fans, the image of Bourque finally getting to lift the Stanley Cup is one that will be remembered forever.
Bourque entered the NHL in the 1979-80 season with the Boston Bruins and his offensive ability was apparent immediately, scoring 17 goals and 65 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy. He had his first 20 goal campaign the season after, and topped the point per game plateau in the 1981-82 season. He tallied 31 goals and 96 points in the 1983-84 season, a definite sign that great things were on the horizon.
After the retirement of captain Terry O'Reilly in 1985, Bourque and Rick Middleton were named co-captains of the Bruins. He recorded his second 90 point season during 1986-87 and won his first Norris Trophy. In December of the following season, the Bruins decided to retire Phil Esposito's number seven, the number that Bourque wore. Not obligated to give it up, Bourque skated over to Esposito and removed his jersey to reveal a number 77 jersey underneath, the number Bourque would wear for the remainder of his career.
He went on to win his second Norris Trophy that season as the Bruins were defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Edmonton Oilers, and inherited the full captaincy of the Bruins when Rick Middleton retired in 1988. He flourished in the role and led the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1990, but they were again put down by the Edmonton Oilers. Bourque won his third Norris Trophy that season and finished second in Hart Trophy voting to Mark Messier by two votes, the closest margin to date.
He won his fourth Norris in 1991 as Boston advanced to the Conference Finals, but were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bourque continued to put up incredible scoring numbers, winning his fifth Norris Trophy in 1994 after another 90 point season, but the Bruins would always fail in the playoffs.
The 1999-00 season was looking to be a terrible one for the Bruins, and the 39 year old Bourque respectfully requested a trade so he could win the Stanley Cup. Bourque requested to be sent to the Philadelphia Flyers, but GM Harry Sinden instead traded him to the Colorado Avalanche, believing them to have a better chance at a championship. He immediately established himself as a leader in Colorado, but the Avs did not win the Cup that season.
He scored 59 points the following year, amazing numbers for the now 40 year old. He and the Avs made their way to the Finals, where they defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Bucking tradition, captain Joe Sakic immediately passed the Cup to Bourque instead of lifting it himself first. Bourque retired in the off season, going out at the very top, as well as being the career leader among defensemen in points, goals, and assists.
There are many who believe that having Paul Coffey on the ice was essentially like having four forwards out instead of three. After taking a look at his numbers, one can assume they may be right. Coffey retired as the second leading scorer among defensemen in goals, assists, and points.
Joining Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers in 1980, his rookie season was average, with 32 points. The following season however, his offensive game showed itself as the Oilers slowly turned themselves into a powerhouse. Coffey scored 29 goals and 89 points, establishing himself as an offensive presence.
1983-84 brought incredible things for Coffey. He became just the second defenseman in NHL history to score 40 goals, reaching exactly that, and finishing with with 126 points. The next season was more of the same for Coffey, tallying 121 points and winning his first Norris Trophy. The Oilers won their second consecutive Stanley Cup that season, and Coffey scored 37 points in the playoffs, an NHL record for defensemen.
He broke Bobby Orr's record for goals by a defenseman the following season, netting 48, and finishing one point short of the record, finishing with 138 and capturing his second Norris. His next season was his last in an Oilers uniform, and after winning his third Stanley Cup, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The move to Pittsburgh did nothing to deter his offensive prowess, as he scored 30 goals and 113 points in his second season there, and 103 points the season after that. He won the Cup there in 1991, but was then traded to the Los Angeles Kinds in 1992, reuniting him with Wayne Gretzky.
He never played a full season with the Kings, being shipped to the Detroit Red Wings in 1993. He led the team in scoring with 58 points in the 1994 lockout shortened season, and won his third Norris Trophy.
He struggled with injuries for the rest of his career, but was able to score 40 points for the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1999-00 season. He retired the following season as a Boston Bruin.
As if you were expecting any different. Bobby Orr is the best offensive defenseman in the history of the NHL, as well as the best to play the position as a whole.
Orr truly revolutionized the position. While defensemen had shown scoring ability in the past, Bobby Orr took it to a whole new level. Orr came into the NHL at the age of 18 and immediately took the league by storm, winning the Calder Trophy and finishing second for the Norris Trophy. New York Rangers veteran Harry Howell captured the trophy instead and prophetically stated "I'm glad I won it now, because Bobby Orr will own this trophy from now on." And that he did.
Starting the next season, despite playing in only 46 games, Orr won his first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies, the most of any defenseman. His offensive game began to blossom in his third season, when he scored 21 goals and 64 points, but nobody could have expected what would happen the following season. Orr potted 33 goals and an unbelievable 120 points, winning the Art Ross Trophy(the only defenseman to do so) as well as his first of three consecutive Hart Trophies. He also led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup that season, scoring the game winning goal in overtime of game four against the St. Louis Blues, which is shown in the most well known photo in hockey history. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
He rang off 139 points in the 1970-71 season, which still stands as the record for defensemen, and set an NHL record with 102 assists that stood for ten years. He also recorded an NHL record +124 that season. After scoring 117 points the season after, he led the Bruins to another Stanley Cup championship and won his second Conn Smythe Trophy.
The 1974-75 season brought Orr his final Norris Trophy. He scored a then NHL defenseman record 46 goals and 135 points, also capturing the Art Ross Trophy again. Injuries were already affecting Orr, and the following season, he played only ten games. Despite a massive contract offer from the Bruins, his agent, Alan Eagleson, persuaded Orr to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks. He did, but was only able to play in 26 games in two seasons, even being unable to play during 1977-78. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979 at the age of 31, after the three year waiting period was waived for him.