NHL: The 15 Best Offensive Defensemen in Playoff History
Throughout the hallowed history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the majority of the victorious teams had a unique element that helped propel them to the winners circle.
These teams had a"offenseman" commonly known today as a offensive defenseman.
It was once a secret weapon that most teams did not grasp. Now it is recognized by all NHL team management that without an "offenseman" and a good goaltender, they do not stand much of a chance of lifting the cup.
Today, most of the NHL recognizes the value of a defender with the ability to carry the puck, make plays and deliver a big shot from the blueline.
That defenseman with offensive skills capable of keeping the opposing team completely off balance is now worth his weight in gold.
When Hall of Famers like Bobby Orr and Brad Park patrolled the blue-line sporting long hair, charisma and bravado, Hall of Fame coaches like Scotty Bowman and acclaimed writers like Stan Fischler assailed the concept.
While behind the bench as coach of the St. Louis Blues, Bowman said he thought Orr should be moved to forward rather than be a fourth forward.
Later, Bowman must have re-evaluated his thought process, since he utilized Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard in his offensive scheme with the Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadians.
In recent history, up and comers like Shea Weber, Nick Lidstrom, PK Subban, Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara and Cam Fowler have all contributed that element in slightly different forms for their teams and consequently helped them advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Despite some distorted NHL folklore, defenders contributing offensively to playoff success did not start with the great Bobby Orr, or even Doug Harvey or Red Kelly.
Eddie Shore, a four time Hart Trophy winner, stepped up his performance in the playoffs and was a spectacular rushing defenseman before Harvey, Kelly or Orr.
Today the defenseman with accomplished offensive skills and defensive competence can turn a series around.
Yes Harvey did it, Kelly did too, and so did Orr, Potvin, Robinson and Lidstrom, but there were still more who added a dimension to their team others could not match.
Dan Boyle: Tampa Bay Lighhtning, San Jose Sharks: Up and Comer
Dan Boyle helped Tampa to a cup and now wants one in San Jose
Dan Boyle has tasted the nectar of a Stanley Cup victory and has found out that second drinks are difficult.
Boyle has been a vital player logging minutes on the power play and killing penalties. He has scored 11 goals and 45 assists in 84 playoff games.
His play in Tampa helped the Lightning win a Stanley Cup, and he has tried hard to skate out of the "choke" label that writers have assigned to the Sharks.
Zdeno Chara: Boston Bruins Up and Comer
At 6'9 Chara has a undeniable offensive and defensive presence on the ice.
Zdeno Chara cannot help but to leave an indelible mark on the game. At 6'9" and 255, he is intimidating both in the offensive and defensive zones. Chara has been a outstanding performer all season and was recently named a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
If he wins, it will be his second beating out Nick Lidstrom and Shea Weber.
Offensively, Chara has not yet produced the point totals to go with his 105 mile per hour slap shot, but it is just a matter of time.
Chara will have a chance to put all of his skills on display, since the Bruins will be participating in the Stanley Cup finals this year against Vancouver.
Will Chara's skills and Tim Thomas' goaltending make the difference and bring the Bruins their first cup since Bobby Orr was stationed at the point?
We will soon see.
Shea Weber-Nashville Predators- Up and Comer
Weber emerged a a leader and offensive threat propelling Nashville into the playoffs
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Shea Weber has emerged from the good to "potentially" great category. His leadership and offensive skills have made him a consistent threat as he helped the Nashville Predators reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Displaying great character, Weber has publicly stated that he wishes to stay with the Preds despite his obvious value in a larger market.
Weber's offensive contributions cannot be measured strictly by his point production. His big time shot and leadership ability have helped catapult the Nashville Predators to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Drew Doughty: Los Angeles Kings Up and Comer
Drew Dought y has emerged a s
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Only in his third season in the NHL, Doughty has demonstrated big time skills to go along with a cool and calm on ice persona.
His offensive skills are not in question, but what has surprised some observers has been his defensive competence. Doughty has successfully shut down some of the NHL's best offensive players.
In two playoff year appearances, Doughty has scored five goals and six assists for 11 points in 12 games.
If LA is to advance into the later rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Doughty will be one of the biggest cogs in the wheel.
PK Subban : Montreal Canadians Up and Comer
PK Subban seems to up his game in the playoffs.
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PK Subban had quite a rookie season after turning heads in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs after being called up to the big leagues.
Subban did not appear intimidated and performed well playing with bursts of energy and spectacular rushes into the oppositions offensive zone.
Subban has managed to score big goals in the playoffs, providing Montreal fans hope that the team can improve its offensive performance and advance further in the playoffs in future campaigns.
Cam Fowler: Anaheim Ducks Up and Comer
Rookie Cam Fowler has demonstrated his offensive skills in the playoffs
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Rookie Cam Fowler is still a teen and has already received a Ph.D. in the school of hard knocks.
A gifted offensive defenseman in juniors with the Windsor Spitfires, Fowler was left deflated when he was selected late in the first round of the 2010 Entry Draft.
Several teams questioned his toughness and ability to excel in the hard hitting NHL.
Fowler surprised the majority of the "haters" with a solid rookie season and a good playoff performance.
Running the power play, Fowler made several doubters re-examine how he lasted in the draft so long.
Sorry; there are no time travel machines.
15. Brad Park: New York Rangers and Boston Bruins
Brad Park appeared in the Stanley Cup plaoffs often and made great contributions although he never hoisted the cup
Brad Park is rated as one of the best NHL defensemen of all time.
During his prime, there was only one defensemen better at the job than he was: Bobby Orr.
When Park was traded in a blockbuster deal that sent him to Boston for Phil Esposito, Park was asked to play a more defensive game.
As a result, the Bruins were contenders for the Stanley Cup, and Park's offensive skills were on display in the playoffs.
Brad park was a magician on the power play and a shutdown defender when called upon. He produced 35 goals and 90 assists for 125 points in 161 games.
14. Serge Savard: Montreal Canadians
Serge Savard won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP with Montreal
Serge Savard came out of juniors with a reputation as a fast skating offensive defenseman.
After a severe leg injury, Savard picked his spots and became an effective member of the Big Three also featuring Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe.
Savard was capable of turning it on when necessary and even won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP in 1969, upsetting the Boston Bruins in the process.
Savard produced 19 goals and 49 assists in 130 games for a offensively stacked blueline corp also featuring Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe.
13. Mark Howe: Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings
Mark Howe was a smooth puckmoving defensemen for the Flyers.
Mark Howe was born with a hockey stick in his hands. His father was Hall of Famer Gordie Howe.
Mark was a gifted performer all of his life, but it was his move to defense that solidifed the Flyers blueline corps.
In the playoffs, Howe scored 10 goals and 51 assists in 101 games. Howe also scored 41 goals and 51 assists while playing in the WHA.
12. Scott Stevens: New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals
Scott Stevens was a fierce competitor who elevated his game in the Stanley Cup playoffs
Scott Stevens was a gifted offensive performer in juniors with a good shot and above average puck handling skills.
He changed his style in the major leagues and became more defensive minded.
It was his passion and desire to win that pushed his play to the next level when his team reached the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Stevens scored 26 goals and 92 assists in 233 games and garnered 378 penalty minutes.
11. Ray Bourque: Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche
Ray Bourque was a consistent stellar playoff performer
Raymond Bourque had all the skills emerging from juniors straight to the blueline for the Boston Bruins.
Bourque was identified as a savior of the Bruins, much like predecessor Bobby Orr. What made Bourque unique among other superstar defensemen was his ability to shut down star NHL forwards as well as create offense with pin point passing and a rocket launcher shot form the point.
Bourque had a low, accurate shot and used it to create offensive chances for the Bruins.
Although a solid playoff performer, Ray Bourque had to leave the Bruins for the Colorado Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup.
Bourque scored 41 goals and 139 assists in 214 playoff contests.
10. Eddie Shore : Boston Bruins
Eddie Shore was a "Beast' during the playoffs adding spectacular 2 way performance
Eddie Shore was a tremendous hockey talent with his overpowering skating style, fearsome competitiveness and will to win.
In the Shore era, the NHL played no more than 44 games a season, so it is difficult to measure output in comparison to today's more offensive contests.
Shore was a definite force rushing the puck and making plays, but he was an equally lethal force launching body checks and initiating physical contact.
Shore was often referred to as the player who could kill you two ways.
In the playoffs, Shore turned it up a few notches and displayed talent that eventually would get him elected to the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
9. Larry Robinson: Montreal, LA Kings
Larry Robinson was a dominant force and a moblie defender despite his 6'3 height
Larry Robinson was a key performer in Montreal's cup dominance.
Robinson had the "luxury"to play in a era with Orr, Potvin and Park, as well as Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard on his own team.
The Norris Trophy was a tough battle every year, but Robinson had the opportunity to win his hare.
In the playoffs, Robinson was the most productive Montreal defender, scoring 28 goals and 116 assists in 227 playoff games.
8. Chris Chelios: Montreal, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta
Chris Chelios contributed to the playoff dominance of Montreal and Detroit in his career in the NHL
Chris Chelios had many of the things NHL owners drooled for. He was skilled with the puck, and he had a bad temper, to name just two.
Chelios was also a good skater with puck moving skills and a hard low shot.
He played key roles in Stanley Cup wins for the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens.
Chelios scored 31 goals and 113 assists in 268 Stanley Cup playoff games.
7. Red Kelly: Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs
Red Kelly was the best rushing defenseman in the NHL during his days with the Detroit Redwing. During cup playoffs he was more dangerous.
Leonard "Red" Kelly was a prolific skater and puck handler who used his immense skill to stop top opposing forwards without the use of rough housing, high sticking or illegal maneuvers.
Kelly could outskate his opponents and regularly led rushes out of his zone, many of which resulted in goals for his team
Kelly was a excellent playmaker and leader. When Kelly was traded to Toronto over a dispute with team management, Gordie Howe said ' We never won again after the red head left Detroit."
Kelly was converted into a center when he joined the Leafs and his play-making helped Frank Mahovolich to his best goal production ever.
6. Nicklas Lidstrom-Detroit Red Wings
Nick Lidstrom - Detroit Redwings
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Nicklas Lidstrom has been around a while.
After taking over the captaincy from Steve Yzerman, Lidstom has led the Red Wings to multiple playoff appearances.
His skills, once overlooked, are now at the top of the list for European scouts evaluating defensive prospects for NHL opportunities.
Lidstrom can skate, has a low accurate shot from the point and possesses the intangible quality of calm under fire.
Much like Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadians perennial Stanley Cup teams, Lidstrom can calm his team by remaining cool and demonstrating uncanny focus.
Lidstom's offensive production in the playoffs illustrates how he turns it on even more when the chips are down.
5. Doug Harvey : Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues
Doug Harvey contributed offensively as his playing time increased on the Canadiens blueline
Doug Harvey was long thought of as the best defenseman in the NHL before Bobby Orr was signed by Boston. With extraordinary skating, puck handling and playmaking skills, the Montreal Canadians won many of their Stanley Cup match ups.
Harvey confounded his coaches with his cerebral slant on the game conserving energy and moving slowly up ice, until unexpectedly, he finds an open teammate and sent them on a breakaway.
Harvey's early playoff performances were solid, but his offensive production grew with the recognition that Harvey was the very best in the NHL on the blue-line.
Despite the fact that many new fans have never seen Doug Harvey play, he remains one of the top two to three after Bobby Orr to play the game and could probably play well in our era.
4. Brian Leetch: New York Rangers
Brian Leetch won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994 leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup.
Brian Leetch's contribution to the Rangers cup victory prompted fellow teammate and fellow Hall of Famer to refer to him as "Mr. New York Ranger."
Leetch was indeed an almost unstoppable force in leading the Rangers to their first Cup win since the 1940's.
Leetch, who won the Conn Smythe Playoff MVP for his efforts, scored 28 goals and 69 assists in 95 playoff games before retiring.
3. Denis Potvin: New York Islanders
Denis Potvin led the Islanders to several play7off victories and several Stanley Cups
Denis Charles Potvin was a complicated personality during his playing days. Early on, he was not a favorite with his teammates because of his outspoken nature, but eventually, he became one of the best captains in NHL history.
Watching him host "NHL On The Fly," you get a flavor for his impressive knowledge of the game and his adrenaline rush when the playoffs start.
Potvin came into the NHL and immediately drew comparisons to Bobby Orr. Potvin was tremendously skilled and, although not anywhere near as fast, possessed a penchant for game changing hits that has not been duplicated.
Potvin was gifted offensively, and few are aware that he was immediately asked to give up the style of play that allowed him to break most of Orr's junior scoring records by his coach Al Arbour.
Arbour, a defenseman in his NHL playing days, understood the need to teach the talented young Potvin defensive discipline.
Although Potvin did not score all the points he could have, he did raise Lord Stanley four times in his brilliant career and earned a spot for himself in the Hockey hall of Fame.
Potvin did, however, get the green light in key playoff contests and produced.
When Potvin retired, he was one of the top playoff scorers in the NHL, producing 56 goals and 108 assists in 185 contests.
2.Paul Coffey: Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins LA Kings, Red Wings
Paul Coffey may have been a faster lateral skater than Bobby Orr
Paul Coffey helped create the Edmonton Oilers offensive juggernaut.
A prolific skater with a wide array of offensive tools, Coffey's style was the engine that ran the Oilers high octane offense.
Coffey's performances in the playoffs almost always provided Edmonton with a noticeable mismatch against the competition.
In 194 playoff games, Coffey scored 59 goals and 137 assists for 196 points and a plus-56 plus/minus rating.
1. Bobby Orr: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks
Bobby Orr- Simply the best ever to play on the blueline in the playoffs
Robert Gordon Orr had it all.
Speed, strength, a bazooka from the point and skating ability that made GM's swallow their chewing gum ever time they saw him cradle the puck on the blade of his stick and head up ice.
Bobby Orr was an icon almost from the time he first stepped on the ice in a Boston Bruins uniform.
Most of today's most talented offensive defensemen admit to idolizing Orr growing up and patterning their style after his.
Rookie offensive defenseman Cam Fowler changed his number to four for obvious reasons.
There still is no equal to Bobby Orr in total skills and dominance.
Paul Coffey may have been a tad faster laterally, Potvin may have hit harder, Lidstrom and Bourque may have been more durable, but Orr still is simply the best.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Orr is immortalized after scoring the game winning goal against St. Louis in that famous picture.
Orr was great in the regular season but unworldly in the playoffs.
During the Stanley Cup finals series against the Flyers, Orr was dominant despite a Philly game plan to neutralize him by constantly sending the puck on his side of the ice to tire him and initiate body contact.
Although Boston lost the series, most Philadelphia fans remember holding their breath when Orr had the puck.
No defenseman today is so dominant. Orr ended his short career with 26 goals and 66 assists in only 74 playoff games.