Pioneered by Doug Harvey, perfected by Bobby Orr and carried out by many, the role of an offensive defenseman just might be one of the most exciting roles in hockey. A defenseman who can turn heads and steal the spotlight is both valuable and fun to watch.
Up until the early 1960s, defensemen were discouraged to offer offensive creativity and were often ostracized or even traded if they stepped out of their boundaries. The common disposition that defensemen couldn’t or shouldn’t get caught up in the offensive end was overturned when hockey fans caught a glimpse of Doug Harvey for the first time. Harvey was one of the first of many defensemen to assume the offensive role and get away with it. Not only did his style of play earn the respect and attention of fans, it also proved to be successful. Harvey won seven James Norris trophies along with six Stanley Cups.
Shortly after Harvey retired, Bobby Orr emerged to keep the torch going. Orr’s immediate success in the NHL further revolutionized his position. His signature play, which started off behind his own net, saw him move up ice through an entire five-man defense and usually ended a goal. This was the type of play that inspired and transformed every offensive defenseman we have come to love.
So, in honor of all the fun-to-watch offensive defensemen, lets take a look at the top 20 flashiest offensive defensemen of all time.
20 Sheldon Souray
Sheldon Souray wasn’t the smoothest skating defenseman but he had one hell of a slap shot, one that few shot blockers would opt to get in front of. In 2003/04 Souray tied for place in the Hardest Shot competition at 102.2 mph. Following that year, Souray posted 26 goals with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006/07 and 23 goals with the Edmonton Oilers in 2008/09.
19 Rob Blake
Much like the aforementioned Sheldon Souray, it's his point shot that earned Blake a spot on this list. Blake played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. The six-foot-four defenseman recorded two 20 or more goal seasons and won the Norris trophy in 1997/98 with the Kings.
18 Dustin Byfuglien
His jaw-dropping combination of size and speed lands Dustin Byfuglien on this list. At six-foot-five and 260 pounds, Byfuglien is explosive from the point as well as in transition.
Byfuglien can even be effective while playing on the right wing.
17 Sergei Gonchar
16 Sergei Zubov
15 Duncan Keith
14 Andrei Markov
Andrei Markov, a talented and creative quarterback on the power play, is ranked third in goals, assists and points by a defensemen in Montreal Canadiens franchise history. In his 15 seasons in the NHL, Markov has played every season in the red, white and blue. In 2008/09 Markov recorded a career high of 52 assists and 64 points. That year, he also led the league with 39 points on the power play.
13 Brian Rafalski
12 Borje Salming
11 P.K. Subban
10 Phil Housley
9 Larry Robinson
8 Guy Lapointe
7 Ray Bourque
6 Erik Karlsson
5 Paul Coffey
4 Doug Harvey
3 Denis Potvin
2 Nicklas Lidstrom
1 Bobby Orr
Forget about the flashiest defenseman, Bobby Orr was the flashiest player in league history. Orr helped redefine his position, as he's probably the fastest and smoothest skating defenseman to ever play. Orr could lead every rush and still come back in time to play defense. Unfortunately, Orr’s career expired early, as knee injuries got the best of him. In only 657 career games, he managed a devastatingly impressive 915 points. Had Orr played another 1,000 games, he may have surpassed Ray Bourque as well as other NHL greats like Ron Francis or Mark Messier on the points list.
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