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Did You Know? Random, high-scoring defensemen used to be the norm

Jan 10, 2012, 7:06 PM EDT

Jeff Brown

The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.

With 41 points through 43 games, Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is on pace for a rare kind of season. The 21-year-old Swedish rearguard is flirting with a 75-to-80-point campaign, something only two defensemen have accomplished that since the lockout: Mike Green in 2009-10 (76 points) and Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 (80).

But it wasn’t always this way. In those halcyon, run-n-gun, the-goalies-look-kinda-brutal days of the 70s, 80s and 90s, defensemen would record obscene point totals on a yearly basis.

I’m not just talking about the Coffeys, Leetches and Bourques, either — consider the following:

Jeff Brown, St. Louis, 1992-93

71GP: 25G-53A-78PTS

First, this is the 60th greatest scoring season by a defenseman in NHL history — and it was done by Jeff Brown, a good-but-not-great blueliner that played for seven teams during a 747-game career. Solid player, kind of a journeyman, not a favorite of Kirk McLean’s.

Admittedly, Brown achieved these lofty numbers mostly from feasting on a power play that included Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan, but still…25 freakin’ goals. That would’ve led the Nashville Predators last season.

Kevin Hatcher, Washington Capitals, 1992-93

83GP: 34G-45A-79PTS

Hatcher wasn’t exactly the most skilled offensive defenseman ever. Physical? Yes. Tough? Yes.

Dynamically skilled? Uhhh

“He has been likened to a skating box car,” wrote Stan Fischler. “Hatcher played as much a stylish as a socko game and that displeased a segment of the Washington fans.”

But the 92-93 season puts him in with some pretty amazing company. Hatcher’s 34-goal effort ranks eighth all-time; the top seven spots belong to Paul Coffey (1st, 3rd, 6th), Bobby Orr (2nd, 5th, 7th) and Doug Wilson (4th).

Ian Turnbull, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1976-77

80GP: 22G057A-79PTS

Playing alongside Borje Salming, Turnbull turned in the greatest offensive season ever by a Leafs defenseman — his 79-point record still stands more than 30 years later. Know what else he did in 76-77? He set the NHL record for most goals in a game by a defenseman (five, in a 9-1 win over Detroit) and in doing so, became the only player in league history to score five goals on five shots in a single game.

Other random defensive stat-sheet stuffers:

– Winnipeg’s Dave Babych posted 61 assists in 1982-83. He finished sixth in the league in that category, one shy of Bobby Clarke.

– Reijo Ruotsalainen scored 28 goals for the Rangers in 1984-85. He’d go on to score 28 goals from 1985-1990.

– Minnesota’s Craig Hartsburg scored 77 points in 1981-82. His career high prior to that was 49; his high after that was 62.

(Jeff Brown photo courtesy gamewornauctions.com)

  1. pavelfitzgerald - Jan 10, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Dave Babych was a beauty

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 11, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      Yes he was.

  2. danphipps01 - Jan 11, 2012 at 1:16 AM

    Man, I miss the glory days. These days it’s a surprise if ten players break 100 points and any D with more than fifty is “elite.” In the old days, every team had someone notching 100 except the absolute worst, fifty-goal scorers were far more common and top-tier defensemen notched seventy or eighty points routinely. And it’s not like goalies really suffered – in the nineties, Mario, Sakic, Jagr, Shanahan, Modano, Bure, Yzerman and two dozen other superstar forwards were all in their prime, Bourque, Leetch and Lidstrom ran the Norris competition and guys like Roy and Hasek STILL put up baffling, ridiculous numbers.

    It seems like the game’s gotten a lot… smaller, since then. The stars aren’t as glorious, the news is always about how there’s been yet another nightly batch of concussions because nobody can seem to bring themselves to hit a man cleanly and the disciplinarians hired to fix it don’t seem to have even the faintest idea how. Hockey’s not quite what it used to be. =/

  3. warpstonebc - Jan 11, 2012 at 3:33 AM

    Ah Jeff Brown. He could certainly score both on and off the ice.

    Poor Captain Kirk. :(

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