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Blue Line Buzz: The Death of the 100-Point Defenseman

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.


Will we ever see a defenseman post 100 points again? It has been done 14 times in the history of league, mostly by guys named Orr and Coffey in the 1970's and 1980's. What was more commonplace though, was a handful of defenders registering better than a point-per-game over a season. The differences between the free-wheeling, open-ice days of the 1980's and the defensive system pre-lockout era have been widely documented. Since the NHL returned from its forgotten 2004-05 season, the league has seen an increase in scoring, but those hearkening for a return to normalcy with Paul Coffey gliding through the offensive zone and Dale Hawerchuk sniping may not get their wish.
           
The last 100-point season by a defenseman came in the 1991-92 campaign courtesy of Brian Leetch and his 22-80-102 stat line. One season earlier, Al MacInnis grabbed 103 points for the Flames and in 1989-90, Paul Coffey snagged 103 points as well, finishing a minus-25. Throughout the 1990's, and various defenders registered seasons of a point-per-game or better such as Phil Housely, Ray Bourque, Sergei Zubov, Steve Duchesne, Larry Murphy and Gary Suter.

In the post-lockout era, only three times have there been seasons of a point-per-game or better from defensemen. Nicklas Lidstrom potted 80 points in 80 games in 2005-06 while Washington's Mike Green has accomplished the feat twice, doing so in consecutive seasons. Green's famous 73 points in 68 games during 2008-09 where he potted 31 goals is arguably one of the best post-lockout fantasy seasons by any player at any position. Green followed up that campaign with 76 points in 75 games one season later, albeit with 12 less goals.

In the 2008-09 season, Green scored eight more goals than the two defenders tied for second, with Sheldon Souray and Shea Weber both posting 23. None other than those three netted over 20 goals and just 11 defenders in the league grabbed better than 15. Green's 2008-09 season was even more impressive when looking at the numbers posted by those around him, as only one other player even broke 60 total points that season.

Will we ever see a 100-point season from a defensemen again? No. Considering how rare a point-per-game season is from a defender in the post-lockout era, it simply looks like it will never happen.

Consider this: since the 2008-09 season, only six defensemen have cracked the 60-point barrier. We have to believe that a 60-point season these days would be equivalent to an 80-plus point year from back in the late 80's and early 1990's. As for the current season, only Tampa Bay's Marc-Andre Bergeron and Florida's Brian Campbell are currently operating a point-per-game or better.

Notes from the Infirmary

Speaking of Mr. Green, the Capitals' attacker is one of a handful of high profile blue liners currently dealing with nagging injuries. Green's numbers this season are solid with three goals and three assists in eight games but he has played in just one of the last six games, when he logged a mere 7:44 in Friday's win over New Jersey after being awkwardly hit into the boards. An ankle injury kept him out of action in late October and he sat out Saturday's loss to New Jersey as well.

While Green has been productive when he is in the lineup, Dennis Wideman continues his strong season with 12 points through 15 games and a plus-4 as of Saturday. Obviously, Wideman isn't going to surprise any owners, but Green's absence has allowed promising youngster John Carlson to step up his offensive production. Carlson has four points in the last five games including two goals and should continue to see scoring chances for however long Green is out of the lineup.

Dallas will be without the services of Alex Goligoski for up to four weeks, as he suffered a fractured thumb in Friday's win over Colorado. Goligoski had cooled off much since the season's first two games and he has just six points in 15 games to go with a minus-2 rating. Dallas is still playing strong hockey and they are scoring goals steadily, but Goligoski had not put too much of his fingerprint on the team's attack. Certainly this bodes even better for Sheldon Souray owners with Goligoski out, but Goose's presence had not affected Souray's production rate too much, as the veteran has 13 points through Saturday with 44 shots on goal.

The month-long injury to Goligoski will open up even more scoring chances for the likes of Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas, both of whom have five points currently on the season. Robidas seems the safer bet for production out of the two Dallas blue liners, as he has three of his five points on the power play along with 44 hits and 27 blocked shots. Robidas has posted consecutive seasons of 41 and 30 points for the Stars.

Anaheim will be without Lubomir Visnovsky for roughly a month, as the veteran suffered a broken finger in Friday's win over Vancouver. The injury adds further injury to the insult Visnovsky owners feel after spending a high draft pick on him, only to see a return of four points through 16 games despite 4:45 of power-play time per-contest. Visnovsky has certainly been one of the season's disappointments from the back end and the injury only further exacerbates his underachievement. The Ducks have been struggling on the power play this season, scoring at just a 14.3 percent clip through Saturday, placing them in the league's bottom third. While Visnovsky's teammate, Cam Fowler, will have even more room to operate on a power play featuring forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two defenders that have produced in the past will see their offensive chances increase.

Francois Beauchemin and Kurtis Foster should both see a bump in their scant power-play time the next month. Beauchemin has registered seasons of 34, 28 and 26 points during his career, but has evolved into more of a minute-eating defender against the opposition's top forwards. Foster has shown an adept hand from the point during his career, posting a 10-goal season from the blue line with Minnesota in 2005-06 and notching eight goals and 42 points for Tampa Bay during the 2009-10 campaign. Foster has been injury prone in the past and one has to wonder if he's ever completely recovered from the horrific broken leg he suffered in 2008. The veteran has a goal in three games with the Ducks this season and boasts more offensive upside than Beauchemin. Don't be surprised to see Foster finding his name peppered on the scoresheet, and those of you in deeper leagues would be wise to snatch Foster off the waiver wire.

Last week's question of the week about who would lead defenders in scoring at season's end garnered a variety of responses from readers. Several names were submitted such as Kris Letang, Alex Edler and Nicklas Lidstrom, all of whom can easily see their names atop the defensemen scoring list come April. My money would have to be on Brian Campbell at this point of the season. He has a handful of multi-point games already and Florida has not been shy about scoring goals. One has to wonder though what an injury-free season from Marc-Andre Bergeron would look like on Tampa's strong power play.

Contact Dan Pennucci here and follow him on Twitter @DVNucci42

Question of the week: How would Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin fare in today's NHL?

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