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Greatest Offensive Defensemen

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Old
02-18-2006, 10:06 PM
  #1
Hockey Outsider
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Greatest Offensive Defensemen

Those of you who post here often are probably familiar with Ogopogo's system of ranking scorers. The highest-scoring player each year gets 7 pts, etc., down to the 7th-highest scorer, who gets 1 pt. Bonuses are awarded for dominace. This system isn't perfect but, in my opinion, it's an accurate way of determining which players combine dominance with longevity.

I've applied the system to defensemen scoring each year, 1918-2004.

Rank Player Score
1 Paul Coffey 96.5
2 Ray Bourque 83.0
3 Bobby Orr 77.0
4 Red Kelly 72.0
5 Doug Harvey 68.5
6 Eddie Shore 68.0
7 King Clancy 66.5
8 Pierre Pilote 65.0
9 Bill Gadsby 56.0
10 Al MacInnis 55.0
11 William "Flash" Hollett 53.0
12 Denis Potvin 51.5
13 Babe Pratt 51.0
14 Brian Leetch 51.0
15 Phil Housley 47.0
16 Harry Cameron 43.5
17 Nicklas Lidstrom 43.5
18 Earl Seibert 40.5
19 Buck Boucher 40.0
20 Bill Quackenbush 39.0
21 Pat Egan 39.0
22 Lionel Conacher 36.0
23 Ebbie Goodfellow 35.0
24 Doug Mohns 32.5
25 Brad Park 31.3
26 Jim Thomson 30.0
27 Aubrey "Dit" Clapper 29.0
28 Sprague Cleghorn 29.0
29 Larry Murphy 28.0
30 Tim Horton 26.3
31 Pat Stapleton 26.0
32 Larry Robinson 25.5
33 Ott Heller 25.0
34 Guy Lapointe 24.5
35 Sergei Gonchar 24.5
36 Bert Corbeau 23.0
37 Eddie Gerard 23.0
38 Allan Stanley 22.0
39 Borje Salming 21.3
40 J.C. Tremblay 20.5
41 Ken Reardon 20.5
42 Carol Vadnais 18.5
43 Ted Green 17.0
44 Sylvio Mantha 16.8
45 Glen Harmon 16.5
46 Gary Suter 16.0
47 Reed Larson 16.0
48 Doug Wilson 15.5
49 George Owen 15.5
50 Sergei Zubov 15.5
51 Steve Duchesne 15.5

Lots of things to talk about:
- Before everyone flames me for not having Bobby Orr in first place, remember that this list looks at dominance AND longevity. Orr was by far the most dominant-scoring defensemen ever, but Coffey and Bourque were both around for a lot longer. They had more productive careers but (obviously) I'd rather have Orr for a single game, or a single season.
- Kelly, Harvey and Shore didn't score a lot of points by today's standard, but they dominated their eras. This list shows that they all deserve to be ranked, at the very least, as top 10 defensemen in NHL history. (Personally, they're each in my top five along with Orr and Bourque).
- Notable omissions: Rob Blake (54), Mark Howe (58), Chris Pronger (61), Randy Carlyle (63), Chris Chelios (68), Scott Stevens (82), Carl Brewer (89). Chelios and Stevens racked up a lot of points in a high-scoring era but were never close to being dominant.
- Weirdest statistical quirk: Jim Thomson led all defensemen in scoring in 1948, without scoring a single goal! He had 29 assists, while Bill Quackenbush had 6 g, 16 a and Kenny Reardon had 7 g, 15 a.
- Most times leading defensemen in scoring: Coffey (8), Orr (5), Shore, Pilotte, Kelly (5), Harvey, Leetch, Cameron, Hollett (4), Gadsby, MacInnis, Pratt, Boucher, Potvin, Clancy, Lidstrom (3).

Also note that I'm probably missing some data from the 40's and 50's, so let me know if there are any players who should be here are missing.

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02-18-2006, 10:39 PM
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I am surprised at Orr's placing. When I did my scoring list for all players, Orr finished well ahead of 2nd place, which was Coffey. But, things were bound to look a little different when only defensemen were taken into account. I appreciate your effort to produce this list.

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02-19-2006, 09:31 AM
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
Those of you who post here often are probably familiar with Ogopogo's system of ranking scorers. The highest-scoring player each year gets 7 pts, etc., down to the 7th-highest scorer, who gets 1 pt. Bonuses are awarded for dominace. This system isn't perfect but, in my opinion, it's an accurate way of determining which players combine dominance with longevity.

I've applied the system to defensemen scoring each year, 1918-2004.

Rank Player Score
1 Paul Coffey 96.5
2 Ray Bourque 83.0
3 Bobby Orr 77.0
4 Red Kelly 72.0
5 Doug Harvey 68.5
6 Eddie Shore 68.0
7 King Clancy 66.5
8 Pierre Pilote 65.0
9 Bill Gadsby 56.0
10 Al MacInnis 55.0
Just curious if when you researched this if you noticed any specific points where defencemen`s scoring totals started to rise or drop as compared with the rest of the league? You would think that regardless of the scoring rate the rank of the top defenceman would stay somewhat the same, but it seems to have dropped significantly. In the 70s, 80s and early 90s it was common to see at least one defenceman among the top 10 scorers. Now it`s a rarity to see one in the Top 25.

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02-19-2006, 09:35 AM
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
Rank Player Score
21 Pat Egan 39.0
This is the name that stands out to me most being so high, does anybody have any more info on him? Looking at his stats, he had a couple of very good seasons during the war years and later made two trips to Stanley Cup finals with Bruins and Rangers.

There was no Norris back then and since he was selected to second all star team once, was it only because of his offense, how good was he defensively?

Where does his nickname "box-car" come from?

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02-19-2006, 11:41 AM
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
it's an accurate way of determining which players combine dominance with longevity.

Its a simpletons view of the game and thats borne out by your results: its really hard to use the word dominance with Paul Coffey's game. Even longevity is a stretch with him.

How long have you been watching hockey?

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02-19-2006, 11:56 AM
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Did you allow for players that played significant portions of their careers at forward ? Mohns and Kelly are the 2 I'm thinking of. Mohns had his best years on the Scooter line with Mikita and Kenny Wharram, while Kelly played C with Toronto.

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02-19-2006, 01:50 PM
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ogopogo
I am surprised at Orr's placing. When I did my scoring list for all players, Orr finished well ahead of 2nd place, which was Coffey. But, things were bound to look a little different when only defensemen were taken into account. I appreciate your effort to produce this list.
I was also surprised to see Orr third. Among all scorers, very few defensemen aside from Orr finish in the top seven on a regular basis, so he was able to dominate the "overall" category. However, players like Shore, Kelly, Bourque and Coffey finish among the top seven defensemen scorers year after year, so that's how they rank so high on this list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by reckoning
Just curious if when you researched this if you noticed any specific points where defencemen`s scoring totals started to rise or drop as compared with the rest of the league? You would think that regardless of the scoring rate the rank of the top defenceman would stay somewhat the same, but it seems to have dropped significantly. In the 70s, 80s and early 90s it was common to see at least one defenceman among the top 10 scorers. Now it`s a rarity to see one in the Top 25.
I've looked into this, but the only time we've seen defensemen in the top 10 on a regular basis was from 1918-1924. Since then, the only players to do it consistently are generational talents like Kelly, Orr and Coffey. Here's a breakdown of the number of defensemen among the top 10 scorers by decade:

1918 2 Cameron, Gerard
1919 2 Cameron, Randall
1920 8 Cameron 2, Boucher 2, Cleghorn, Reise, Clancy, Shore
1930 1 Shore
1940 0 --
1950 4 Kelly 3, Gadsby
1960 1 Pilotte
1970 9 Orr 6, Potvin 2, Park
1980 5 Coffey 4, Bourque
1990 4 Coffey 2, MacInnis, Leetch
2000 0 --

Aside from once-in-a-lifetime players, there's never been a lot of defensemen in the top ten scorers. My guess is that we saw so many in the 20's because a lot of defensemen seemed to play the rover position, which obviously gave them more chances to score.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary69
This is the name that stands out to me most being so high, does anybody have any more info on him? Looking at his stats, he had a couple of very good seasons during the war years and later made two trips to Stanley Cup finals with Bruins and Rangers.

There was no Norris back then and since he was selected to second all star team once, was it only because of his offense, how good was he defensively?

Where does his nickname "box-car" come from?
I don't know too much about Pat Egan, but it seems like he was one of the most dominant scoring defensemen of his time. Given his offensive talent, it's a bit odd that he was an all-star only once. Maybe he was a big defensive liability (think Housley: great scorer but weak defense... never won a Norris and was an all-star only once). He was traded a lot, so many some award-voters held this against him. I don't really know, I'm just speculating.

However, he was pretty big for his day (5'10, 190) and led the league in penalty minutes twice, so maybe the Housley comparison isn't a good one. Does anybody know more about this player?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcphee
Did you allow for players that played significant portions of their careers at forward ? Mohns and Kelly are the 2 I'm thinking of. Mohns had his best years on the Scooter line with Mikita and Kenny Wharram, while Kelly played C with Toronto.
I tried my best to account for that. I was able to sort out Kelly's position each year, but the data about Doug Mohns and Dit Clapper was contradictory from different sources. So I may have overrated both of them, but I'm not sure. If somebody has a definite list of what position they played each year, I'd make any necessary changes.

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02-19-2006, 03:02 PM
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I personally have nothing against the efforts of good folks culling statistical comparisons for the point of facilitating debate. I do take issue with those who substitute statistics for eyewitness observation and who fall back on numbers instead of enunciating a point of view.

That is, stats can bolster a POV. They, in themselves, do not consitute a POV. Not suggesting that is the case here, but unfortunately, that is the case on HF all too often.

To wit, statistically, we are told, Paul Coffey was "a greater offensive defenseman" or "more dominating" than Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin. Fine...

...Which means what?

Ask anyone who watched said players, ask any GM/coach who they'd rather have had on their team.

I defy you to find one who would take "the more dominating" Coffey, for a shift, a game, a season, a career.

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02-19-2006, 04:33 PM
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trottier
I personally have nothing against the efforts of good folks culling statistical comparisons for the point of facilitating debate. I do take issue with those who substitute statistics for eyewitness observation and who fall back on numbers instead of enunciating a point of view.

That is, stats can bolster a POV. They, in themselves, do not consitute a POV. Not suggesting that is the case here, but unfortunately, that is the case on HF all too often.
I hope it's clear that I consider statistics good evidence, and a good place to start a discussion, but not an end in themselves.

For example, the purpose of me starting this thread wasn't to say, for example, that Denis Potvin is exactly the 12th best offensive defensemen ever, and any other assessment is wrong. The purpose is to start a discussion. I think this has been sucessful. Someone asked about an apparently underrated player in Pat Egan. Someone else asked about how prominent defensemen figured in the scoring race, and how this has changed over time. Statistics are useful to start quality discussions like this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trottier
To wit, statistically, we are told, Paul Coffey was "a greater offensive defenseman" or "more dominating" than Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin. Fine...

...Which means what?

Ask anyone who watched said players, ask any GM/coach who they'd rather have had on their team.

I defy you to find one who would take "the more dominating" Coffey, for a shift, a game, a season, a career.
It means Coffey and Bourque had longer, more productive careers than Orr. If you want to build a franchise from scratch, with a long-term focus (ie compete for a Stanley Cup in 10-15 years), I'd suggest taking Harvey or Bourque. If you want to win a single game or maximize your chances of winning the Stanley Cup in a single season, take Orr.

Also, in case I wasn't clear, this list ranks players by offense only. Orr and Potvin are obviously better all-around players than Coffey (and Orr is better all-around than Bourque)... but that's not what I'm looking at here.

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02-19-2006, 06:59 PM
  #10
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Here`s the brief player biography for Pat Egan:

http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/...p?player=12538

Most interesting part was this:
Quote:
[Suspended for life by AHL for assaulting linesman Patsy Callighen in game vs. St. Louis, November 5, 1952. Suspension lifted on December 14, 1952.

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02-19-2006, 07:18 PM
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chooch

Its a simpletons view of the game and thats borne out by your results: its really hard to use the word dominance with Paul Coffey's game. Even longevity is a stretch with him.

How long have you been watching hockey?
Too bad Coffey played in the terrible western conference in the 1980's, And the terrible Patrick division in the 90's and the awful Wings in the mid-90's. I am surprised people even remember him since he played on those Oiler, Pens and Wings teams that were only good because all the teams in their division and conference were ECHL caliber. And Coffey only played 1409 NHL regular season games, who could remember a guy like that when there were 21 players in the history of the NHL who played more games.

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02-19-2006, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
4 Red Kelly 72.0
I am curious if you are using all of Kelly's stats here or only those when he was a defenceman? He was a centre for his last 7 seasons or so I think with the Leafs.

Just curious. It would be very impressive if he is 4th on this list yet played 12 full years as a D-Man.

Was Kelly a Centre only with the Leafs? Did he immediately switch to Centre when he was traded in 1959-60 or did that happen the next season? Did he ever play Defence for the Leafs? Anyone know?

+++ Apparently you accounted for Kelly missed that above, interesting he is so high and very impressive+++

Still interested in details about Kelly though if anyone knows.

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02-19-2006, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cup2006sensrule
I am curious if you are using all of Kelly's stats here or only those when he was a defenceman? He was a centre for his last 7 seasons or so I think with the Leafs.

Just curious. It would be very impressive if he is 4th on this list yet played 12 full years as a D-Man.

Was Kelly a Centre only with the Leafs? Did he immediately switch to Centre when he was traded in 1959-60 or did that happen the next season? Did he ever play Defence for the Leafs? Anyone know?

+++ Apparently you accounted for Kelly missed that above, interesting he is so high and very impressive+++

Still interested in details about Kelly though if anyone knows.
Kelly was a center for the Leafs from day one. Never played defence for the leafs as far as I know. He was a a great offensive defenceman for years as a red wing.

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02-19-2006, 08:13 PM
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Not to be argumentative, but anybody who says Orr wasnt the most dominate offfensive dman in history never saw him play. He dominated his era, changed the game. It may only be my opinion, but one that will never be changed.

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02-19-2006, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Pucks
Not to be argumentative, but anybody who says Orr wasnt the most dominate offfensive dman in history never saw him play. He dominated his era, changed the game. It may only be my opinion, but one that will never be changed.
I have to agree. Orr started out in a six team league besides. He was the best player of his era and changed the way the game was played as much as Gretzky would later on in his. An absolutely amazing player and without a doubt in my mind (and I'm a Ranger fan) the best defenseman I've ever seen--maybe the best player.

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02-19-2006, 09:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Pucks
Not to be argumentative, but anybody who says Orr wasnt the most dominate offfensive dman in history never saw him play. He dominated his era, changed the game. It may only be my opinion, but one that will never be changed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by eco's bones
I have to agree. Orr started out in a six team league besides. He was the best player of his era and changed the way the game was played as much as Gretzky would later on in his. An absolutely amazing player and without a doubt in my mind (and I'm a Ranger fan) the best defenseman I've ever seen--maybe the best player.
Read what I wrote before jumping to false conclusions. I said: "Orr was by far the most dominant-scoring defensemen ever" and "obviously I'd rather have Orr for a single game, or a single season".

I also wrote that this list looks at dominance AND longevity. Orr was the most dominant defenseman ever, but he lacked longevity. If this list looked at dominance only (and didn't take longevity into account), Orr would be in first place by a wide margin.

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02-19-2006, 09:02 PM
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No question, Bobby Orr was the best D man I ever saw, and the most dominating player.He controlled games, and it took a combination of an off night and dogged checking,to neutralize his play.He was a wonder going coast to coast, and if he lost the puck,would be back in time to play sound D.There was no aspect of his game that was not of the highest levels, and this man played D like he was a powerforward who could blow by about any skater in the game.He was so good I hated him, and funny enough, I never saw him play a brilliant game at the Forum.He could be frustrated by a trap,or dump and chase that ended up with him taking a ton of physical abuse.He was like a power puncher who could be stymied by rope a dope, or Jimmy Connors having all his angles taken away by an Arthur Ashe,or fed junk balls by Manuel Orantes.If teams tried to play traditional D against Orr, they got burned.

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02-19-2006, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
Read what I wrote before jumping to false conclusions. I said: "Orr was by far the most dominant-scoring defensemen ever" and "obviously I'd rather have Orr for a single game, or a single season".

I also wrote that this list looks at dominance AND longevity. Orr was the most dominant defenseman ever, but he lacked longevity. If this list looked at dominance only (and didn't take longevity into account), Orr would be in first place by a wide margin.
These kinds of debates are the very reason why I hesitate to post my findings sometimes. People take half the information or less, and blast you for it. Sometimes, it doesn't seem worth the effort.

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02-19-2006, 09:16 PM
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One of the interesting points is how good Doug Harvey was offensively. MANY people falsely believe that he was a stay at home, defensive defenseman. In reality, he was good all-around and that included being very good offensively.

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02-19-2006, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by V-2 Schneider
No question, Bobby Orr was the best D man I ever saw, and the most dominating player.He controlled games, and it took a combination of an off night and dogged checking,to neutralize his play.He was a wonder going coast to coast, and if he lost the puck,would be back in time to play sound D.There was no aspect of his game that was not of the highest levels, and this man played D like he was a powerforward who could blow by about any skater in the game.He was so good I hated him, and funny enough, I never saw him play a brilliant game at the Forum.He could be frustrated by a trap,or dump and chase that ended up with him taking a ton of physical abuse.He was like a power puncher who could be stymied by rope a dope, or Jimmy Connors having all his angles taken away by an Arthur Ashe,or fed junk balls by Manuel Orantes.If teams tried to play traditional D against Orr, they got burned.
And he never raised his stick or scored 5 points and was a minus on the night.

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02-19-2006, 09:26 PM
  #21
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I am glad I put chooch on ignore. I am sure he has posted some gems in this thread.

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02-19-2006, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider
Statistics are useful to start quality discussions like this.
I agree and I want to emphasize that I'm not ripping your work. There are variable within your variables, so to speak, however. For example, I'm admittedly not fully apprised of the weight (if any) that is put on the player's team's performance during his years, but if so, I'd guess that Denis Potvin would rate higher than Al MacInnis (and Ray Bourque) in that category.

I've always been biased toward evaluating a player's performance within the context of his team.

That is to say, Denis Potvin was a "dominating" player - offensively and defensively - on one of the most "dominating" teams ever. That should count for something; perhaps it does in your equation.

For that matter, ideally, a player who was less astute at the defensive side of the game should be noted as such in any evaluation of his offense. That is, Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Ray Bourque, for example, were superior defensively to Paul Coffey; I do not think you will find many who will argue that statement. Likewise, Coffey for a large part of his career played for (and flourished on) two teams for which defensive consideration was secondary. Is that a fault of his? No. But it matters, when comparing him to other players who managed to consistently produce offense within the confines of a more disciplined defensive system.

Anyway, as you said, it makes for good discussion.


Last edited by Trottier: 02-20-2006 at 06:42 PM.
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02-19-2006, 11:22 PM
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cup2006sensrule
I am curious if you are using all of Kelly's stats here or only those when he was a defenceman? He was a centre for his last 7 seasons or so I think with the Leafs.

Just curious. It would be very impressive if he is 4th on this list yet played 12 full years as a D-Man.

Was Kelly a Centre only with the Leafs? Did he immediately switch to Centre when he was traded in 1959-60 or did that happen the next season? Did he ever play Defence for the Leafs? Anyone know?

+++ Apparently you accounted for Kelly missed that above, interesting he is so high and very impressive+++

Still interested in details about Kelly though if anyone knows.
Kelly led NHL defensemen in goals for 8 straight years, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57. Orr also led 8 times, but only had 7 years in a row. He also led in assists 3 times, 51, 52, 54. He led in points 5 times, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54. His string of 5 years leading in goals and points is bettered only by Orr.

He was a unanimous selection in all-star voting 3 times. Among the results we've put together so far, only Bourque (2) and Orr (4) have also done it more than once.

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02-20-2006, 03:07 AM
  #24
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Originally Posted by Ogopogo
I am glad I put chooch on ignore. I am sure he has posted some gems in this thread.
Me too. Pity that he can't grace us with his superior hockey intellect.

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02-20-2006, 04:12 AM
  #25
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I don't mind statistics, but not including Slava Fetisov in this debate is just.... One of the most skilled defenseman I've ever seen, and in his prime he really could dominate. Or maybe only NHL players and statistics are included?

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