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
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
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
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)