Sergei Gonchar – Say what you will about his defensive abilities (or lack there of) but he has to be considered among the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. In his last 5 NHL seasons he has posted 54, 57, 59, 67, and 58 points and among the lead leaders for defensemen, if not leading the league himself. Although he is off to a bit of a slow this year but once again I think we should expect 55 or so points.
Bryan McCabe – I am not sure I would have put him second on the list 3 weeks ago but he has shown his 2003-04 season wasn’t a fluke. Not only is he the league leader in points by a defensemen, he is tied for second in the league for points overall and the guy ahead of him (Jagr) has played 2 more games. This after being 4th in points by a defenseman in 2003-04.
Scott Niedermayer – Like Gonchar, Niedermayer is also off to a slow start this year but he also has a long track record of being among the league leaders in points by a defenseman. He skates well, has a good shot, and is one of the best in quarterbacking a power play.
Chris Pronger – For many years Chris Pronger has been a regular Norris trophy candidate for best defenseman and won the Norris trophy and Hart Trophy (league MVP) in 1999-2000. Not only is he an imposing figure defending his own zone he contributes significantly offensively posting 45 or more points every year since 1998-99 except for the year he missed all but 5 games and in the last NHL season he tied for second in points by a defenseman with 54.
Bryan Berard – Once one of the best young defensemen in the NHL, a serious eye injury almost cost him his career, but despite having limited vision in one eye he is proving he still has the offensive flair he had before the injury. In 2003-04 he totalled 47 points in just 58 games and so far this year he has 4 points in 6 games for a weak Columbus team. A 50+ point season is a definite possibility for Berard.
Mathieu Schneider – I think Schneider has had a very under rated NHL career. He’s never really been considered one of the top few point producing defensemen but he frequently has been in the top 10 and seems to be getting even better at this late stage in his career. In his last 2 NHL seasons he has had 50 and 46 points and is off to a good start this year with 6 points in 7 games and has seemingly passed Nicklas Lidstrom as the Red Wings top offensive defenseman.
Kimmo Timonen – He has put up 40+ point seasons and has 5 points in his first 6 games this year but playing in Nashville, few people know him and how good he is. He is quick, has a good shot, and is a good power play quarterback. He is a major reason for Nashville’s success this year and last.
Brian Leetch – For most of his career he was considered one of the top 3 offensive defenseman and although he is now in his late 30’s, he still has the touch. He finished 2003-04 seventh in scoring by defensemen and with 4 points in 8 games to start this season he is showing that he isn’t done yet. Still an excellent skater and passer, Leetch should benefit greatly by the new rules.
Paul Mara – I wanted to get a couple young, up and comers on this list and Paul Mara is is the guy. He had 42 points in 2003-04 and has 6 points in 9 games so far this season. Unfortunately since he plays in Phoenix not many people have heard about him but he is pretty good and probably going to get better.
Rob Blake – There are a number of defensemen in their late 30’s who have made this list and Blake is another of those guys. He finished 9th in scoring among defenseman in 2003-04 and his good start this year shows he still has it (4 points in 6 games). Although I personally think he has been overrated as a defenseman, he has produced offensively and that is why he makes this list.
Honorable Mentions: Marek Zidlicky, Brian Rafalski, Wade Redden, Kim Johnsson, Zdeno Chara, Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Kaberle, Brent Sopel, Lubomir Visnovsky, John-Michael Liles Dick Tarnstrom and I am sure others I have missed.