The immortal Bobby Orr was the first defenseman good enough to take charge of an offense. Before knee problems forced his premature retirement, Orr was the most feared offensive performer in the National Hockey League.
Then came Paul Coffey, who helped give the Edmonton Oilers the most powerful offense in NHL history. He scored 48 goals in the 1985-86 season to set a record for backliners.
And, now there is Phil Housley of the Buffalo Sabres, off to the best scoring start by a defenseman.
Housley scored two more goals Sunday night at Buffalo to lead the Sabres to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Housley has 13 goals in 18 games, putting him 3 goals ahead of the pace by Coffey when he set the record.
Housley, whose idol when he grew up in Minnesota was Orr, is in his sixth season as a Sabre. He was still a teen-ager when he scored 31 goals in 1983-84.
"He's reached maturity," Buffalo General Manager Gerry Meehan told USA Today. "He always had talent, but now he has reached his emotional and physical maturity. He's a married guy with a daughter and a mortgage. He has just grown into the league."
Coach Ted Sator is giving Housley more freedom to move into the offensive zone. It is paying off for Housley and the team.
In the first period, the Sabres' Christian Ruuttu, awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down from behind, missed, hitting the goal post.
New York Rangers 6, Winnipeg 4--Walt Poddubny scored two goals and assisted on another at New York as the Rangers ended an eight-game losing streak, their longest in 24 years.
The Rangers, who had gone nine games without winning, took charge in the second period. Marcel Dionne broke a 1-1 tie to give the Rangers the lead for good.
The Rangers had not won since they beat Philadelphia, 5-3, on Oct. 24.
Calgary 8, Vancouver 4--Sensational rookie Brett Hull scored three consecutive goals in the third period at Calgary for his first hat trick.
Hull, son of the great Bobby Hull, broke a 3-3 tie at 8:09, scored again two minutes later and completed his first NHL hat trick at 16:03. Hull has 10 goals.
Chicago 5, Edmonton 4--Steve Larmer broke a third-period tie with the Blackhawks' fourth power-play goal at Chicago and thwart another brilliant performance by Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky scored his 14th goal and assisted on two others, but the Oilers lost for the sixth time in 18 games and their lead in the Smythe Division fell to two points over Calgary.
Larmer's 12th goal one minute into the final period gave Chicago a 4-3 lead.