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After the initial disappointment of not getting a coveted centre and the subsequent acceptance/realization that Rielly is a player with a lot of potential, I felt a red-flag go off in my mind and at first I couldn't quite figure out what it was. Then I started thinking about offensive defensemen lately and how often they've been able to replicate elite success with names like Ryan Whitney, Sheldon Souray, and Keith Yandle immediately springing to mind. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I decided to have a more detailed look at things.
Using Hockey Reference I decided to look at top-tier production from defensemen since 1995, defining 'top-tier' as 55 points or more in a single season. In terms of raw numbers, there were 90 cases of defensemen meeting or exceeding this threshold. 9 of these seasons occurred pre-lockout, and 8 were post-lockout. Pre-lockout there were an average of 4.88 defensemen who achieved these numbers each season while post-lockout the average increased to 5.75.
While the number of cases has increased post-lockout, longevity seems to be on the decline. Of the 18 defensemen who had their first 55-point seasons post-lockout, only Dan Boyle, Brian Rafalski, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Mike Green have been able to accomplish the feat more than twice and each of them have done it 3 times. Now obviously part of this can be attributed to opportunity -- Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty will have plenty of chances to exceed the 55-point mark in coming years -- but we simply aren't seeing the consistency of performance among offensive defensemen that we saw from the '90s crop of Lidstrom, Leetch, Bourque, Blake, Zubov et al. While occurrences have increased, year-in and year-out dominance from star defensemen appears to be on the decline.