First, let me just say right off the bat, I am very aware that the first decade of the new millennium won’t end until the end of 2010. However, with blogosphere jumping on the “Best of the Decade” bandwagon I feel compelled to contribute my two cents. Since we are considering 9 years to be a decade, I figured 9 players could comprise this top 10 list.
For my “Best of the Decade” list I’ve chosen to recognize those sandpaper players that have the uncanny knack for irritating the H-E-double hockey sticks out of opposing players, coaches and fans. These select few have reached the apex of annoyance. Whether they are chirping, delivering bone crushing body checks, concussion inducing hits to the head, gouging eyes, or just plain inciting mayhem; they have secured themselves a NHL roster spot by filling the ever important niche role of “Pest”. These guys are some of the most beloved by their hometown fans and elicit an equal amount of disdain from everyone else. I submit for your reading pleasure, The Best of the Decade: Pests and Agitators. Not everyone is going to agree with my list, but I welcome feedback and comments.
#9 – Scott Hartnell – As arguably the most skilled scorer on this list he has made his mark on the league as being a power forward with the ability to play strong around the opponents net and get under their skin. He’s been in some hot water in the past for questionable high hits and allegedly biting Penguins defender Kris Letang in October of 2009. In fact, in March of 2009 a Penguins fan wore a Flyers jersey and an orange wig to a game, with the jersey emblazoned with the name “Fartsmell”. To Hartnell’s credit after the game he signed the jersey, “To my biggest fan!! Your bud Scott Fartsmell 19”, and gave the fan his game used stick. Gotta love the Pens and Flyers rivalry.
#8 – Ian Laperriere – Lappy currently holds the record for the most fighting majors in an Avalanche jersey. His misshapen nose is enough evidence that he is among the elite at causing opponents to lose their cool. In 2008-09 Laperriere was nominated for the Masterton Trophy, which is given to the player that best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. I’m going to guess it was more for his perseverance and dedication.
#7 – Darcy Tucker – Tucker is probably best known for blowing out Michael Peca’s ACL and MCL in his left knee during the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Most recently, he was blasted from behind by Hurricane’s player Tuomo Ruutu and had to be carted off the ice on a backboard. Tucker received a concussion, but has since returned to bothering players around the league incessantly.
#6 – Jarkko Ruutu – He’s been agitating NHLer’s for about as long as anyone in the league. Jarkko has been known to bite people in fights and deliver the high hits to the head. A fixture in the NHL landscape of agitators, consider this a lifetime achievement award.
#5 – Jordin Tootoo – Known for dating Kelly Pickler, receiving multiple suspensions for head shots, and being voted to “Dirtiest Player” lists. If any of you have watched your favorite team play against the Preds than you have no doubt wanted to climb through your television screen and instigate a fight with this 5’ 9” bundle of fury. I mean c’mon, his middle name is Kudluk, which in Inuit translates to “Thunder”.
#4 – Ryan Kesler – Kesler is proving to be a team leader and developing into a good scorer for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s been nominated for the Frank J. Selke Award and in 2009 was given the Cyclone Taylor Award (MVP of the Canucks). Kesler has seen his share of abuse as well, the victim of the notorious Chris Pronger calf stomp and the Jesse Boulerice cross-check to the grill. As a Minnesota Wild fan, I harbor a very intense dislike for Ryan Kesler. Fun to watch play the game, but always a pain the rear.
#3 – Matt Cooke – Cooke has received multiple suspensions for head shots and is just generally bothersome. One of my favorite Matt Cooke moments is when he punched Derek Boogaard in the chest over the boards of the player bench. Then proceeded to quickly turn tail and run to the safety of his own bench. Turtle-ing at its best.
#2 – Steve Ott – Steve Ott has been known for the occasional head shot, eye gouging Travis Moen, and my personal favorite, chirping. In fact, he is such an artist of the chirp that he has learned and memorized offensive phrases in a variety of languages to ensure he’s able to insult opposing players regardless of their nationality. Maybe he should be nominated for the Masterton Trophy, if that doesn’t exemplify perseverance and dedication than I don’t know what does.
#1 – Sean Avery – Is there really any question here? We all remember the “Sloppy Seconds” comment. Not to mention, “The Sean Avery Rule”, this was instituted after his antics in front of Martin Broduer during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL had to reinterpret rules to account for the Sean Avery Gong Show, now that is an accomplishment. Avery has interned at Vogue Magazine, been voted to the People Magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” list, and dated a handful of celebrities. The guy is irritating by nature and knows how to use those attributes to his advantage. Love him or hate him, he’s good at what he does.
Up and Comers…
I thought I should give a quick shout out to a few younger guys poised to be the next generation of pests. Maxim Lapierre, Alex Burrows, Patrick Kaleta, Steve Downie, Adam Burish, and my personal favorite Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck set the single season hits record last season for the Minnesota Wild and will likely lead the league again this year. He’s got a notoriously sharp tongue on the ice and is absolutely fantastic at drawing penalties and not retaliating. Plus, he’s so good at what he does he engaged former Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky in an on-ice screaming match over fighting with a visor on. Great stuff. My favorite Clutterbuck quotes:
To Colorado’s Darcy Tucker: “Don’t talk to me until you brush your teeth. Your breath is awful.”
To Okposo: “Shave your neck. If you can’t grow hair on the rest of your face, why try at all?”
To Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler: “What does it feel like to have your nose resting against your visor the whole game?”
To Calgary’s Todd Bertuzzi, who infamously broke Steve Moore’s neck: “First game I played him, he said he’s going to kill me. I said, ‘I don’t doubt it.’ Then, I turned to the linesman and said, ‘Did you hear him?’ You know, just in case.”
Thanks to Mike Russo at the Star Tribune for the Clutterbuck quotes. Read the story here.
Also, I’ll be tweeting occasionally about the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and other hockey related topics. Feel free to follow me at @amcaswell .