Today I thought I'd highlight some of the top penalty specialists of the 2005-6 NHL season. No, not penalty killing specialists, but instead those guys who took the most penalties of various kinds. The Syracuse Bulldogs had the infamous Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, a master at using the blade of his stick on anything but the puck, but who deserves that tag in the NHL? Here's a quick look at some of the leading practitioners of hockey's Dark Arts:
Chairmen of the Boards:
Vitaly Vishnevski (then with Anaheim, now with Atlanta) and Brooks Orpik of Pittsburgh led all players with 4 Boarding penalties, each with 3 minors and a major.
That Belongs in the Summer, Not Winter, Olympics:
Diving is always a hot-button issue in heated rivalries, and last year's Diving Champion was Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk with 4 Diving penalties. Coming up behind him with 3 each were Washington's Dainius Zubrus, Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov, and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik. I'm sure Don Cherry would have nothing to say about all these guys being of European origin...
Credit Card Junkies:
The Rangers' Ryan Hollweg led all players with 5 Charging penalties (4 minor, 1 major), in only 52 games. Somebody get a handle on this kid! In a 3-way tie for second place, Jarkko Ruutu (then with Vancouver, now with Pittsburgh), Derek Boogaard of the Wild (no nose-picking jokes, please, he might read this), and Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk tallied 3 charging penalties apiece.
Stop That, You'll Go Blind:
After more than a decade in the league, you'd think that L.A. King Craig Conroy would learn that you can't close your hand on the puck. But he was nailed twice last year on this call, more than anyone else in the league. Some guys just can't help themselves, apparently.
No, This Doesn't Mean Hasek's Angry:
So who led the league in Cross-Checking last year? None other than 21-goal scoring defenseman Mathieu Schneider of Detroit, an 8-time offender. Four other players were next up with 6 infractions apiece.
There's No Alley-Oop In Hockey:
One of the recent rule changes is the Delay of Game call for shooting the puck over the glass. Former New York Islander (now L.A. King) Brent Sopel tied with former Wild (now Tampa Bay Lightning) Filip Kuba for sending 5 free souvenirs into the stands, and putting their own team a man down.
Annoyed By The Trapezoid:
Another rule change has the goaltenders required to play the puck within a trapezoid behind the net - puckhandling outside of that zone is a minor penalty. The always entertaining Dominik Hasek led all netminders with 5 offenses here (in only half a season!), with Curtis Joseph right behind with 4.
You Ain't No Gordie Howe:
Former Oiler now Duck Chris Pronger led all players with 4 Elbowing penalties last season. I certainly wouldn't want to see him out on the dance floor at a wedding doing the Chicken Dance...
Just Give Peace a Chance:
Perhaps the most coveted and revered penalty specialist is the Fighter, that Righter of Wrongs who steps in to defend his teammates and restore the balance of justice in what is often a cruel game. Former King (now Avalanche) George Parros tied with Ottawa Senator Brian McGrattan with 18 fighting majors last year. They also tied with scintillating 2 goal, 3 assist offensive efforts.
Hit The Showers Already:
Something must have honked off Eric Cairns when he was traded from Florida to Pittsburgh last year, as he racked up 3 Game Misconducts in a mere 27 games wearing the gold & black, tying professional pest Sean Avery of the L.A. Kings for the league lead. Maybe he had a favorite shower stall he wanted dibs on...
Keep Your Blade On The Ice, Boys:
Some guys put their money where their mouth is, and some would rather put their stick where YOUR mouth is. We had a three-way tie for the top High Stick practitioners: Micheal Nylander of the New York Rangers, Jaroslav Spacek now with Buffalo, and Mathieu Dandenault in Montreal.
Wilson Phillips Ain't Hockey Music:
So who couldn't help Holding on to their opponents? That would be Andreas Lilja of Detroit, who kept on huggin' to the tune of 17 holding penalties last year. Ruslan Salei (formerly of Anaheim, now with Florida) was next with 15 illegal clutches.
Dude, Watch the Hands:
It's bad enough to hold your opponent, worse yet to just reach out and hold their stick. Former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi couldn't keep his mitts off of opposing lumber the most last year, getting whistled 6 times. Nashville Predators Ryan Suter and Martin Erat were next with 5 and 4 penalties respectively.
This Ain't Fishin', Pal:
Sometimes when you get tired of skating it's easier to just hook an opponent with your blade and coast along for the ride. That's what Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar did more than anyone else last year, getting caught 25 times for Hooking, well ahead of 2nd place Jan Hrdina of Columbus with 20. At least he led the league in something for $4.5 million, right?
Somebody Get This Guy A Ruler:
When it came to illegal blades, New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr got caught twice with an overly wicked curve, the only player to do so more than once. With this year's change allowing extra curvature and adjusting the challenge rules, I'll bet we'll see this pop up even less than it did before.
Let's Get It Started:
Sure, lots of guys fight in the NHL, but apparently very few of them start fights. Veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell tied with Duvie Westcott of Columbus with 3 Instigator penalties apiece. Maybe they just lack the rhythm to drop their gloves at the same time as the other guy...
What, He Didn't Have the Puck?
The NHL has made a lot of noise about cracking down on Interference in the last few years, and apparently old man Chris Chelios of the Red Wings needs to turn up his hearing aid. He got called for 11 Interference penalties last season, narrowly beating out Brendan Witt (last year with Washington and Nashville, now with the New York Islanders).
You Don't Belong In The Crease:
Nobody bulldozed the goaltenders more than Dustin Brown of L.A. and Todd Bertuzzi, who got called for Goaltender Interference 6 times each.
Bow Wow Wow:
When it came to Roughing, nobody came close to Jarkko Ruutu, who led the league with 20 Roughing calls. Add that to his near league-leading Charging performance, and you've quite the versatile offender. Ottawa's Chris Neil came in 2nd with 15 such penalties.
This Ain't D&D, Bub:
Brendan Witt apparently wasn't content with interfering with players, he also wanted to hack their limbs off, taking 12 Slashing minors last season. Chris Chelios was up next with 7 mighty swings, followed by a host of of others with 6.
Get 'Em An Abacus:
When it came to outstanding team efforts at taking penalties, the L.A. Kings led all squads with 16 Too Many Men calls. Washington, Atlanta, Montreal and Florida were all next with 11, so L.A. must have something real special going on there.
What Is This, Woodstock?
Tripping was a league-wide concern last year, with four players getting whistled 11 times for sending opponents on a long, strange trip - Toronto's Bryan McCabe, Nashville's Dan Hamhuis, Brendan Witt, and San Jose's Mark Smith. Just look at Smith's hair, does that look like the product of a stable mind?
You Ain't The Boss, Kid:
There would seem to be something to the criticism of Sidney Crosby that he whines too much to officials, as he was pegged with a league-leading 6 Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties last year. Donald Brashear came in next with 5. Maybe if he played with a pacifier in his mouth, the ref wouldn't hear him. Hey, it's just a suggestion...