Last week the finalists for the Lady Byng and Norris trophies were announced, and while fans can speculate as to which player is most deserving of these hallowed awards, we must also reflect on other, less celebrated achievements from the 2007-08 NHL Regular Season. Yes, it's time for the 2008 Alternative NHL Awards, recognizing the best of the best (or is it the worst of the worst?) when it comes to on-ice illicit activity...
For historical reference, the 2007 and 2006 award listings are also available.
Boarding: Usually the haven of lumbering, slack-jawed knuckle draggers who aim to intimidate opponents, this year's crop of Bellicose Boarders included a number of smaller, workaday checking forwards like Todd Marchant (3) and Kris Draper (4), who tied for the league lead alongside defenseman Andrej Meszaros of Ottawa. Based on the fact that he's obviously working through some "issues" since being so viciously boarded by Claude Lemieux in the 1996 Western Conference Finals, the award goes to Draper for 2008.
Charging: The credit crunch that threatens today's economy has apparently rendered Charging rather less fashionable; this year's Top Charger, Ben Eager, racked up only three such fouls, the lowest total for a league-leader in the post-lockout era of the NHL. Interestingly, he earned all of them while playing only 23 games for Philadelphia before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Cross-Checking: The competition in this category was intense, with Pavel Kubina of the Maple Leafs, Christian Ehrhoff from the Sharks, and Sean O'Donnell of the Ducks tied with six infractions apiece, only to be outdone by two All-Stars, Boston's Zdeno Chara and Ottawa's Dany Heatley with seven, to tie for the 2008 title.
Delay of Game - Goaltender: After leading the league in 2006 and 2007, Dominik Hasek has finally figured out how to "avoid the 'zoid", and not get called for Delay of Game like he used to. This year's leader (who tied with the Dominator last year) is Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders with three such calls.
Delay of Game - Puck Over Glass: One of the less popular rules coming out of the lockout sends a player to the box for firing pucks into the stands, in order to eliminate extraneous stoppages in play. Some NHL'ers just like giving away souvenirs to remember them by, however, and this year, six of them tied for the league-lead with 4 infractions apiece: Sergei Gonchar, Hal Gill, Eric Brewer, Brad Stuart, Milan Michalek, and Kim Johnsson. Who says the NHL isn't fan-friendly?
Diving: Embellishing fouls to draw a referee's attention is as old as the game itself, followed closely by complaining about said flopping. This year's outstanding dramatist was Jarkko Ruutu of the Pittsburgh Penguins (with three diving calls), followed by his brother, Chicago's Tuomo Ruutu, along with six others with two. The team leader here was Columbus with seven, followed by Pittsburgh and Chicago with five.
Elbowing: Nothing says "Howdy Do" like a well placed, armored elbow to your opponent's jawline. Joining veteran Calgary defenseman Robin Regehr at the top of the charts this year was Los Angeles Kings rookie sensation Jack Johnson, with each giving out three illegal shots.
Fighting: Always a hotly contested category, this season's pugilists filled up the penalty box at nearly a 50% greater rate than the last two seasons. Jarred Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets led all scrappers with 27 fighting majors, compared to league-leading totals of 18 in 2005-6 and 2006-7. Riley Cote of Philadelphia (shocking, eh?) was second with 24, followed by Anaheim's George Parros (last year's leader) and Edmonton's Zack Stortini with 23.
Goaltender Interference: While Jarred Boll gave it a good run with 4 calls for running the opposing goalie, it's no surprise to see Detroit's Round Mound of Rebound, Tomas Holmstrom, leading the NHL with 6 penalties for getting all up in the goatender's business.
Hi-Sticking: Make sure you wear your visor when Montreal's Mike Komisarek is in the room; his seven Hi-Sticking fouls were tops in the league, ahead of Robin Regehr, Keith Tkachuk, and Marek Zidlicky with six each.
Holding: Some guys see all the fast-paced action and violent fury around them, and simply want to reach out and give their opponent a hug. Colorado's Scott Hannan and Ottawa's Christoph Shubert were the clingiest of the bunch, getting whistled eleven times each for Holding. Get them a teddy bear to hold on the bench, already...
Hooking: After a solid two-year run atop the NHL, Sergei "The Happy Hooker" Gonchar relinquished his crown this year to rising superstar Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who racked up 17 Hooking penalties. Gonchar's figure of 13 is down nearly 50% from two seasons ago.
Interference: Detroit's Andreas Lilja and Calgary's Dion Phaneuf played "Human Road Block" the most this year, getting called 10 times apiece for Interference. Rather than playing like pylons, these blueliners were more like that slow-poke driver in the passing lane who holds everyone else up.
Roughing: Ottawa's Chris Neil played like sandpaper this season, totalling 27 Roughing penalties to take this category in a landslide over Vancouver winger Alex Burrows' second-place mark of 19. Burrows tied for the top spot here last season, while Neil placed second in 2006.
Slashing: Fancy stickwork doesn't just have to involve dangling the puck; it can also mean a well-placed whack to the wrists, as demonstrated by Edmonton's Jarret Stoll, whose nine Slashing fouls topped the charts.
Too Many Men: This ensemble award went to those plucky young Edmonton Oilers, with 13 bench minors for putting too many men on the ice. Perhaps head coach Craig MacTavish needs a few of those electro-shocking dog collars to train his young charges not to hop over the boards prematurely.
Tripping: Talk about opposite ends of the NHL talent spectrum; Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Calgary's Cory Sarich tied atop the Tripping standings with 11 such penalties.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Sadly, even polished professionals make the occasional faux pas in the heat of the moment, resulting in ungentlemanly - nay, Unsportsmanlike conduct taking place. This season, Daniel Carcillo of the Phoenix Coyotes lost his decorum most often, serving seven sentences for violating the unwritten rules of sound play which the distinguished, genteel souls of the NHL otherwise adhere to. I'm sure an off-season session at Charm School will help Mr. Carcillo compose himself more admirably next year.
In terms of all-around performance, Carcillo took the gold with 83 total penalties combining for a whopping 324 penalty minutes in 2007-8. Calgary's Dion Phaneuf came in second with 71 for 182 PIM, with Ottawa's Chris Neil right behind with 70 calls and 199 PIM. When it comes to the penalty-minute measurement, nobody came close to Carcillo's 324, with Jarret Boll of Columbus far back at 226. This was due to Carcillo's twelve Misconduct or Game Misconduct calls, which each count for 10 PIM. Will the young Coyote retain his crown next year, or will another young ruffian come along to knock him off?