Sidney Crosby and the NHL's 13 Most Dramatic Players
Drama manifests itself in various forms—a truth evident on a nightly basis in the NHL, as arenas from coast to coast transform suddenly from standard sheets of ice to center stage on Broadway.
From off-ice antics to thrilling, game-winning goals, the oft-injured to wanton whining, here is a list of the NHL's 13 most dramatic players.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 13 Alexander Radulov
UPDATE: Radulov is obviously back in Nashville for the playoff stretch, but will he stay past that or return to the KHL? More drama to be expected this offseason.
Nashville Predator fans continue to hold their collective breath in hopes the Russian sniper will return to the Music City four years after he jumped ship and signed with Salavat Yulaev of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Radulov's exodus sparked a harsh debate over contract transfers and poaching players overseas, while further straining already tense relations between the NHL and upstart KHL.
The move left Nashville void of arguably the greatest talent in franchise history, but the Predators' loss is the KHL's gain. Radulov won the KHL's scoring title in 2010-11, leading his team team to the KHL title in the process.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 12 Jaromir Jagr
Despite two Stanley Cups, five scoring titles and one Hart Trophy in Pittsburgh, the legendary Jaromir Jagr left the Steel City amidst controversy—leaving the Penguin faithful seething with ill will.
After a mediocre stint with the Washington Capitals and resurgent years in New York, Jagr signed an extremely lucrative (and tax-free) contract with Omsk of the KHL, spending three seasons playing in Russia.
The true drama came prior to the 2011-12 season when Jagr announced he was returning to the NHL at age 39. Experts and fans alike were convinced that Jagr would finish his career in Pittsburgh, but at the last moment, his plane diverted to rival Philadelphia where the Czech winger inked a one-year deal with the Flyers instead of the Penguins.
Pittsburgh fans were willing to accept Jagr back, but he further spurned a fan base that supported him vehemently for several years.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 11 Rick DiPietro
Rick DiPietro's 15-year, $67.5 million contract hangs like an albatross upon the neck of the New York Islanders. In five injury-plagued seasons since the deal was inked, DiPietro has played just 110 NHL games, an average of just 22 games per season. Besides a good 2007-08 season, DiPietro's numbers have been lackluster, at best.
Each time DiPietro re-injures himself, fans curse the Islander front office for making such a long-term commitment that shows no sign of panning out. And, ten years remain on the contract. Certainly, a tense situation out on Long Island.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 10 Johan Franzen
The Mule is no stranger to big performances in big moments. Currently, Franzen leads the NHL with eight game-winning goals—accounting for roughly one-quarter of the Red Wings' wins.
Of course, 2011-12 is not an anomaly for Franzen, as the Swede is known for huge performances in meaningful games. From the 2007-08 to the 2009-10 playoffs, Franzen posted 59 points in 51 games, including a 13-goal performance during the Red Wings 2008 Stanley Cup Championship march.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 9 PK Subban
Jovial, and sometimes mercurial, P.K. Subban has a knack for leaving Canadiens fans breathless with his end-to-end rushes and, oops, immature behavior.
Reports of infighting with teammates and brash trash-talk directed at opponents and referees have earned Subban extra scrutiny in the media fishbowl known as Montreal.
Add to that allegations that the Montreal defenseman spit on Ranger Michael Del Zotto in a recent game and it's no surprise he's considered one of the NHL's most controversial and dramatic players.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 8 Roberto Luongo
Love and hate. That's the most apt description of Roberto Luongo's relationship with Canucks fans and the hockey media. Not because of Luongo's attitude or behavior, but because of his all-or-nothing performance between the pipes—especially in big games.
Luongo is known for his tremendous regular season resume, but famously flopping during postseason play. He did win the Gold Medal for Team Canada in 2010, but that only adds to the frustration that most fans feel toward their franchise goaltender. It's Stanley Cup or bust at this point for Luongo.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 7 Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin's name is synonymous with 'enigma'. No other NHL player embodies unreached potential quite like Semin and very few franchises have a more frustrating star on their roster.
Semin's name is bandied about every trade deadline, but not before exploding on an incredible points streak, forcing General Manager George McPhee to retain the winger's services. A lot of talent, but rife with consternation.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 6 Henrik Lundqvist
King Henrik's coming out party was the 2006 Olympics, when the young goaltender anchored a Swedish side that surprised the world when it captured the Gold Medal against Finland.
As an NHL-er, Lundqvist keeps the Rangers in games on a nightly basis, mainly because in recent years the team has proven offensively deficient. Fans at Madison Square Garden are accustomed to Lundqvist making the spectacular save seem ordinary, preserving ties and maintaining leads as a result.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 5 Patrick Kane
The highest of highs and the lowest of lows—Patrick Kane has experienced both. The Blackhawks forward, his ability to dangle in a phone booth notwithstanding, has produced major headlines in his career, and not all of them good.
Nothing is more dramatic than Kane's overtime, game-winning and Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. An amazing moment indeed—one that will give fans the chills for years to come.
The headlines weren't as complimentary earlier that season as pictures circulated of Kane, without his shirt on, and teammates in the back of a limo with unidentified women. Or, in 2009 when Kane and his cousin allegedly assaulted a Buffalo cab driver in a dispute over the amount of change returned by the driver.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 4 Scott Hartnell
If you had the chance to watch HBO's "24/7 Winter Classic" documentary, you know why Hartnell is included on this list.
Hartnell has never passed up the opportunity to mix it up with opponents and the referee and he constantly plays the game on the edge, straddling the line between rule-abiding and rule-breaking. To be sure, Hartnell is involved in every play and every skirmish—a true factor when he's on the ice.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 3 Matt Cooke
Matt Cooke brings the NHL agitator role to a whole new level—the definition of a player that you absolutely hate, unless he wears your team's sweater. Cooke is a repeat offender with the NHL's Disciplinary Committee and has been known to have a few heart-to-hearts with Commissioner Bettman.
Cooke drew the ire of fans everywhere after blindsiding Marc Savard, who suffered a severe concussion and has not gotten his career back on track since. No matter what NHL arena he plays in, everyone expects Matt Cooke to stir the pot and get under the skin of opponents.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 2 Sean Avery
Wait, what did he say about Dion Phaneuf?
Avery's distasteful 2008 comment about Phaneuf's girlfriend is just a microcosm of Avery's poor reputation across the NHL.
At every stop—Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York—Avery has been cited for lack of focus, a lack of regard for teammates and coaches and questionable play on the ice. A rule was even created about screening goalies in Avery's honor after he obnoxiously interfered with the Devils' Martin Brodeur during the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then there's the whole fashion fixation, but let's not even go there.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: No. 1 Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby or Cindy Crosby? Depends who you ask.
A career-defining Stanley Cup run in 2009, a Gold-Medal-winning goal in 2010 and hundreds of dumbfounding plays all contribute to the "Crosby Mystique".
But the other half says Crosby is a diver, a whiner, a "fill in the blank here". Furthermore, Crosby's year-old concussion saga doesn't look to conclude anytime soon—keeping his name splashed on sports pages everywhere. Many wonder if he's faking or if he'll ever play again.
One thing is certain: Nobody can doubt the talent, but with such a big name, comes a lot of drama.
NHL's Most Dramatic Players: It's Your Town
That's it for our list of the 13 Most Dramatic Players in the NHL. We couldn't include them all and some missed the cut. Who do you think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.