NHL Stanley Cup Finals: 20 Scariest Opponents to Face in Stanley Cup History
The 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Finals matchup is finally determined, with the Los Angeles Kings set to take on the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings rolled through the first three rounds, jumping out to a 3-0 series lead on all of their opponents, despite being the lowest seed in their conference. The Devils needed an overtime win in Game 7 of their opening round but dominated the Philadelphia Flyers and eliminated the Eastern Conference's top seed.
Neither team appears to be an easy opponent, but for the most part, none of them are particularly scary. Some players, coaches or teams in NHL history were not only difficult to play against, but downright intimidating.
20. Jim Playfair
Currently an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, Playfair is not a man you wanted to upset. While coaching the AHL’s Abbotsford Flames in 2010, he absolutely lost it.
Though his team fell short of the finals this season, Playfair makes the list for one of the most intense coaching tirades you will ever see.
19. Chris Nilan
Nilan totaled 3,043 penalty minutes during his career, while also winning the Stanley Cup in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens. Nilan totaled just 17 points in the playoffs over his career but was not a pleasant character on the ice.
18. Tom Webster
Webster played for the 1969-70 Boston Bruins and also won a World Hockey Association Championship with the New England Whalers in 1973. His championship experience is not what makes him scary, though.
As a coach of the Los Angeles Kings in the early 1990’s, Webster not only threw a stick at referee Kerry Fraser, but dropped Doug Gilmour with a punch from the bench.
17. John Tortorella
Tortorella’s New York Rangers fell short of the finals this season, but the Stanley Cup-winning coach is always a fearsome figure.
16. Rick Tocchet
Tocchet played in three Stanley Cup Finals series, losing two with the Flyers in 1985 and 1987 before winning one with Pittsburgh in 1992. Tocchet was the definition of a power forward, averaging more than 60 points and 200 penalty minutes per season in his career.
15. Paul Holmgren
Now the Flyers’ General Manager, Holmgren used to play and coach in Philadelphia. He played for the team in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals. His aggressive demeanor was not welcoming to opponents.
14. Clark Gillies
The four-time Stanley Cup champion was also one of the NHL’s best fighters.
13. Pat Burns
The last time the 2012 Eastern Conference Champions won the Stanley Cup, Burns was their coach. The three-time Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) Winner combined success and intensity to a memorable level.
12. Martin Brodeur
Brodeur is looking for his fourth Cup during the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. While his impeccable playoff history intimidates opponents, he’s also not a fun person to deal with when he is angry.
11. Tim Thomas
Not only was Thomas a shut-down force in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, he was not afraid to protect himself with physical force.
10. Ron Hextall
Not only was Hextall a Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie for the Flyers, he was their starter in the Stanley Cup Finals twice over two decades and was an absolute nutcase.
9. Joey Kocur
This is the single greatest knockout in NHL history. Kyte's head does not hit the ice when he goes down. The damage is from Kocur's right hand only.
The hardest puncher in the history of the NHL also won three Stanley Cups. It hurts to lose, but it hurts a lot more to be punched by a Kocur right.
8. Dave Brown
Brown, one of the top five hockey fighters of all-time, appeared in the finals for both the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. He is listed as the “Heavyweight Champ” at hockeyfights.com from 1984 to 1991.
Brown is not a guy anyone wanted to play against.
7. Chris Pronger
Pronger is one of the most intimidating non-retired players in NHL history. Nobody wanted to face Pronger at any time in the season, never mind with the most important trophy in the sport on the line.
6. Derian Hatcher
Hatcher played in the finals with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and 2000. The mammoth 6’5”, 235-pound defenseman hit hard and played great when it mattered.
5. Claude Lemieux
Lemieux did whatever it took to win. As dangerous of a player he was, he could beat his opponents on the scoreboard too. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995 and won the Stanley Cup four times with three different teams. He totaled 158 points in 234 playoff games.
4. Scott Stevens
The hardest hitting NHL player of all time was an excellent defenseman. He won the Stanley Cup three times and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2000.
3. Gordie Howe
Mr. Hockey was awful to play against.
Not only was he a superb scorer throughout his career and a four-time Stanley Cup champion, but his well-storied reputation of being intensely physical was no work of fiction.
2. Montreal Canadiens, 1951 to 1960
The Canadiens of the 1950s were not intimidating in the sense that opponents feared for their health, but in the sense that their opponents knew defeat was imminent.
Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante…the list of legends on these championship teams goes on and on.
In what was the most dominant decade in NHL history—Montreal went to the Stanley Cup Finals 10 consecutive times, winning six. Had Montreal not lost Game 7 of the finals to Detroit in 1954 and 1955, they would have won eight consecutive Stanley Cups.
In the 1955-56 season, Montreal won 45 regular season games and went 10-2 in the playoffs for a total record of 53 wins, 17 losses and 10 ties.
They were scary good.
1. Broad Street Bullies
Nobody wants to lose the Stanley Cup. Nobody wants to lose the Stanley Cup while also being physically abused by the toughest team in NHL history.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ cup-winning teams of the 1970s exemplify the worst possible opponent for anyone.
Jason Sapunka is available on Twitter for NHL updates, commentary and analysis.