Agitators are a fact of life in the NHL.
If you want to win the Stanley Cup, you are much better off having one or two players who can get under the skin of their opponents while they are competing.
Last year, Mike Richards played a key role in the Los Angeles Kings' run to the Stanley Cup. In addition to the 15 points he scored in 20 playoff games, Richards knows how to get under the skin of everyone he plays against.
He perfected that tendency during the six years he played in Philadelphia prior to getting traded to Los Angeles, and it paid off for the Kings.
Agitators are all-around players who can fight, annoy, poke and prod. They will do anything they can to get under the skins of their opponents and help their team win games.
Note: Don't look for Sean Avery here. He is retired and gone on to an unlikely career of advertising (source: New York Post).