Sean Avery is a notorious pest. Teams hate to play against him. He gets under your skin, he talks your ear off and goads you into taking dumb penalties.
However, his act can wear thin on his teammates and coaches, which explains why he's currently unemployed.
Where does Avery rank on the list of all-time greatest pests?
You can't start thinking about pests without thinking about Tie Domi. Domi is third overall in penalty minutes in history. He laid big hits and got into it with players and fans alike.
Let's not forget about Dino Ciccarelli. He's probably the best pest of all-time, scoring 608 career goals. But he played it rough on the ice, too, and was once arrested for assault after a nasty hit to Luke Richardson.
Matthew Barnaby was one of the biggest pests of all-time. Despite his small stature, he was known to fight anyone and throw his body around like it was a piece of plastic. He just annoyed players and forced them off their game.
You don't get the nickname "The Little Ball of Hate" without being annoying. That's what Pat Verbeek was. He could chat all day, and throw his body around as well.
Not many people could understand what Esa Tikkanen was actually saying. His made-up language of "Tikannese" didn't stop him from chatting up a storm on the ice. Maybe the fact that players were so baffled by him made him tough to play against. Tikkanen played a big role on five Stanley Cup teams.
And then there's Claude Lemieux, who laid big hits and drew the ire of all who played against him.
So where does this leave Avery on the list? He got into a lot of hot water for his comments on the ice, but did find a home with the Rangers. His aggressive, pugnacious style was adored by fans. He would drop the gloves, talk all day but also put the puck in the net.
His infamous "Avery Rule" play, where he waved his stick in front of Martin Brodeur may have been classless, but hey, it worked—he scored on the play.
But the Rangers grew tired of Avery taking too many penalties and eventually cut ties with him.
A pest has to be able to last a long time in the league and be successful. That's what makes Dino Ciccarelli so impressive. That's what makes Esa Tikkanen so impressive. Pests have a job to do, but must do it under control. Too often, Avery got out of control.
While Avery may be the most well-known modern pest, he is not the best. He never made a huge impact on his teams, and they eventually got rid of him. He never won a Cup or helped a team in a long playoff run. His antics were eventually too much. He was not able to walk the fine line. He was good at what he did. But, there are too many guys who did it better.