5 Greatest Enforcers in Devils History

Carl Stoffers@@NHLwriterCorrespondent IIFebruary 5, 2013

5 Greatest Enforcers in Devils History

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    They are often the unsung heroes of hockey, the guys who get little glory and do the [very] dirty work so the stars can shine. It could be argued that Wayne Gretzky was only able to be Wayne Gretzky because Dave "Cement Head" Semenko (and later, Marty McSorley) kept opponents honest. Anyone who messed with the slightly-built Great One would have to answer to one of the most feared men in hockey.

    The Devils have had their share of enforcers come and go over the course of their 30-plus seasons in existence. Watching the backs of New Jersey's skill players was a long list of men, some famous and others fleeting. Here are the five greatest enforcers in Devils history.

5. Troy Crowder, 6'4", 200 Lbs. (1989-1991)

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    Troy Crowder only played two seasons in New Jersey, racking up 205 penalty minutes in 69 games. He was a big, physical guy, but he made this list based of the beating he administered to none other than the legendary Bob Probert on Oct. 4, 1990.

4. Scott Stevens, 6'0", 215 Lbs. (1991-2004)

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    OK, so I'm going to get a lot of grief for this one. I know Scott Stevens wasn't an enforcer in the traditional sense. He wasn't a particularly skilled fighter and didn't fight often, especially towards the end of his career. But Stevens kept opponents honest by dishing out brutal (and clean) hits.

    When Stevens was on the ice, New Jersey's opponents thought twice about taking shots at their skill players. The hall-of-famer protected his teammates with his shoulders, not his fists.

3. Krzysztof Oliwa, 6'5", 245 Lbs. (1996-2000)

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    Nicknamed "The Polish Hammer," the big left wing broke into the NHL with the Devils, playing one game in 1996-97 (and registering five penalty minutes) before settling in as the resident tough guy for the better part of the next three seasons.

    He left after the 2000 season (his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup with his Devils teammates) and wound up in Columbus before bouncing around the NHL with four different teams. He returned to New Jersey in 2005-06 for three uneventful games.

    Krzysztof Oliwa's Devils totals include 724 PIM in 210 games, including a scrap with the legendary Stu Grimson.

2. Randy McKay, 6'2", 210 Lbs. (1991-2002)

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    While not a "pure" enforcer in the traditional sense of the word (he scored 20-plus goals twice for the Devils) Randy McKay was still good with his fists. He never hesitated to drop the gloves in defense of a teammate, making him a fan favorite. He's No. 2 on the list of Devils' all-time penalty minutes, and was a member of the fabled "Crash Line," along with Mike Peluso and Bobby Holik.

1. Mike Peluso, 6'4", 225lbs. (1993-1997)

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    One of only four NHL players to accumulate 400 penalty minutes in a single season, Peluso came to New Jersey in 1993 and became a cult hero with his tough, blue-collar style.

    Peluso was a member of the infamous "Crash Line," (along with Holik and McKay) that helped New Jersey to its first Stanley Cup in 1995.

    In addition to being recalled as a man who was quick to drop the gloves, he will also forever be remembered for something else. In one of the most enduring images of the pure passion of winning the Stanley Cup, Peluso was overcome with emotion as Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals wound down. He was unable to leave the bench as the team celebrated the organization's first Cup win.

    Peluso ended his career with Calgary after the 1997-98 season, registering 1,951 penalty minutes in 458 NHL games.