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Top 10 Dirtiest Players in the NHL Today

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistOctober 19, 2013

Top 10 Dirtiest Players in the NHL Today

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Big suspensions have already been assessed to Patrick Kaleta and Maxim Lapierre, and another is likely on the way for Cody McLeod. Dirty hits and the players who make them have been a frequent topic of conversation for fans around the league. 

    But who are the dirtiest players in the NHL today? Read on to find out.

     

10. Cody McLeod, Colorado Avalanche

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    Why He's Here

    Based on his suspension history, it seems like just one hit puts McLeod on this list. That's mostly true.

    There was this hit on Jared Spurgeon, this moment where he hit a puckless Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but those aren't the kind of incidents that make a player stand out from the league in terms of dirty play.   

     

    Signature Infraction 

    The suspension for Cody McLeod's brutal hit from behind on Niklas Kronwall hasn't come down yet, but it's guaranteed to be a doozy despite McLeod's status as a first-time offender. It was the kind of hit that keeps a player on the league's radar screen. 

     

    Rap Sheet

    • No suspensions as of yet.

9. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Why He's Here 

    As one of the game's best players, Ovechkin has occasionally gone beyond clean, physical play and has strayed into dirty territory. He hits hard and often, but sometimes he hits an opponent in a vulnerable position or simply goes too far.

     

    Signature Infraction 

    The most remembered individual hit is likely Ovechkin's hard shove into Brian Campbell with the Blackhawks defenceman at a dangerous distance from the boards. Campbell fractured his collarbone and a rib on the hit. 

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended three games for charging Zbynek Michalek on January 23, 2012.
    • Suspended two games for boarding Brian Campbell on March 15, 2010.
    • Suspended two games for a knee-on-knee hit to Tim Gleason on December 1, 2009.
    • Fined $2,500 for slew-footing Rich Peverley on October 24, 2009.

8. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Borderline hits, a mouth that doesn't stop running and a willingness to dive (occasionally at cost to his own team), all combine to put Marchand high up on this list. Given that he has only been a full-time NHL'er for three seasons, his record of supplemental discipline is impressive too.   

     

    Signature Infraction

    It's not an infraction, exactly, but Marchand's comments in his ESPN blog after his suspension for clipping are telling:

    It technically wasn’t a clip. Clipping is when you hit someone at the knees, and I did not hit him at the knees. Anyone that has seen the video will see that I hit him in the upper thigh under the buttocks. They can call it a clipping, but they obviously don’t know the rules of hockey. I felt like I was trying to protect myself and get low and he went over me. It was very unfortunate that he was injured on the play. I know he has a concussion. There have been a lot of concussions going on this year. It’s a very fast game. A lot of guys are big and strong and physical. It’s very tough on the guys. It seems of late, a lot of guys are getting injured. Hopefully concussions can kind of start to drop off and we don’t see as many of them.

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended five games for clipping Sami Salo on January 9, 2012.
    • Fined $2,500 for slew-footing Matt Niskanen on December 5, 2012.
    • Suspended two games for an elbow to the head of R.J. Umberger on March 15, 2011.

7. James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Why He's Here 

    Wisniewski finds himself on this list primarily thanks to two hits that landed big suspensions.

    He's a greasy player, a defenceman who doesn't shy away from contact, and that willingness to engage in physical play has put him on the wrong side of the rule book.

     

    Signature Infraction

    The worst incident of Wisniewski's career was his retaliatory hit to the head of Chicago's Brent Seabrook. After Seabrook put an iffy hit on Ducks star Corey Perry, Wisniewski charged down from the blue line and delivered a high, dirty hit. 

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended the rest of the preseason plus eight games for an illegal check to the head of Cal Clutterbuck on September 23, 2011.
    • Suspended two games for an obscene gesture to Sean Avery on October 12, 2010.
    • Suspended eight games for an illegal check to the head of Brent Seabrook on March 17, 2010.
    • Suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Shane Doan on November 1, 2009.

6. Maxim Lapierre, St. Louis Blues

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    Why He's Here 

    Despite a pretty light suspension history (aside from the Boyle incident, Lapierre has only been suspended once) there seem to be few hockey players more hated than Maxim Lapierre.

    Maybe it's because he's yappy, because he makes faces at his opponents, because when finally forced to fight, he turtles or because he throws late hits and dives. He's an agitator who does whatever it takes to get under the skin of the opposition and is generally despised by the opposition as a result. 

     

    Signature Infraction 

    Despite his reputation, Lapierre has never previously done anything quite as nasty as his hit from behind on Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle.

    Lapierre mashed Boyle's face into the end boards. Afterwards he professed his innocence and hid behind his teammates as best he could during the ensuing melee. Boyle left the ice on a stretcher. 

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended five games for boarding Dan Boyle on October 15, 2013.
    • Suspended four games for hitting Scott Nichol from behind on March 4, 2010

5. Matt Cooke, Minnesota Wild

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    Why He’s Here

    On any objective list of total career dirtiness, agitating winger Matt Cooke would be at or near the top.

    However, he’s made a much-publicized effort to change his playing style in the wake of a long suspension for elbowing Ryan McDonagh, and so far he’s managed to avoid supplementary discipline.

    Cooke’s reform has been such that, in the wake of Patrick Kaleta’s recent 10-game suspension, Cooke told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that he had offered to help the Sabres forward change his game. Of course, he hasn't been a total altar boy since.

     

    Signature Infraction

    He wasn’t suspended for it, but arguably the dirtiest hit in Matt Cooke’s career was his blindside shot to the head of Bruins’ star Marc Savard. It was the hit that really established Cooke in the public mind as a headhunter and was one of the catalysts for the NHL crackdown on contact to the head.

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended 10 games and the first round of the playoffs for elbowing Ryan McDonagh on March 21, 2011.
    • Suspended four games for hit from behind to Fedor Tyutin on February 9, 2011.
    • Suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Artem Anisimov on November 29, 2009.
    • Suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Scott Walker on January 27, 2009.
    • Suspended two games for spearing Matt Johnson on February 21, 2004.

4. Steve Downie, Colorado Avalanche

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Why He's Here 

    Downie's reputation for viciousness precedes the start of his NHL career.

    While still in junior, he cross-checked teammate Akim Aliu in the face during practice (after which the two fought) because Aliu refused to participate in a hazing.

    While there have been no reported attacks on teammates since, Downie has continued to make questionable hits throughout his career, including one two weeks ago on Nashville Predators defenceman Roman Josi.    

     

    Signature Infraction

    No question on this one: the ugly hit that Downie laid on Dean McAmmond during the preseason of the 2007-08 season gets the nod. It was a filthy hit, basically as clear as intent-to-injure gets and in a meaningless game no less.  

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Fined $2,500 for leaving the bench on a line change and joining a fight on December 8, 2011.
    • Suspended one game for leaving his feet to hit Ben Lovejoy on April 18, 2011.
    • Fined $1,000 for a dangerous play involving Sidney Crosby on March 16, 2010.
    • Suspended 20 games (in the AHL) for slashing a referee on March 5, 2009.
    • Suspended 20 games for charging Dean McAmmond on September 25, 2007.

3. Raffi Torres, San Jose Sharks

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    Why He’s Here

    Headhunting. Unlike a lot of other guys on this list, Torres doesn’t have a long history of embellishment or stick infractions or even fighting.

    What he does—to a degree unparalleled in the NHL today—is make predatory hits.

    Twenty years ago, Torres would have been celebrated, but as the game has oh-so-slowly moved to phase out headshots, Torres’ style of play has become increasingly illegal.

    Why isn't he at the top of this list? Because what he does has been legal for a long time. He isn't a guy with a reputation for stickwork, hitting from behind or even elbowing; he's a guy who simply belongs in the NHL of 10 or 15 years ago rather than today.

     

    Signature Infraction

    The hit everyone remembers is the blow to the head of Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa. An earlier generation would have found much to like in Torres explosive hit on an opponent in a vulnerable position. Instead, Torres was suspended for 25 games (a total reduced to 21 on appeal).

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended 10 games and the first round of the playoffs for Jarret Stoll on May 14, 2013.
    • Suspended 21 games for an illegal check to the head of Marian Hossa on April 17, 2012.
    • Suspended four games an illegal check to the head of Jordan Eberle on April 6, 2011.
    • Suspended two games for charging Nate Prosser on December 31, 2011.
    • Fined $2,500 for an illegal check to the head of Jan Hejda on December 29, 2011.

2. Daniel Carcillo, Los Angeles Kings

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Why He's Here 

    Daniel Carcillo's career numbers offer insight into his role is in the NHL.

    Over the course of his career, he's been assessed for 1,081 penalty minutes while recording 89 points.

    "Car Bomb" has built up a reputation over the course of his career as both a diver and a reckless hitter and adds precious little to the game other than borderline physical play.

     

    Signature Infraction 

    Carcillo's biggest suspension to date came on an incredibly stupid hit on Edmonton Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. The hit was stupid not only because of what it did to Gilbert, but also because Carcillo injured himself on the play. He lost the rest of the season to knee surgery. 

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended seven games for boarding Tom Gilbert on January 2, 2012.
    • Suspended two games for hit from behind to Joni Pitkanen on October 29, 2011. 
    • Suspended two games for abuse of officials on May 17, 2011. 
    • Suspended four games for blow to the head of Matt Bradley on December 6, 2009.
    • Suspended two games for a fight against Ben Eager on October 17, 2008. 

1. Patrick Kaleta, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Why He’s Here

    Patrik Kaleta has been in the news lately, thanks to a massive suspension for a hit to the head of Blue Jackets defenceman Jack Johnson.

    Kaleta’s track record is long and is not one his suspension record does justice to. He is one of the NHL’s most accomplished divers, a continually agitating presence and when he isn’t over the line, he’s skating right up to it.

     

    Signature Infraction 

    It only earned him a four-game suspension, but Kaleta’s decision to head-butt Jakub Voracek probably earns this distinction.

    It’s an odd play—very few players lead with their head when trying to hit an opponent—but Kaleta has tried it on more than one occasion.

     

    Rap Sheet

    • Suspended 10 games for an illegal check to the head of Jack Johnson on October 13, 2013.
    • Suspended five games for hitting Brad Richards from behind on March 3, 2013.
    • Suspended four games for head-butting Jakub Voracek on November 3, 2011.
    • Fined an undisclosed amount for attempting to head-butt Travis Zajac on October 17, 2010.  
    • Suspended two games for boarding Jared Ross on November 29, 2009.

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