2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Ranking the Most Frustrating Players in the 2014 NHL Playoffs

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Ranking the Most Frustrating Players in the 2014 NHL Playoffs

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Hockey is a true team sport. Players in a variety of roles make different types of contributions in an effort to help deliver a victory.

    Every hockey team needs scorers, defenders and goaltenders, but one of the key intangibles in playoff hockey is the agitator. A player who's cagey enough to throw his opponents off their games can be invaluable, but these pests often find themselves straddling a line between "clever" and "dirty."

    Frustrating players are the ones that make you mutter under your breath and develop lifelong grudges. They can also be frustrating when they play for your team and their antics go awry.

    Here's a look at what we've seen from six of the league's top agitators so far in these playoffs and whose bags of tricks have worked the best so far.


    All stats courtesy of NHL.com, current through games on Monday, May 12. Suspension histories from TheHockeyNews.com.

6. James Neal: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Age: 26

    Penalty Minutes in 2014 Playoffs: 22


    Suspension History

    March 2014: Neal is fined $5,000 for cross-checking the Detroit Red Wings' Luke Glendening in the head.

    December 2013: Neal is suspended for five games for kneeing the Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand in the head.

    April 2012: Neal is suspended for one game for charging the Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux in a playoff game.

    November 2011: Neal is fined $2,500 for high-sticking the Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban.


    Why He's Frustrating

    Blessed with all the offensive talent in the world, James Neal is becoming frustrating to watch for both fans and foes. He has just four points in the playoffs, he hasn't scored on the power-play and he is hurting the Pittsburgh Penguins with his frequent trips to the penalty box and shenanigans after the whistle.

    Neal is signed for another four seasons at a cap hit of $5 million a year, according to CapGeek.com. As his chippiness starts to draw more attention than his scoring prowess, this could turn out to be an unfortunate investment for the Penguins.

5. Matt Cooke: Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Age: 35

    Penalty Minutes in Playoffs: 6


    Suspension History

    May 2014: Cooke is suspended for seven games for his knee-on-knee collision with the Colorado Avalanche's Tyson Barrie in a playoff game.

    March 2011: While a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cooke is suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs after his elbow to the head of the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh.

    February 2011: While a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cooke is suspended for four games for hitting Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets from behind.

    November 2009: While a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cooke is suspended for two games for a hit to the head of the New York Rangers' Artem Anisimov.

    January 2009: While a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cooke is suspended for two games for a hit to the head of the Carolina Hurricanes' Scott Walker.

    February 2004: While a member of the Vancouver Canucks, Cooke is suspended for two games for a spear on the Minnesota Wild's Matt Johnson.


    Why He's Frustrating

    Cooke's reputation for reckless play makes other teams nervous about what could happen to their star players when he's on the ice. In addition to his lengthy suspension history, Cooke has caused serious injuries to players like the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson and the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard.

    In two games since his return to action after serving a seven-game suspension from Round 1, Cooke has added insult to injury with his tenacious play. He's a powerful penalty-killer and was plus-one in both Game 4 and Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Cooke is reviled by most, but he's a valuable player when he's on the ice.

4. Antoine Roussel: Dallas Stars

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 24

    Penalty Minutes in Playoffs: 27

    Suspension History: None


    Why He's Frustrating

    In his second NHL season, Antoine Roussel let it be known that he is no fun to play against. He's one of those in-your-face, yappy, scrappy agitators who isn't afraid to use his fists to stand up for himself. Roussel was third in the NHL with 209 penalty minutes in the 2013-14 regular season and carried his aggressive style into the Dallas Stars' first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.

    Roussel drew particular ire from the Ducks for going after Ryan Getzlaf's shielded jaw in Game 3 of the series, per ESPN.com. He's just getting started—expect to see Roussel at the center of more controversy in seasons to come.

3. Dan Carcillo: New York Rangers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 29

    Penalty Minutes in Playoffs: 10


    Suspension History

    January 2012: While a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Carcillo is suspended for seven games for boarding the Edmonton Oilers' Tom Gilbert.

    October 2011: While a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Carcillo is suspended for two games for a hit on the Carolina Hurricanes' Joni Pitkanen.

    May 2011: While a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Carcillo is suspended for two games for abuse of officials during the Flyers' last game of the playoffs. The Flyers don't tender a qualifying offer and the suspension travels with him when he signs with Chicago.

    March 2010: While a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Carcillo is suspended for two games for cross-checking David Clarkson of the New Jersey Devils in the face.


    Why He's Frustrating

    Carcillo plays with an edge, but he often crosses the line. His most irritating moment so far in 2014 came in his first game of the playoffs, Game 3 of the New York Rangers' first-round series against Philadelphia. After taking a third-period penalty for hooking, Carcillo taunted the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center right back when he scored a pretty insurance goal for the Rangers straight out of the penalty box.

    Carcillo has been in and out of the Rangers lineup through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It's never easy to know whether he'll bring an emotional lift or a burst of reckless aggression when he does draw into the lineup.

2. Corey Perry: Anaheim Ducks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Age: 28

    Penalty Minutes in Playoffs: 17


    Suspension History: 

    March 2013: Perry is suspended for four games for an elbow to the head of the Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker.

    January 2009: Perry is suspended for four games for an elbow to the head of the Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux.


    Why He's Frustrating

    Corey Perry's an elite offensive talent: a Maurice Richard and Hart Trophy winner who has already won a Stanley Cup. He's also an agitator of the first degree who gets away with a lot because of his top-rung status.

    Perry's the original water-squirter, with his antics adding extra fire to the skirmish between coaches Bruce Boudreau and Patrick Roy at the beginning of the 2013-14 regular season. He used his bottle to his best advantage again in Game 1 of the Anaheim Ducks' second-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, filling the unattended glove of the Kings' Jeff Carter.

1. Milan Lucic: Boston Bruins

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    Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    Penalty Minutes in Playoffs: 4


    Suspension History

    December 2011: Lucic is suspended for one game for his hit from behind on the Philadelphia Flyers' Zac Rinaldo.

    April 2009: Lucic is suspended for one game for a blow to the head of the Montreal Canadiens' Maxim Lapierre during a first-round playoff series. 


    Why He's Frustrating

    Though Milan Lucic has been awarded just two minor penalties in this year's playoffs, he has been the Bad Boy of Boston so far. Brad Marchand has the reputation as the superpest who will do anything to get under an opponent's skin, but Lucic is the one who has been delivering spears to the groin, squirts with the water bottle and taunting muscle-flexes, all without any significant repercussions.

    Montreal Canadiens' forward Dale Weise responded with a flex of his own in Game 6, per TSN's Darren Dreger's Twitter: "We're going to have to win game 7 to fully get Boston's respect."

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