When it comes to NHL Power Rankings and ranking the best pest (sorry for the rhyme), it's somewhat of a love-hate relationship.
Different from true enforcers, though there are some fighters on this list, a pest is an irritant, someone who does best to get underneath the skin of the opposing team. They pick a target and do everything they can to rile them up, whether it's a little tap behind the play or some extra talk. Opposing players hate them.
Their teammates love them, because more often then not they're also doing things like forechecking and shutting down an opposing top line.
But like 'em or leave 'em, every team has one. So here are the 30 best pests in the NHL.
He's big, he's truculent, he's skilled, he's North American. In other words, he's a Brian Burke Anaheim Duck.
Perry is a classic power forward, driving to the net to try and put home any loose garbage in front of the net. He's also known for cheap shots (including one to Montreal's Andrei Markov last year), taking bad penalties and annoying opposing players. But most of that is hidden or forgotten when you see his raw talent and offensive skill.
The endless carousel about where Big Buff should play has put him back on defense. But as a forward, he was a force in last year's playoffs. He created havoc in front of the net, scoring timely goals and even butting heads with Chris Pronger.
Don't think he's a classic pest? Roberto Luongo and the rest of the Canucks' defense would like a minute for rebuttal.
He might not have climbed into the crowd and beaten a man with his own shoe (Milbury), nor has he had a situation where he could intimidate you before he scored on you (Neely), and he hasn't sent a man through a pane of glass (Lucic). But Marchand is filling a role as a pest and as muscle on a Bruins team that needs a little size and strength on the front end. He hasn't really done anything of huge consequence, yet. But there's still time and he's a young man.
Patrick Kaleta: 5-11, 211 pounds of Western New York pest.
He's gotten a reputation of being a pest and a fearless fighter, at least from Sabres fans. Although I never remember Rob Ray headbutting someone during a fight. You can tell the Devils don't care much for him. But when he's not drawing penalties, he's a hard skater that's hard to miss when he's out on the ice causing havoc.
Buffalo telecasts usually use the famous "Sabre Dance" as theme music. That might be appropriate for when Kaleta's on the ice.
He's a scrappy guy who battles and is not afraid to run his mouth or give the occasional slash or stickpoke to an opposing player. But Jackman is one of the types where when he runs his mouth, he's not afraid to drop the gloves. He's a gritty player who caught on with the Islanders last year and now might have found a home in Calgary.
LaRose is a classic grinding pest. He might not annoy players with antics but he will annoy them with hard work and the work he does in the opposing zone. He skates hard and is able to bring an offensive upside with his all around hard-working game. He's frustrating because of the way he plays the game more than what he does to opponents. He's also one of the biggest bodies on a small Hurricanes team so he somewhat wins by default.
If it was last season, I'd probably go with Adam Burish as the pest as someone who just irritates and talks the other teams into rage. But probably no player is more frustrating to play against than Bolland, one of the best defensive players in the league. That shined through during last year's Conference Final when he and his line shutdown the Thornton line as the Blackhawks swept the Sharks, leading to Thornton's slash at Bolland before a faceoff at the end of Game 2.
Boll's the enforcer on the Blue Jackets but already has a reputation of suspensions. He was suspended back in 2008 for picking up an instigator penalty. He's also persona non grata in Buffalo, as Steve Montador has fought him twice in the last calendar year, the most recent being last week when Boll knocked out Drew Stafford with a hit to the head. It led to an ugly brawl later in the game.
Naturally, Patrick Kaleta was involved.
On the young Avalanche, there really aren't a lot of those pesky types. That's where the big Koci comes in. He's big, brash and not afraid to take on anyone. He got Zdeno Chara riled up enough to drop the gloves. Of course, Chara hit him so hard blood spewed from Koci's nose. Never the less, Koci and his 11 fighting majors last season proved he'll take anybody on, and tick anybody off.
I was somewhat torn between Ott and Burish for the role of Dallas' top pest. Orr is more of a fighter than a pest, though he certainly fills that role. He hasn't made a ton of fans around the league, has a history of suspensions including eye-gouging Travis Moen back in 2009 and like someone else on this list has offensive upside.
Then I found a profile of Ott in the Dallas Morning News. Among other things, it detailed how back when Ott played for Canada at the 2001 World Juniors, he would study phrases in different languages to tick off opposing players in their own languages.
No more has to be said.
He's not a fighter, but for what he does, Holmstrom is extremely effective.
He's aging now, but in his prime, Holmstrom might be one of the few players in our era who made a career out of standing in front of the net. It sounds relatively simple, but from planting his flag outside the crease, Holmstrom's accrued 214 career goals, 469 points, 667 penalty minutes and countless bruises. In short, Holmstrom made screening the goalie and driving defensemen mad an art form.
The muscle behind the young guns in Oil Country.
Stortini serves a purpose as the enforcer and the pest for a very young and very skilled Edmonton club trying to find it's way. He didn't knock fellow enforcer Raitis Ivanans out cold like his teammate did earlier this season, but Stortini did announce his arrival into the league by getting a 10 minute misconduct penalty in his first ever game.
Not a pest in the classic sense of the word, but a tough, gritty player who can get under other people's skin and have them drop the gloves. He's one of the more accomplished fighters in the league, though someone who does have a history of suspensions and hits to the head. All this from a player who once performed magic for a trade deadline special show and had one of the nicest goals an enforcer will ever score.
He's a mystery wrapped in flying fists.
In his short time in the league, Simmonds has gained a reputation for being a hard-nosed, crash-the-net type of player. There was an issue surrounding an alleged butt-end Simmonds gave to a Colorado player earlier this season, but he doesn't have the reputation of being a dirty player. He does have the reputation of being hard to play against (as he was against the Canucks in last year's playoffs) and willing to drop the gloves when need be.
Other than winning the title for one of the most epic names of all time, Clutterbuck has gained a reputation as one of the league's leading hitters and one of the chattiest players in the game, according to a piece by Michael Russo in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
This was one of my favorite quotes from the story, as he chatted during the game with Todd Bertuzzi, then of the Flames and he of piledriving Steve Moore fame:
"First game I played him, he said he's going to kill me. I said, 'I don't doubt it.' Then, I turned to the linesman and said, 'Did you hear him?' You know, just in case."
Maxim Lapierre's probably the better choice as pest, but few players seem to be getting as much heat as the young Montreal defenseman for his play and antics. Mike Richards and other veterans around the league have been calling him out, but perhaps no hockey voice has called him out for his cockiness more than one Donald S. Cherry, the wild-suited wonder himself.
Tootoo has long had a reputation as a fighter and also as a pest who gets under the skin of opposing players, which has made him somewhat of a cult hero in Nashville. He also has the label of dirty player stuck to him though, after two 2007 incidents that led to suspensions, both were hits to the head.
Clarkson is following in the footsteps of another famous New Jersey pest: Bobby Holik. He uses his big body to play physical as well as his speed and his aggressive playing style. Like Holik, he has a scoring side, netting 17 goals two years ago. Though more people will probably know and remember him more for the 400-plus penalty minutes than the offense.
Sim is one of the better unknown pests. He battles, he scraps, he's a hard worker who can bother players with his peskiness. He's a classic pest who's on the team and on the bottom lines for his energy and as a role player. The fact that he can add a little offense is just a plus. And right now for the Islanders, they'll take anything positive.
Really, who else could it be?
The only player to ever have a penalty named after him, the only player to be hated by opposing fans, players, coaches and possibly teammates at the same time, the only player to have an internship at Vogue.
It all just follows him around. Sexual comments about ex-girlfriends, suggestive gestures by rival defensemen, shouting matches in pre-game skates, it'll all be part of the legacy. But perhaps he will always be remembered for the rivalry with Martin Brodeur, and the screen and subsequent handshake snub heard 'round the hockey world.
A former Vancouver Canuck and a European pest in the mold of the great Esa Tikkanen, Ruutu will do anything to get an opposing player off his game. He draws penalties, he baits fights, he's a third liner who can score nice-looking goals
And when all else fails, according to Andrew Peters, he apparently bites.
Just looking at the man is intimidating.
The size, the speed, the bone-jarring hits, the stepping on Ryan Kesler's ankle. The war of words with Burish at the end of last year's Final, the stealing of the pucks after the first two games of said Final. The only player to date who ever got called for the "Avery Rule".
Here's some more descriptive language: the Stanley Cup ring, the Norris Trophy, the Olympic Gold Medal and eventually, the Hall of Famer.
Fast, irritating to play against, defensively responsible, a great forechecker and offensive upside on a team struggling for goals and dating an attractive reporter. There's a lot to be jealous about with Upshall, who fits in perfectly with the young, fast and scrappy Coyotes. It's all a credit to Upshall. Because honestly, it takes a lot to play that style when there are more players on the ice than in the stands most nights.
One of the most hated players in the league, Cooke has a lot of enemies. Maybe none more so than in Boston, where he will forever be remembered as the man who almost ended Marc Savard's career. Cooke is not a fighter but a pure agitator, using any tactic necessary to get an advantage. Even more frustrating is that like Avery and others, there's talent there.
Mayers is one of the better pests around. A gritty, veteran forward who can annoy and fight, but also kills penalties and provides veteran leadership. That's why, like other enforcers/pests, Mayers keeps finding work, especially with young teams who want a older player in the room who's been there before. If that doesn't sound like a pest, the penalty minutes he's accrued sure do.
That hit during Oshie's rookie year on Columbus star Rick Nash sums up Oshie's game. He's young, fast, energetic, and not afraid to go after the stars. Oshie's different than some of the other pests on the list because he's one of the young faces of the Blues and one of the key parts in the franchise's rebuild. He has offensive upside and just plays hard every shift.
The fact that he then later got Nash again just tells you the type of player he is.
When most hockey fans think of Steve Downie, it's conflicted. It's always something to the extent of such a dirty player combined with unheralded offensive talent. The dirty player/pest was evident in juniors and when he famously leveled Dean McAmmond. It wasn't until he got to Tampa and ended up on a line with Steven Stamkos that the offensive side started to come out. Although as proved when he went after Sidney Crosby last season, the pest is still there.
Armstrong is the prototypical Brian Burke player. A gritty, hard-working type of player that likes to just frustrate the other team. He plays bigger than his size, is tough, known for big hits (ask Trevor Letowski), doesn't back down and has offensive value. He also does other things and is a veteran presence and a leader in the room and is a perfect third-line winger.
Plus he's North American. Ergo, he's a Burke player.
Many pests irritate opposing teams. Very few pests, however, irritate officials to the point that they apparently say they're gonna get that pest before the game, then make questionable calls against said pest and start a possibly conspiracy and investigation of the official.
Not even Sean Avery did that.
But Burrows did last season with Stephane Auger. He's one of the best at getting under people's skin. And that's not including the fact that he checks, kills penalties and plays on the first line with the Sedins.
Bradley's found a home in Washington because he's been able to be the gritty, work in the corners, battle and be an annoying player to opposing teams that the Capitals don't have that much of. He's one of the pest/enforcers who will drop the gloves, stepping in last season to make sure that Alexander Ovechkin didn't get into his first fight. He's extremely popular in the room and that kind of effort is needed on a team that disappears at times.