One of the best parts of watching the NHL is that fact that people like Sean Avery and Dan Carcillo are allowed to roam free—or, relatively free.
Many will argue the purpose and necessity of an agitator in the league.
The truth is that a person who can agitate the other team and get them off their game can put their own teammates in the best position to win.
The NHL requires players to perform at 100 percent and when a player is preoccupied by an agitator, that gives the other team the advantage for that moment.
The following list is of the best agitators on each team. Enjoy!
Team: Washington Capitals
While John Erskine might not be leading the Capitals in penalty minutes, his talk on the ice has been enough to get people mad.
Erskine likes to talk but he can let his hands do the talking too. He has 81 total penalty minutes.
The Capitals' defenders have played well this season, but they should concentrate more on their play and less on talking.
Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Jake Dowell has become the talker in Chicago after their former mouthpiece, Ben Eager, was shipped out after the Stanley Cup run.
Dowell can add an offensive touch but his best moves are those that infuriate the other team.
The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been as aggressive this season but Dowell still leads the team with 54 penalty minutes.
Team: Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres have found their new Andrew Peters in Cody McCormick.
McCormick has a nasty streak and is not afraid to back up his words with punches.
He is 14th in the NHL in penalty minutes with 112 and has 12 fights as well.
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Jared Boll is one of the toughest players in the league but he isn’t as big of a talker as most of the others on this list.
The Blue Jacket tough guy lets his hands do the speaking for the most part, but he still talks enough to get players to take a swing.
Boll leads the Blue Jackets and is fourth in the NHL with 149 penalty minutes while compiling 19 fights.
Team: New Jersey Devils
David Clarkson is the resident troublemaker for the New Jersey Devils.
His attitude and ability to get people off of their game are why he has become a staple in the lineup for the Devils.
The main reason he is there is because he protects star player Ilya Kovalchuk and he loves his job!
Team: Phoenix Coyotes
When Paul Bissonnette gets into the lineup, he can be a menace on the ice. He has nine fights in 33 games this season and just three points.
When Bissonnette is not trying to make everyone angry on the ice, he is pissing people off on the internet.
His attitude is evident in his play and he continues to be the mouth of the Coyotes on the ice.
Team: Detroit Red Wings
Todd Bertuzzi may not be racking up the penalty minutes this season for the Detroit Red Wings, but that doesn’t mean he’s not making an impact.
While his offensive numbers are still solid, Bertuzzi offers a certain amount of grit that can’t be measured.
Bertuzzi’s play is very intense and that alone can be irritating, but his notoriously negative attitude can really turn people off.
Team: Minnesota Wild
While Brad Staubitz leads the Minnesota Wild in fights and penalty minutes, I think Brent Burns is the bigger talker.
The Wild defender backs up everything he says at both ends of the ice but he can be very vocal at times and agitate a team to no end.
Burns leads by example and his aggressive style can be quite abrasive for the opposition.
Team: Florida Panthers
When Darcy Hordichuk can get into the Florida Panthers lineup, he has been a menace on the ice.
He doesn’t lead the league in penalty minutes but he does lead the team with seven fights and is definitely the biggest talker of the bunch.
If the pot needs stirring, Hordichuk is the man to grab the spoon and punch it in the face.
Team: Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers have a wild man in Theo Peckham and he never ceases to amaze me.
He leads the Oilers and is seventh in the NHL with 132 penalty minutes. He also has six fights to go along with all of the other problems he has caused.
Peckham is notorious for reckless plays and hurts his team with his play as much as he helps them—he is third in the NHL with 30 minor penalties.
Team: Los Angeles Kings
Agitating is not all about fighting, there is a science to making people angry and Wayne Simmonds has got it down.
He may not be leading the Kings in penalty minutes or fights but his words get people furious.
Simmonds can be an offensive treat as well as a nuisance, but nothing makes an opposition angrier than scoring on them.
Team: Colorado Avalanche
Cody McLeod is by far the biggest troublemaker on the Colorado Avalanche.
McLeod is 10th in the league in penalty minutes with 128 and has plenty of minors to go with all of the majors he has.
Whenever there is trouble during a Colorado Avalanche game, you can bet Mr. McLeod is in the middle of it all.
Team: New York Islanders
Zenon Konopka is the New York Islanders' tough-guy and he has been busy recently.
When he is not chastising Mario Lemiuex or beating up his players, he is pissing the rest of the NHL off and then beating them up.
He has taken the role of protector to the extreme and leads the league in penalty minutes with 193.
Konopka is also third in the league with 17 fights.
Team: Atlanta Thrashers
Dustin Byfuglien has become one of the most complete players in the NHL.
He can play defense, play forward, score, pass and agitate. Really agitate.
The best part of a player like Byfuglien is that he can talk trash all game and score the game winning goal against you.
Nothing hurts more than getting beat like that.
Team: Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames have a bona fide tough-guy in Tim Jackman.
Jackman will talk when he needs to and he will fight when words won’t do the damage his hands can.
The Flames need Jackman to protect their stars and keep the momentum on Calgary’s side to make the playoffs.
Team: St. Louis Blues
Brad Winchester is the kind of player who will help the team any way he can.
He can fight to defend his teammates or fight to get people to lose control.
Winchester is second on the Blues in penalty minutes and fights, but he is first in talking with David Backes right behind him.
Team: Vancouver Canucks
Ryan Kesler doesn’t lead the team in penalty minutes and he hasn’t fought this year.
He has done so much more to get under peoples skin.
He is an aggressive forechecker and he loves to check. That aggressive style makes other teams always look over their shoulder for him.
Nothing pisses a team off more than a player scoring 33 goals and racking up 56 total points while yapping in your ear.
Team: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens not only have found a solid defender in rookie P.K. Subban, but also a born troublemaker.
Subban leads the Canadiens with 86 penalty minutes and most of those are minor penalties that come from getting in people’s faces and spaces.
The rookie defender also has 25 points so he can back up what he says for the most part.
Team: Carolina Hurricanes
Tuomo Ruutu isn’t leading the Hurricanes in penalty minutes but he is second in minors with 22.
Ruutu has been scoring well this season with 44 points, but his aggressive style can be abrasive for other teams.
He can be a bowling ball on the ice and he will take a run at anyone.
Team: Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are going to be in the middle of another playoff run and the reason they can play the style of offense they do is because of Shawn Thornton.
Thornton protects the team and lets the opposition know that if they want to start anything they need to look no further than him.
The Bruins' tough-guy leads the team with 103 penalty minutes for the season.
Team: Anaheim Ducks
Corey Perry doesn't leads the Anaheim Ducks in penalty minutes, that distinction is held by the classy George Parros.
Perry is the agitator of the team and he uses his defensive ability to give the opposition nightmares.
He leads the team with 22 minor penalties and 65 points this season. Perry is the complete agitator.
Team: Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators are one of the hardest-working teams in the NHL and their agitator Jordin Tootoo works as hard at making people angry as anyone else in the league.
The difference is he does it with more class than most.
Tootoo hasn’t played a lot this season but when he is in the lineup, his best move is getting into the corners and creating havoc.
Team: Dallas Stars
Steve Ott has been one of the keys to the success of the Dallas Stars this season.
Ott is sixth in the league with 134 penalty minutes but most of his penalties are minors and he has only eight fights.
He is a bowling ball out there and his physical play is the reason people can’t stand him.
Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs stink this season, but you couldn’t tell that by the effort Colton Orr puts into his role as agitator.
He has the ability to level a person with a devastating hit and then knock-out the opposition’s tough-guy.
Orr is eighth in the NHL with 126 penalty minutes and he has 14 fights so far this season.
Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Downie is a chucky doll on skates. At least that’s what I think.
He is always moving at 100 miles per hour and looking to land the most devastating hits.
Downie’s ability and willingness to hit anyone has got him into a lot of trouble but he doesn’t seem to mind.
When Downie isn’t crushing people or being fifth in the NHL with 134 penalty minutes, he can add offensively like he has this year, with 24 points.
Team: San Jose Sharks
Wherever it is that Ben Eager goes, he leaves a wake of destruction in his path.
His job is to agitate—plain and simple—and he takes the job as serious as anyone.
He has moved around a lot in the past few years but he has been a nightmare for whatever team wasn’t wearing the same jersey as him.
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Cooke has been one of the most reckless players in the NHL and a reputation like that will make people hate you.
He hits late and has no regard for injuries when he plays the game. If he learned to control himself he could be quite good.
Cooke leads the team with 106 penalty minutes and just four fights. With all of the minor penalties he has accumulated, you can’t help but think he is hurting more than helping.
Team: Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators may be struggling but their enforcer/agitator Chris Neil is having another solid season by tough-guy criteria.
He is third in the NHL with 157 penalty minutes and is constantly hitting people and trying to run people off the puck.
Neil plays with a bad attitude and it shows every shift he is on the ice. He has been the MVP of the Senators so far this season for me.
Team: Philadelphia Flyers
While Jody Shelley is the best enforcer on the Flyers, Dan Carcillo is by far the best agitator on the team and the second-best in the league.
Carcillo has a knack for getting the opposition's blood boiling and he is one of the most aggressive players in the league.
He plays extremely angry and in only 35 games this season he has 90 penalty minutes, ten fights and ten minor penalties.
When Carcillo is on the ice, no one is safe.
Team: New York Rangers
Sean Avery is the worst.
He can make the players on his team hate him and his ability to make people mad has never ceased to amaze me.
The teams hate him, coaches hate him, fans hate him and everyone he comes in contact with is worse for wear.
Avery is second in the NHL with 158 penalty minutes and has 22 minors, 10 fights and six game misconducts.