Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Who Is the Dirtiest Player in the Finals?
In the wake of Aaron Rome's old school hit that left Nathan Horton concussed and his subsequent suspension, there has been a trend in the media to portray the Vancouver Canucks as a bunch of goons, a throwback to the days of the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers.
There has also been a corresponding trend to absolve the Bruins of all responsibility for the nastiness in the Stanley Cup Finals and also to paint them as a bunch of Lady Byng winners who are being picked on by the bullying, no-talent Canucks.
Yeah, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Do the Canucks have players that cross the line?
Do the Bruins have players that cross the line?
Both teams have players that cross the line at times when playing hard and that the other 28 NHL teams consider dirty—or at least consider to be a player you hate to play against but love when he is on your team.
Still, at least neither team has someone crazy enough to climb into the stands and beat a fan with a shoe.
Lets take a look at a few recent incidents, and then feel free to contribute to the comments with your take on who the worst offender is.
Aaron Rome is probably the first player that comes to mind due to the hit in Game 3. However, Rome isn't a dirty player—unless, of course, you consider one hit that goes bad to indelibly mark someone as a dirty player. In that case, you probably aren't cheering for either team in the finals.
Rome had 22 minutes in penalties over 14 playoff games prior to Game 3. That is less than a single minor penalty per game on average. Does that sound like someone who is a goon?
Still, I'm sure he will get votes as the dirtiest player due to the images of Horton being taken off on a stretcher.
Many would argue that Nathan Horton shouldn't have been concussed in the Stanley Cup Finals because the Bruins shouldn't even be playing.
Now you might want to say it isn't a big deal because the fan deserved it for heckling.
But the precedent was set in the 2009 playoffs when Rangers coach John Tortorella has in a similar exchange with a fan and was suspended for a single playoff game.
If Horton was suspended, as he should have been, he would have missed Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and therefore wouldn't be able to score the game's only goal. Without Horton, maybe the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Finals instead.
Why wasn't Horton suspended when a clear precedent was set?
Many in the media speculated it might be because one of his teammates is the son of then-NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell. Campbell would step down amidst controversy a few days later on the eve of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Just like Lightning fans must be angry that Horton wasn't suspended and then went on to score the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Bruins fans went ballistic when Alex Burrows escaped suspension for his bite on Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Burrows, of course, went on to have a three-point night in Game 2, including potting the overtime winner.
For all the talk about Burrows being a no-talent goon, I'd like to point out that he has never been suspended in his career, which you'd never gather based on the way media outside of Vancouver usually talk about him.
Back in the first round, almost six weeks ago, Raffi Torres leveled Chicago Blackhawk Brent Seabrook.
On a side note, Chicago management obviously didn't feel the hit was that bad, as they didn't follow the NHL's concussion protocol of waiting for seven days of being symptom-free before being cleared to play. Seabrook, who was clearly concussed, was back in the lineup after he missed a mere two games and just a few days.
I'm a big fan from his days with the WHL's Vancouver Giants, but current Boston Bruin Milan Lucic could be considered a dirty player—depending on your point of view, of course.
Lucic plays on the edge, and he is extremely physical, as well as being a large man even by NHL standards.
All that combines to mean that sometimes a hit will go wrong, which isn't something Boston fans want to hear right now, but it is a simple truth in any contact sport.
Of course, the NHL seems loathe to suspend for boarding in the playoffs, which is odd since it is one of the most dangerous plays during a game. Still, Lucic was lucky to escape suspension.
There have been several slashes in the heated Stanley Cup Finals so far, but none worse in my opinion than this one by Rich Peverley in Game 2.
He waited for Bieksa to turn his back, and for the officials to head up ice, and then he delivered a two-handed slash to the back of the knee.
Bieksa was on the ice being attended to by trainers for a good four or five minutes before he could limp to the bench.
Luckily for Peverley, he wasn't suspended, although he should have been.
In my opinion, this one was worse than any of the hits I showed earlier that went bad (Lucic, Rome and Torres) and resulted in injury, because at least they were intended as hockey plays.
Peverley was just being gutless and attacking Vancouver's best defender behind the play when his back was turned.
I'm sure all hockey fans remember the horrifying video from March 8th of Max Pacioretty being taken off the ice on a stretcher with a neck brace after Zdeno Chara brutally shoved his moving head into a stanchion at the end of the bench.
Now I'm not a Canadiens fan, but I couldn't believe Chara wasn't suspended for this hit. Neither could the rest of the league.
Now Chara tried to explain it as just rubbing Pacioretty out on the boards, but how often do you rub someone out by shoving their head into the boards? If he really wanted to rub out Pacioretty, he would have just leaned into him and crunched him legally.
Given their past history, it seems fairly conclusive that Chara was trying for revenge, and it went horribly wrong. Then the NHL compounded the error by not suspending Chara.
Again, the NHL looked bush league with the conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of the conflict of interest, of Colin Campbell sitting in judgement over the team his son plays on.
Honorable Mention: Mike Milbury
Mike Milbury is a former NHL defenseman for the Boston Bruins and a current analyst for NBC's broadcasts.
I'm giving him honorable mention because he is a total hypocrite.
He has spent probably a good 30 minutes on the NBC broadcasts of the Stanley Cup Finals going crazy over Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre, going on and on about how they are hurting the integrity of the game with their antics.
Maybe Milbury should check to see if certain footage is available on YouTube before going on about players hurting the integrity of the game by acting like goons.
Because it certainly would look stupid to speak out like that if there was YouTube footage readily available that showed a certain former player turned NBC analyst (we won't speak of his time as Islanders GM, as I'm sure Islanders fans would like to forget those years) going into the stands at Madison Square Garden to brawl with fans.
And then proceeding to beat a fallen fan with a shoe.
On national television.
Because if that footage was available, a certain NBC analyst would certainly look pretty dumb in comparison to anything that happened in the Stanley Cup Finals, wouldn't he?