27 July 2010

The Guys You Love To Hate: The NHL's Top 5 Agitators

 Photo Courtesy of: Harry How/Getty Images

Inspired by TSN's top ten agitators of all-time, here are the five best players at getting under your skin in the NHL right now.

5. Matt Cooke, LW -- Pittsburgh Penguins (859 PIM's in 738 games)

At 5'11" and 205 lbs, Cooke is one of the smaller pests in the league. Despite his small stature, the Cookie Monster (as he's known in Pittsburgh) is one tough guy to play against.

While Cooke has been a trash-talker since his days in Vancouver, it wasn't until he knocked Boston Bruins center Marc Savard unconscious that his over-the-edge physical style of play saw NHL headlines.

The hit went unpenalized and Cooke was not suspended even though it was clear that he stuck out his elbow, catching Savard's head and sending him off the ice on a stretcher. Here's the hit:

Although the league did not discipline Cooke for injuring Savard, the hockey gods sought their revenge.

About a month after the hit, the world watched 19-year old rookie Evander Kane knockout Cooke with one punch this scrap:

Karma never tasted so sweet.

4. Darcy Tucker, RW -- Colorado Avalanche (1,410 PIM's in 947 games)

Tucker's spot is more of an ode to his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs than to his current play.

At 35 years of age and plagued with injury problems, Tucker is more of a veteran role player now and less of an instigator.

That being said, Tucker is one of the most intense guys to ever play the game.

He can yap with the best of them, and will hit anything that moves. Aside from crushing body checks, Tucker is best known for giving it his all every game, all over the ice.

People may hate him for flattening their favorite star players, but Tucker is universally respected for his infectious work ethic.

Plus, the world may never see another hit like this:

3. Steve Ott, C/LW -- Dallas Stars (831 PIM's in 410 games)

As you might imagine, a guy with twice as many penalty minutes as games and three different suspensions is a pretty good agitator.

Ott, like Tucker, is a player renowned for his non-stop hustle as well as his gritty play.

When he's not busy running his mouth, the Dallas pest can score his fair share of goals.

A first-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Ott sees ice-time on both the Stars' powerplay and penalty-killing units, not giving opponents respite from his constant verbal and physical abuse.

Here's the hit that earned Ott his most recent suspension last season:

2. Daniel Carcillo, LW -- Philadelphia Flyers (859 PIM's in 225 games)

Some players talk a lot but won't back it up.

Daniel Carcillo is not one of those guys.

Carbomb (as his teammates affectionately call him) is as hated for his cheeky personality as he is feared for his physical play and fighting ability.

A Carcillo hit is the equivalent of standing still in front of an oncoming freight train. Don't believe me? Just ask Jeff Carter:

How do you make it to #2 on the top agitator list?

Get 29 penalty minutes on one shift. Check.

Beat the snot out of an NHL superstar. Check.

Score clutch goals just to rub it in. Check.

1. Sean Avery, LW -- New York Rangers (1,338 PIM's in 489 games)

You can't spell ass with Avery.

Well, technically you can but that's not the point.

When it comes to being the most annoying person to play against on the planet, Avery has mastered the art.

He simply will not shut up.

You're on the ice, he's talking to you.

You're on the bench, he's talking to you.

You're in the penalty box, he's talking to you.

Finally, you're so sick of him you take a cheap shot and force your team to play shorthanded for two minutes.

For Sean Avery, mission accomplished.

The objective of an agitator is to get the other team's star players off of their game. To have them thinking about beating the lights out of this guy instead of trying to score goals.

Avery is hands down the best in the game at frustrating opponents with constant nagging and occasional cheap shots.

Once the NHL has been forced to make a rule because of you, you've earned the top spot on our countdown.

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