Agreements between hockey fans are few and far between. Deciding on who is the league’s top player is the easiest argument producer. Small details which seem irrelevant can also stir up much debate.
Defensemen, forwards, heck goalies have even engaged in physical contact. A clean hit is extraordinary to view, so is a complete miss. It’s not just the individuals who constantly throw themselves against the opposition but also the men who have it in them to dish out the most vehement of body-checks. These players must have some great health insurance for the hits they take!
Here are 15 players I wouldn’t want to be on the ice with unless they were my teammates.
15) Luke Schenn (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Brian Burke made it a point to assure us Schenn wasn’t going to be leaving the Maple Leafs organization. The 19-year-old lived up to his billing performing a superb shutdown role over the course of 70 games.
The youngest man to finish among the 20 leaders in hits, Schenn also delivered 70 more checks than all of his Toronto mates. With quick feet, he was able to close the gap quickly on his target thus providing thunderous moments.
14) Chris Neil (Ottawa Senators)
Two front teeth missing tells you he won’t take nothing from nobody. Controversy has surrounded some of his checks but Neil’s caught a few people in no man’s land. He’s willing to drop the gloves on any given date and gives his all each shift.
Normally a top 10 hitter, Neil’s numbers took a bit of a drop this year but he is always a threat whenever he competes.
13) Garnet Exelby (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Exelby doesn’t care who you are or what your stardom is like. If he has you lined up on the blue line, he’s going to run you over. His aggressiveness can get the better of him occasionally.
No offensive upside to mention as Exelby is needed for his defensive style and take-no-prisoners mentality. In Toronto, he will be responsible for toughening up the Leafs back end along with other acquisitions made by Burke.
12) Anton Volchenkov (Ottawa Senators)
A shot-blocking menace, Volchenkov doesn’t allow forwards to skate the puck into his zone. Their best bet is dump and attempt to chase it around the Russian who plays with a mean streak.
While his hits have been devastating, he has stepped up and missed in the past creating danger for his goaltender. More often than not, he connects beautifully.
11) Mike Komisarek (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Ok, so he lost the battle and the war with Milan Lucic in the playoffs this past year. Is that so embarassing? He didn’t hesitate to get into Lucic’s face countlessly and for that he has my respect. There’s no shame in going down fighting.
Montreal’s heated rivalries gave Komisarek the perfect atmosphere to display his toughness and become a fan favourite. Things won’t change in Toronto. It’ll be another chapter in the Canadiens/Maple Leafs warfare.
10) Evgeni Artyukhin (Tampa Bay Lightning)
I don’t know if anyone in the league has a combination of size and speed as impressive as Artyukhin’s. Listed as 6-foot-5, 254 pounds, he soars effortlessly around the rink like a much smaller played would.
Apparently wings aren’t necessary to fly. Artyukhin won five of his seven fights including a bout with Zdeno Chara. With the eighth most hits in the NHL last year, you can bet that total won’t be hampered in Anaheim.
9) Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Orpik has a tendency of planting his opponents into the boards furiously. Mainly known for running over three Red Wings forwards in 15 seconds of game three in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, this life-long Penguin instills fear into men.
Fortunately 15 seconds of fame wasn’t all he saw. Orpik is a warrior and those types of athletes deserve to have their names etched on the Stanley Cup.
8 ) Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers)
Pronger has stepped it up a notch in the past. Of this bunch, he is the meanest having assembled a reputation of being dirty and relentless. But the veteran is a force offensively too with great leadership qualities.
Though not the most consistent hitter, Pronger’s power will send an echo through arenas. In Philadelphia, his sheer presence will send a message to the Eastern Conference.
7) Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
Russia’s ultimate superstar loves the action hockey brings. Ovechkin requires no enforcer to look after him because he welcomes a challenge. As capable he is of reversing the tide with a huge goal, his physical nature can do the same.
You get him down (if you can), he’ll regain his footing and look for a retaliation. Alexander Ovechkin is the true definition of a franchise player. Do you know any other scorers that throw themselves against the glass in celebration of a tally? Me neither.
6) Cal Clutterbuck (Minnesota Wild)
Clutterbuck used every inch of his 5-foot-11 frame to execute 356 hits; shattering the previous single season record. Young rookies no longer believe in letting their seniors rough them up.
The 21-year-old is gritty, multifaceted and a building block for the newly modelled Minnesota Wild. Don Cherry called him “Buttercup” in the midst of a Hockey Night in Canada airing for fighting with a visor. Hey Don, I’d like to see you lace up your skates and say that to Clutterbuck’s face on the ice.
5) Dion Phaneuf (Calgary Flames)
Phaneuf has seen himself on highlight reels both as an enforcer and as the victim. To dish out the punishment, you’d better be prepared to receive it yourself. But he would rather send someone off their feet.
Despite joining the league the same year as Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, he stood out with his tenacity. A no-nonsense competitor, Phaneuf is the caliber of a defenseman others should strive to become.
4) Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)
Who can Brown hit for you? Dallas Stars commentators pose the question shortly after Dustin Brown launched Stephane Robidas into the Kings bench. Before Clutterbuck’s rookie season, it was he who held the hits record with 311.
It’s difficult to assess if Brown prefers scoring or hitting because he’s fantastic at both. A tremendous all-around player, Brown is the perfect fit as captain in Los Angeles.
3) Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
The gentle giant is anything but in game action. Chara uses his size perfectly defensively, offensively and physically. Attempting to evade the Slovakian is similar to one’s chances of dodging a train.
Forwards typically look over their shoulder while digging into the corners to get a glance at their time availability before he arrives. Size alone makes Chara intimidating, but the fact that he knows how to use it makes for an ultimate scare.
2) Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings)
European hockey players are beginning to take the body increasingly. Kronwall, who is expected to be Nicklas Lidstrom’s successor, has become a ferocious open-ice hitter. Martin Havlat, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow are just the tip of the iceberg on a growing list of sufferers.
Kronwall reads the play and steps up much like a certain Scott Stevens did in his playing days.
1) Milan Lucic (Boston Bruins)
Lucic has a simple concept worth remembering: he can put you into the glass or through it. When the games become especially valuable, so do his contributions in all areas. Expect plenty of Gordie Howe hat tricks in this man’s career as his offensive credentials are modest.
The invitation to Team Canada’s Orientation Camp is an indicator of how valued Lucic’s character is and he’s our No.1 hit artist.
Honorable Mention: Stephane Robidas, Patrick Kaleta, Doug Murray, Ryan Callahan, Mike Fisher, Mike Richards, Brandon Dubinsky.