April 14, 2008

Greatest Pests Of All Time?
Avery has a long way to go

I give Sean Avery full credit. Even though I don't want to.

The guy is a jerk and an embarrassment. I'd use a much harsher word that starts with "a" and ends in "sshole," but my mom reads my website every night. I'd pay money to see Derek Boogaard get a hold of him.

But Sean Avery is a very good pest, and a very good player. He can score goals. He is a devastating hitter. He will back up his actions, at times, with his fists. In short, he is a very effective player. A valuable player, even.

He probably is the best pest in the game today. But in recent days I've heard and seen a few sources anoint him as the best pest of all time. That's when I say perhaps these people need a little history lesson.

For all his best efforts, Sean Avery has yet to do anything noteworthy, other than date Elisha Cuthbert. Avery can't wave his stick as the game's true best pests of all time:

1. Claude Lemieux. I think Avery's game, both in terms as an incessant needler and rugged forward, best resembles dirty Claude Lemieux's. But Avery can't wave his stick in the face of what Claude accomplished: Three Stanley Cups, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 19 playoff game winning goals and five 30+ goal seasons. Avery doesn't even come close.

2. Bobby Clarke. Years after retiring there was plenty of people who believed Clarke was still the biggest pest in the NHL (hello Mr. and Mrs. Lindros!). Though he was one of the dirtiest players of the 1970s, he generally escapes "best pests" threads because he was such a great player. He is a Hall of Famer after all.

3. Theoren Fleury. Before he reached the NHL, Theoren Fleury was at the centre of one of the most controversial moments in World Junior history: “The Punch-Up in Piestany.” He never changed his ways in the NHL, and, personal demons aside, was incredibly successful. 1088 points, 1 Stanley Cup, 1 Olympic gold medal.

4. Esa Tikkanen. "The Grate One" was smart enough to play left wing with the real "Great One," something that Wayne Gretzky always lacked. When 99 went to Hollywood, this hard driving Finn became Gretzky's most effective shadow. "Tik" was also an Olympian and 5 time Stanley Cup champion. He should have won a Selke trophy too.

5. Dale Hunter. This guy was relentless. And he crossed the line on a few occasions. But he was very much considered to be the leader of both the 1980s Quebec Nordiques and 1990s Washington Capitals. He scored 1020 points in the NHL.

6. Ken Linseman. "The Rat." His nickname says it all, although it originally referred to his looks more so than his play. It's easy to forget that, considering he made a living making sure to get in the first and last shots while distracting his opponent up and down the ice. Linseman's antics often resulted in only the retaliatory infraction being called, further incensing his targets -- who often spent the rest of the game preoccupied with trying to get even. He also had 807 points in 860 games.

7. Tony Leswick. Mighty Mouse was the best pest of the Original Six. He left a lot of hard feelings on a nightly basis with both Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe. The 5'7" Leswick never backed down, and blanketed both with great efficiency.

8. Stan Mikita. One of the greatest players of all time and another Hall of Famer, Mikita started his career establishing himself as one of the dirtiest players in the game. But after his daughter questioned his style of play, Mikita vowed to clean up his act and did just that by registering only six minor penalties in 1966-67. He would be honored with the first of two consecutive Byng trophies for gentlemanly play.

9. Tiger Williams. The NHL's all time penalty minute leader. He may not have been the best fighter, but he never backed down. He scored 35 goals and went to the All Star game one year, too.

10. Pat Verbeek. He wasn't called the Little Ball of Hate because he topped 1,000 career points and 500 career goals. But he did, including 8 seasons of at least 30 goals.

Point being, Mr. Avery, you have to do a hell of a lot more than agitate before you're going to be considered as the best pest of all time.


Anonymous said...

Great post.

I'd like to add to it my personal favourite and childhood hero: Mr. Douglas Risebrough.

vdkhanna said...

As a die-hard Devils fan, I must offer my two cents on the Avery bit......

.....well, I'll actually refrain, lest I get into a sort of rant and unavoidably use four-letter words.

Suffice it to say, Avery is a total disgrace to the game of hockey, and should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Claude Lemieux, Bobby Clarke, and the others on your list.

Robert L said...

Talk to Bobby Hull about Claude "The Shadow" Provost.

Never heard of him?

He's not in the Hall of Fame, but incidently, he drove the Golden Jet nuts every time they met up.

Hull has one Stanley Cup, Provost has 9!

Anonymous said...

I'd add Gary Howatt of the NY Islanders circa mid-late '70s; in his team's first-ever playoff series, in 1975 against the hated rival NY Rangers, Howatt did one of the smartest things I've ever seen in hockey. In a tight game, in traffic in front of the crease, Ranger goalie Eddie Giacomin started whaling away at him after a whistle; instead of punching back (his normal response), Howatt spread his arms Christ-like and let Giacomin punch him in the face, drawing an extra minor penalty. Howatt and fellow pests, linemate Bobby Nystrom and later addition John Tonelli, keyed the Islander dynasty starting in 1980/

Anonymous said...

How can we even talk about super pests without mention of Eddy Shack and the great Ted Lindsay. Wayne Cashman, don't get me goin...lol

Anonymous said...

Claude Lemieux's hit on Draper puts him so far past Avery in the dirty bag category. A hit from behind that caused Draper to need complete reconstructive facial surgery. Come on. Avery is an angel compared to that. Bob Clarke told his bench in the 72 Canada/Russia series that he was going to go out and brake Kharlamov's ankle. Nobody believed him, until he went out and did it. Kharlamov did not even have the puck, and Kharlamov's career was over. If a Russian did that to Orr, and Russia won that series, Russian hockey would forever be stained. Orr and Serge Savard said Kharlamov was the greatest player they had ever seen, including Gretzky. 80% of the Canada 72 series players would not attend Canada 72 player gatherings after it was over, if Clarke was planning to attend, because that slash forever stained Canadian hockey. The role of the pest is to have the opposing team focus on hating you, and wanting to hurt you, more than focusing on the win. Ott and Barnaby were masters. Unlike a lot of other pests on this list, Avery would drop his mitts with players he pissed off, and gave them a chance to exact revenge. He would also take off his helmet prior to the fight (Iginla style), with guys much larger than himself. That legitimizes his value and character. He can also score, and hit, like you said. I don't recall guys like Tikkanen, Holmstrom, C.Lemieux, U.Samuelsson, Rich and Ron Sutter, Ciccarelli, and Gilmour taking off their helmets and dropping the mitts, to give the guys they pissed off a chance to tune them in like Avery did. Is it easy to hate Avery. Yeah. That was his job and he did it well. That is why Shanahan always defended Avery. If your coach tells you to say or do anything to piss of the other team, and throw them off their game, especially their star players, you do it, or somebody else will. Few will let people slug away at you after, but Avery did, without hesitation.