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.