Yes, hockey fans, I know most of you are gearing up for the Stanley Cup playoffs (either that or Googling John Tavares), but before the postseason begins, it's worth recognizing some of the outstanding achievements in the NHL this year that would otherwise be overlooked. After all, before every game-changing power play goal, there has to be a penalty that made that man-advantage possible, right?
So let's celebrate hockey's parade of villains with the 2009 Alternative NHL Awards. If you're interested in the history of this aspect of the game, be sure to check out the winners from 2008, 2007, and 2006 as well.
Boarding: Derek Dorsett of the Columbus Blue Jackets burst onto the NHL scene this year with a dominating rookie performance in terms of Boarding, leading the league with 5 such calls in just 52 games. This was just good enough to top San Jose's Milan Michalek and Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu, with four each.
Charging: Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta led the NHL with 3 Charging penalties, ahead of nine players tied with 2 apiece. Kaleta's aggressive play is no doubt a factor in his 5th-place finish in the Penalty Plus/Minus rankings.
Cross-Checking: A hockey stick, in the hands of a virtuoso scorer, can be a delicate instrument, but in the hands of a defenseman it can also be used as a "persuasive device" to assist opposing forwards in their departure from prime scoring areas. Anaheim's Chris Pronger got whistled for Cross-Checking 7 times this season, just ahead of Edmonton's Ethan Moreau and Carolina's Joni Pitkanen with 6 each. This is Pitkanen's second appearance on the leaderboard in this category, having finished 3rd in 2007.
Delay of Game/Puck Over Glass: In these troubled economic times, the NHL has to try a number of method to reach out to fans, and for Atlanta's Ron Hainsey, apparently that means sending free pucks into the crowd. He was called for 5 Delay of Game penalties for firing the puck over the glass, beating out a five-way tie for second place.
Diving: There were five players tied with 2 Diving calls, but in terms of team production, the Vancouver Canucks lead the way with 5, followed by Buffalo's 4.
Elbowing: Buffalo's Adam Mair led the way with 3 Elbowing calls, ahead of nine players with 2 apiece.
Fighting: Edmonton's Zack Stortini (25) dropped the gloves most often this season, followed by last year's champ, Columbus' Jared Boll (24), and two-time leader (in 2006 and 2007) Anaheim's George Parros (23).
Goaltender Interference: Nobody, but nobody, charges the crease like Anaheim's Corey Perry, who took a penalty for interfering with a goalie 7 times. New Jersey's Bobby Holik came close, however, with 5 such calls.
High-Sticking: You may have seen the famous video of Alex Kovalev doing stickhandling tricks, but apparently he gets a little too slap-happy out there, and led the NHL with 9 penalties for High-Sticking this season, ahead of several players tied with 7.
Holding: Columbus' Mike Commodore led all clutchers with 10 calls, barely beating out Atlanta's Boris Valabik with 9. Commodore finally breaks through with a victory here, after coming close in 2007.
Hooking: Dallas Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas takes the title in Hooking with 19 calls, a whisker ahead of Florida Panthers free-agent-to-be Jay Bouwmeester.
Interference: It was a tie this year atop the Interference leaderboard, with Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Montreal's Roman Hamrlik taking 10 calls each.
Roughing: It will come as no surprise to Northwest Division opponent that Vancouver's Alex Burrows (who took 1st in 2007 and was 2nd last year) led the league with 21 Roughing penalties. Montreal's Mike Komisarek and Los Angeles' Raitis Ivanans tied for second with 17.
Slashing: Surely, over time, the "Saw" film producers will make this a hallmark of play in Tampa, but until then, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf is your reigning Slasher King, with 9 penalties this season. He topped Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell (8) and Florida's Greg Campbell (7).
Too Many Men: Vancouver, Philadelphia, and Chicago all had difficulty with having the proper number of players on the ice, with 13 penalties apiece. The Rangers were next with 12, all the way down the most mathematically gifted team, the Montreal Canadiens, taking just 2.
Tripping: Hey, at least Toronto had someone lead the league in something! Pavel Kubina of the Maple Leafs committed 10 Tripping fouls over the course of the season to lead all players, followed by Minnesota's Mikko Koivu and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty with 9.