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Introducing the NHL's "Designated Sitters"

Sometimes it isn't the referee who sends a player into the penalty box, it's his own head coach.
Sometimes it isn't the referee who sends a player into the penalty box, it's his own head coach.

Recently, Jim Diamond of the Nashville Predators Examiner has made mention of how J.P. Dumont usually goes to the penalty box when the Predators take a bench minor, an unusual honor which by some could be considered a backhanded compliment. Is he in the box because he can't be relied upon to help kill a penalty? Does the coach hope that he can convert on a potential breakaway as he comes out of the box? Does his breath stink?

Regardless of the reason, it does appear that many teams do indeed peg certain players for this role, having them sit in the box for other players' transgressions. From NHL Rule 17.1:

17.1 Bench Minor Penalty - A bench minor penalty involves the removal from the ice of one player of the team against which the penalty is assessed for a period of two (2) minutes. Any player except a goalkeeper of the team may be designated to serve the penalty by the Manager or Coach through the playing Captain and such player shall take his place on the penalty bench promptly and serve the penalty as if it was a minor penalty imposed upon him.    

When there is a penalty on the goaltender, however, the skater who heads to the box must be one of the players who was on the ice at the time of the foul.

Head coaches seem to routinely pick certain guys for this special designation, which, for the lack of a better term, I'll call the "Designated Sitter". Follow after the jump as we review the leading candidates from last season...

So let's take a look with the guys who made at least 5 trips to the box "for the team" during the 2009-10 regular season. Across the league, there were 592 instances of this, about one every other game. The most common reason, by far, was for Too Many Men On The Ice penalties, but there were plenty of occasions where a player was thrown out of a game, and someone else had to serve his penalties (such as Thursday night when Jordin Tootoo was thrown out for "playing hockey too hard" against St. Louis). There were some cases where a player served multiple penalties from one incident, in those cases I've removed the duplicates:

 Player  Total
 Kyle Wellwood, Vancouver  15 
 Matt Moulson, NY Islanders  12 
 Todd Fedoruk, Tampa Bay  11 
 Nick Foligno, Ottawa  11 
 Darcy Tucker, Colorado  11 
 Shawn Thornton, Boston  11 
 Arron Asham, Philadelphia  9 
 Eric Fehr, Washington  8 
 Phil Kessel, Toronto  8 
 Fabian Brunnstrom, Dallas  8 
 Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis  8 
 Devin Setoguchi, San Jose  8 
 Raffi Torres, Columbus  8 
 Steve Downie, Tampa Bay  8 
 Drew Stafford, Buffalo  7 
 Tyler Kennedy, Pittsburgh  7 
 J.P. Dumont, Nashville  7 
 Robert Nilsson, Edmonton  7 
 Matth D'Agostini, Montreal/St. Louis  7 
 Michael Ryder, Boston  7 
 Bill Guerin, Pittsburgh  7 
 Vinny Prospal, NY Rangers  7 
 Bobby Ryan, Anaheim  6 
 Sergei Samsonov, Carolina  6 
 Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit  6 
 Max Pacioretty, Montreal  6 
 Luca Caputi, Toronto  5 
 Mikael Backlund, Calgary  5 
 Brandon Bochenski, Tampa Bay  5 
 Jason Blake, Toronto/Anaheim  5 
 Jamie Benn, Dallas  5 
 Thomas Vanek, Buffalo  5 
 Ryane Clowe, San Jose  5 
 Scottie Upshall, Phoenix  5 
 Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh  5 
 Eric Boulton, Atlanta  5 
 Rod Pelley, New Jersey  5 

Is anyone else sensing a major endorsement opportunity for Kyle Wellwood, say, with Jack In The Box? Maybe that would be enough to get a team to bring him back from the KHL.

As for the Nashville Predators, Jim Diamond was right on, as J.P. Dumont sat 7 times out of a total of 12 such chances, well ahead of Patric Hornqvist, who sat thrice.

Are there any other names on this list which surprise you? I suppose we'd expect to see offensively talented forwards who wouldn't be working regular PK duty here, and there are certainly some examples of that, but names like Aaron Asham and Todd Fedoruk really don't fit that mold.

I'll follow up later on with how these numbers have shaken out over more recent seasons, and what they look like so far in the 2010-11 campaign.

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