The Designated Sitter
These valiant souls sit in the penalty box to serve out the sentences dished out to their teammates, whether a belligerent goaltender or a skater who racked up a roster of crimes and can't serve all the penalties himself. Quite often, coaches have their go-to guy for such a job, due to a combination of offensive ability (maybe he'll get a breakaway coming out of the box) and poor defensive skills (there's no way they want him out there killing the penalty).
This season, we had a four-way tie for the lead in penalties served on behalf of others, with Toronto's Clarke MacArthur, Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk, Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau and Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard all sitting in the box 10 extra times.
We've all heard the maxim that goal scorers prosper when they drive persistently to the "hard areas" of the ice, but sometimes you end up with a runaway train that collides with the poor, defenseless goaltender. This season, Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds and Montreal's Rene Bourque tied for the league lead with 3 Goaltender Interference calls each.
In early March, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien ripped the Montreal Canadiens for diving, one of the great sins against manly hockey culture. While getting swept out of the first round by San Jose, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieka leveled the same charge against the Sharks' Logan Couture and Joe Thornton, implying that they were somehow less-Canadian for flopping to the ice in order to draw a call.
Were these guys on to something, or just whining?
At least in Julien's case, the referees agreed, as the Canadiens were called for 5 Diving penalties this season, the most in the league. Phoenix came in next with three such violations.
How's that for a tweetable thought?
We could call this one the "He Ain't No Lady" Byng Award, and in this case we have a runaway winner, with Steve Ott of the Buffalo Sabres collecting six Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties this season, twice as many as his nearest competition (a four-way tie with 3 apiece).
#9 / Forward / Buffalo Sabres
Aug 19, 1982
|2012 - Steve Ott||48||9||15||24||+3||93||2||0||3||73||12.3|
Too Many Men
Which bench bosses have their act together, and which need an abacus to keep track of how many players should be on the ice? The Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars all took 8 Too Many Men penalties this season, while the Vancouver Canucks were the NHL's best counters by only getting penalized once.
Icing on the Power Play
Is there anything more depressing to fans than seeing their team's power play scramble under pressure by their shorthanded foes, and forced to take an icing call? Sure, some of these happen because a stretch pass gets missed, but the St. Louis Blues short-circuited their own power play the most with 7 Icings as they held the man advantage, followed by Vancouver with 6 and a host of teams tied with 5 apiece.
The only team in the NHL not to take an icing on the power play? The Washington Capitals...
Penalties in the Offensive Zone
There are good penalties (those which must be taken to prevent a scoring chance) and bad penalties, and one way to identify a bad penalty is to isolate those taken in the offensive zone. Sure, there may be exceptional circumstances where you need to trip or interfere with an opponent to prevent a breakaway, but taking a penalty in the offensive end is one of those things that takes a year or two off a head coach's life.
This season, Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane was the runaway winner, with 20(!) penalties taken in the offensive zone, boasting a diverse assortment including Concealing the Puck, Elbowing, Tripping, Slashing, and more. Kane was well ahead of Detroit's Dan Cleary and the dynamic duo of David Perron & David Backes in St. Louis, who all had 16 each.
#9 / Left Wing / Winnipeg Jets
Aug 02, 1991
|2012 - Evander Kane||48||17||16||33||-3||80||2||0||4||190||8.9|
Masters of Swordplay
A hockey stick can be a dangerous weapon, and some guys lay the lumber out with disturbing frequency. If we bundle together Cross Checking, Hi-Sticking, Slashing & Spearing, then Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell stands out with eight such penalties in total.
#19 / Left Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
Apr 18, 1982
|2012 - Scott Hartnell||32||8||3||11||-5||70||4||0||1||74||10.8|
By the way, isn't it funny that the league calls it "Hi-Sticking", and not "High-Sticking"? It just seems cheerier that way, I suppose.
Rough play is a part of the game, that's well understood, but sometimes a hard hit crosses the line into dangerous territory, so to identify the NHL's dirtiest hitters we've lumped together Boarding, Charging, Checking From Behind, Clipping, Elbowing, Illegal Checks to the Head, and Kneeing calls. Should we call this the Ulf Samuellson Memorial Trophy? Anyways, your winner is...
#42 / Center / St. Louis Blues
May 01, 1984
|2012 - David Backes||48||6||22||28||5||62||1||0||1||100||6.0|
Backes had 5 such calls this season, followed by a quintet of villains with four each (Chris Neil of Ottawa, Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo, Colorado's Patrick Bordeleau, Eric Nystrom of Dallas, and Nashville's Rich Clune).
Rough Stuff, Junior Varsity Edition
Skirmishes between the teams after a whistle blows are a hallowed hockey tradition, and usually as long as the gloves stay on nothing more than a Roughing minor is handed out. This season, Ottawa's Chris Neil led the way with 14 Roughing calls, followed by Vancouver's Alex Burrows and Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf with 9.
#25 / Right Wing / Ottawa Senators
Jun 18, 1979
|2012 - Chris Neil||48||4||8||12||0||144||0||0||3||87||4.5|
Rough Stuff, Varsity Edition
When the nastiness really boils over, however, the gloves come off and Fighting majors ensue. There are some guys in the league who stake their reputation on racking up a high number of bouts, hoping to earn steady work as a team's enforcer. This season, Toronto's Colton Orr took home the honors with 13 Fighting penalties, winning a close race with Tampa Bay's B.J. Crombeen, Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Nashville's Rich Clune with 12 each.
#28 / Right Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs
Mar 03, 1982
|2012 - Colton Orr||44||1||3||4||4||155||0||0||0||13||7.6|
But that's not all, folks - stay tuned for the highest honor in our 2013 Alternative NHL Awards, the Least Valuable Player Trophy, coming soon...