Monday, June 13, 2011

On the Value of a Pest

What do Chad Larose, Corey Perry, Kris Draper, Matt Cooke, and Dave Bolland all have in common? First, they are all players of the breed known as the "pest" and second, they've each hoisted the Stanley Cup in the past 5 years. In today's NHL the pest has remained a valuable member of successful winning teams, and it's been no more evident than in this year's Stanley Cup finals in which both teams feature players the type, including Alex Burrows and Brad Marchand among others. So the question is, should the Oilers be looking into adding one to the roster?

The pest is the player that hockey fans hate on opposing teams, but tend to love when they skate in the home jersey. There's absolutely nothing more frustrating than seeing an opposing player run around the rink, play chippy, start scrums at the whistle, and skate away from them with their gloves on their hands and an aggravating grin on their face. For the past few years Oilers management has been talking about making this team "harder to play against" and adding a player cut from this mold would be a way to get there. The ability of a pest to agitate an opposing team's top players to get them off their game and goad them into taking penalties has been seen time and time again. Just think back to Round 1 and how the Blackhawks fared against the Canucks with and without Dave Bolland in the lineup.

The Oilers currently have one player that could arguably fill the role of the pest in Theo Peckham. Peckham is a player that loves to mix it up and yap at the opposition. However the man they call Teddy Peckman rarely backs down from a challenge and doesn't quite infuriate the opposition in the same manner. Also his style of play while agitating, usually ends up in more penalties taken than drawn, as evidenced by his 3rd most PIMs in the league this past season. I have no problems with the way Peckham plays the game and the toughness he brings to the lineup, but I wouldn't go as far as calling him a "rat".

However it should be noted that there is a difference between a pest and a villain. That there is a difference between a Dave Bolland and a Matt Cooke, or a Corey Perry and a Sean Avery. The most effective pest is one that can drive the opposition crazy without resorting to diving and taking cheap shots, and can still play the game well. One that can take away the focus of the opposition without themselves becoming the focus of the game. There are different breeds of pests in the NHL and it is a thin line dividing them. Finding one of the right character is certainly not an easy task, but one that Steve Tambellini should consider as they continue to build this franchise into a winner.

UPDATE Jun 15: With the exception of Tim Thomas, Brad Marchand was the difference in the Stanley Cup Final for the Boston Bruins

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  1. Konopka's a defenceman right? I think its more effective when a forward fills that role since defencemen cant come into a scrum without risking the faceoff coming back outside of the offensive zone.

  2. nope, he's a centerman. He's also killer on the draws.

  3. I think Konopka is more of the enforcer variety than a pest. He had the second most fighting majors this past season and lead the league in PIMs by a mile. I'm not sure if free agency is even the way to go with this one. Majority of the best pests in the league have been drafted by their teams and brought up through the ranks. I think that's important because it earns them the respect of their teammates and that's something they need for the style of game they play.

  4. Konopka would be a nice addition to the Oilers, though in a different role.