There’s a certain type of hockey players that you hate to go over the boards to face. Not because they’re big, intimidating or mean. Not because they yap, chirp and slash. Not because they’re the most talented, unstoppable forces in hockey. But because they’re just so f***ing tiring to play. Physically and mentally.
I think the most commonly used name for a player like this would be “buzzsaw,” but that’s not exactly what I’m looking for. I’m talking about the guys you’d least like to face in a game where you’re “playing guilty” (hungover), or on the tail end of back-to-backs, or after a long travel day.
When you’re not feeling your best and have trouble getting up for a shift, you don’t not want to be lined up against these guys.
For an example, let’s look at the guy who inspired this list: Matt Duchene.
Matt Duchene somehow manages to make you a frisbee-chasing puppy between two people who never intend to give it to you…only he’s both people. He’s the guy with the laser pointer, and you’re the cat. He’s whatever metaphor you want to use to explain that chasing him to get what you want is a fruitless endeavor. His ability to change directions makes video game players look slow.
“Annoying to play” can mean more than “quick” too, so the list is pretty subjective. Feel free to submit a few of your own recommendations below.
Without any further ado, the following are the 9 other forwards (in no particular order) I would least like to defend on a physical off-day:
Taylor Hall plays hockey like he just had his limbs extended an extra three inches that morning and he skipped warmup to huff paint. He’s a bigger dude with good wheels and an energy reserve that must drive veteran defenseman crazy. As well as you can keep yourself between the guy with the puck and the net to conserve energy on D (if you don’t feel engaging is the right call), you still have to follow the guy around. And Hall’s energy > your energy. Dude makes you work.
You know when you’re a kid and you’re playing basketball on a Fisher-Price hoop against your uncle and he does stuff like hold the ball just high enough so you can’t reach it, and swats away your shots with ease? The uncle is Dustin Byfuglien. It’s even more apt when you consider they’re sort of shaped the same.
When he plays forward, he’s a man among boys. If he occupies the slot, he occupies the slot. You’re not moving him. And much like your uncle, who has the “insert ball into hole” option thanks to his height, Byfuglien has his shot. So you’re tired and lagging out there, and now you have to make an effort to move this monster. Enjoy.
If you really break it down, Patrick Kane doesn’t do the large things spectacularly. On it’s own, his raw speed is not overwhelming. Nor is his shot, as good as it is. Nor is his size. But damned if you can hit the little waterbug. Between the stick-handling, shoulder shimmies and well-sold fakes, you’re constantly going in the wrong direction. And when you’re not at peak energy, stop-and-correct is not at the top of the list of things you feel like doing.
Night in, night out, no shifts off, the Backes train is coming.
There’s a real joy in playing against your buddies, as good as they may be at hockey. You can chuck in an inside joke at a faceoff and try and get them to laugh, and you know that if your numbers are showing near the boards, they’re pulling up.
David Backes hates you. He has no buddies. He has no interest in your idle chit chat. And if you aren’t prepared for the thunder, well tough luck buds, he’s bringing it anyway. He doesn’t know how to turn it off for so much as a shift.
Death by 1,000 cuts.
Three foot seam pass. Three foot seam pass. Three foot seam pass. We’re still in our zone. They still have the puck. Three foot seam pass. Hey, a blonde in the first row. Oh crap another minus.
You don’t have to be quick to run defenders ragged.
Thomas the Tank Engine read The Story of Zach Parise growing up to learn about persistence. You can juke Parise and start the breakout, but there’s a little hook on your hands, and now he’s caught up. And now he’s got the puck back, and now he got a shot on goal. And then you get the puck back, and you beat him again…but there he is again. Now you have an Austin Powers quote in your head: “Why…won’t…you…just…DIE?”
He’s a Jack Russel Terrier puppy. He’s water eroding a rock. He’s relentless.
Marian Hossa doesn’t have any particular standout skill aside from his skating and his size and his shot and his hands and his vision and his puck possession and his work ethic and his intelligence. Which is good, because otherwise he’d be tough to play.
If Patrice Bergeron were a coach putting his team through a set of lines, he’d make the whole team do it over if one guy stopped short of a line. You just know cutting corners makes him sick. He’s the poster boy for making your own luck.
Because of that, you know that every time you take a shortcut he’s going to burn you. He’s going to do the little things well, and he has the skills to capitalize when your lazy ass doesn’t come all the way back on that backcheck. He juuust had the time to pot that one into the open cage. If only you had better work ethic. Slacker.
Brendan Gallagher is your six-year-old nephew that slept great last night, got a good nap in, and is suddenly excited all the family is coming over so he can play with his cousins. He’s un-tire-out-able. He won’t shut up, he’s probably going to wreck something, and someone is definitely getting hurt.
The adults would love for him to go into the living room and watch TV so they can have 20 minutes of peace, but there he is, in your face, insisting some adult play with him too. Dammit, Gallagher. After dinner, okay? At least let me finish this wine.
Remember, these aren’t pests, these aren’t necessarily the best players in the game, and they certainly aren’t players who are prone to taking nights off. Any additions you’d like to make to the “offensively annoying” list?