matt duchene

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 2Taylor Hall

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.

dustin byfuglien 2Dustin Byfuglien

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.

Patrick Kane 22Patrick Kane

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.

david backes 2David Backes

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.

henrik sedin 2The Sedins

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.

zach parise 2Zach Parise

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 2Marian Hossa

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.

Patrice Bergeron

patrice Bergeron 2If 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 2Brendan Gallagher

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?

Comments (27)

  1. Datsyuk makes all of his opponents look like their ‘playing guilty’.

  2. Marchand. Has under the table skills, is always working hard, and you hate him but can’t really stop him. and he won’t fight you.

  3. Getzlaf seems like the type of player you do not want to see come over the boards. You know he is big and will take a run at you, he is a great passer, but also has an amazing shot that can come from anywhere.

    He likes to cycle and grind down low, so you know in 30 – 45 seconds you will be dead if you get caught in your zone.

    Going back to the bench after dumping it in because you spent your whole shift defending is always a horrible feeling, even worse when you get scored on.

  4. You already have two Blackhawks on the list, but why not add a third? Jonathan Toews. Again, one guy that doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well (maybe faceoffs?), but will frustrate you in the offensive zone. You think you’re free to make the up pass? Nope, you’ve just been stick lifted out of nowhere and guess who has it. You think you’re going to grab that puck coming around the boards? Nope, stick lift and guess who just made you look dumb for standing there. End of a shift and guess who you have to battle in the corner with.

    Of course that little toe drag move that somehow parts the sea of your defensive pairing has got to feel nice after it made you look dumb.

  5. Curious to see what you think of TJ Oshie. I know he hasn’t really been consistent throughout his NHL career and he’s always “about to have a breakout season” which hasn’t come yet and he’s 26 but you played against him when he played for NoDak (right?). Do you think he fits here?

  6. True that.

    I was thinking of Joe Thornton when he’s in one of his firey stretches. Yyyyyikes — get out of the way.

    • Problem there is, this list is supposed be about guys who never take nights off and are a challenge every single game. Your comment even admits that Thornton is hot or cold and not always hard to play against.

  7. great list. Ryan Callahan jumps to mind as being an addition.

  8. Darren Helm seems like he’d be a nightmare. Fast and relentless.

  9. Jody Shelley.

    You’re groggy, head aching, feeling dehydrated, wondering what happened to your cell phone last night, and you keep glancing over at the opposing bench, and you’re not sure if you’re still drunk and seeing things or what, but there’s this ogre over there, like some kind of bad guy from Lord of the Rings, and he doesn’t move, and every time you come back from a shift he’s in the same spot — IS HE REAL? You shiver in fear as you try to backcheck… always worried he’ll come over the boards and shuffle his way toward your general location…

  10. The Gallagher description also applies quite nicely to Cory Conacher.

    • Except its not clear that Connacher can score if he isn’t playing with St. Louis. Don’t get me wrong, I watched a lot of Sens games near the end of the year and I admire the guys heart and work effort but I’m not convinced that he isn’t just Ryan Shannon v 2.0.

  11. Speaking of three-foot seam passes… I would probably not want to be defending anyone Patrik Elias is passing to.

    • A lot of people don’t realize just how much Elias brings to the table. The guy has practically no flaws in his game. He’s getting older, but nobody seems to have told him because he just keeps on being great at offense and great at defense.

      The Parise part of this article is spot on too. Have you ever watched just how silly the players from the other team look while Parise is cycling down low? It’s like “Parise digs it off the boards, passes it to himself along the boards, digs it out again, passes it to his teammate, digs it out again…” I get tired just watching it.

  12. It feels like including Datsyuk in those type of discussion is pointless. We all agree that he’s the last player you want to play against, hangover or not.

  13. Alex Burrows – You haven’t got a clue how he’s even played one game in The Show, let alone going on 600. He’ll work hard, crude and ugly and still get that goal somehow that you didn’t think was possible.

    Case in point: Overtime game seven, 2011, against Chicago.

  14. Dustin Brown? He might not score as much as he should but I still wouldn’t want to be giving him opportunities aside from those he creates on his own.

  15. No longer in the NHL, but Alexander Frolov was just so damn good at getting the puck on the forecheck and then keeping it away from the defense. You’re headed back into your zone to retrieve the puck (on the dump in, this is Kings hockey) and all of a sudden, where did this guy come from? Now he’s got the puck along the boards, no worries, i’ll lift the stick and take it back. Wait, he’s going the other way. Wait, nows he’s going the OTHER way. Gonna have to pin him and wait for help. Shit!! now he’s off again.

    The Kings didnt necessarily get a lot of shots out of it, but Frolov could spend entire shifts down low fending off a couple guys.

  16. people dont like playing against henrik lundqvist either, white power!!!!!!!!!

    • It’s never a good idea to write “white power”, especially in a post that seems to list your real name…

      • I seriously doubt a white supremacist named his soon to be racist son after a dead hockey player from a communist country.

  17. How about Mike Richards? Relentless, will frustrate with his defensive play, amazing forechecker, can knock you down on your ass, always seems to be at the right place at the right time, and his offensive game is underrated. Heart and soul type of player. I’d hate to go up against him.

  18. This seems obvious, but Sidney Crosby? Have you seen the goal he scored when Jason Spezza was all over him behind the net?
    I don’t understand how any defender can deal with Sid coming down on them. Take the body, he has the strongest legs in the game, he will fight you off. Take the puck, he will embarrass you. Double team, he will find the open guy. Cover the pass, he is a fifty goal scorer, he’ll happily take the shot. He can pass like no other player in the game. I doubt a player goes out drinking if he has to play Pittsburgh the next day. Maybe after the game, to forget…

    • I think, as mentioned, the point wasn’t about playing against the best hockey player in the NHL.

      “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.”

      With that said, I think Bourne opened the door with a couple of guys on that list.

  19. for me this list is really tough, but to not have Tavares, Crosby, Datsyuk or Karlson on it seems a bit lacking, but like I said its a tough ten… not gallager and if its “offensively” than its not bergeron or Backes they would go on the defensively list. just a couple thoughts.

  20. Just as the Selke Award was created for Bob Gainey, this award should bear his name.

  21. Henrik Zetterberg. Ask Crosby and Toews.

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