Which NHL players do you hate the most?
Ask the question, and you’ll hear names like Milan Lucic and Corey Perry, i.e. players that draw your ire but ones that you'd take on your team in a heartbeat. Pests like Brad Marchand have their virtues too, when they're on your side.
There’s a difference, then, between players that you hate and players that you loathe.
The irredeemable player is loathsome. The fraudulent or counterfeit player is loathsome. The player that skirts the rules, plays injuriously and doesn’t do anything to balance that out is loathsome.
The Puck Daddy brain-trust debated this topic recently, and came up with this list of The Top 10 Most Loathsome Players in the NHL.
(Please note: We tried to keep this list restricted to on-ice/hockey-related reputations, understanding that Slava Voynov, Semyon Varlamov and others who have engaged in loathsome off-ice behavior are likely atop your own lists.)
And here … we … go.
10. Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs
Bozak isn’t exactly hated. Just disrespected by 30 fan bases, who see him as the poster-child for bad analytics, unearned ice time and a mediocre player being carried by his superstar friend, the Johnny Drama to Phil Kessel’s Vinny Chase. Now, after the Leafs were unable to move him, we’ll see what Bozak does on his own, baby bro …
9. Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes
Smith’s had critics for years claiming he was a fraudulent goalie living off one good season (2011-12) who was exposed in last season’s 42-loss campaign. He’s also the most unrepentant diver in the NHL, and perhaps the greatest argument for making goalies fair game.
8. John Scott, Arizona Coyotes
Fun fact: 60-percent of tremors in California are the continuing aftershocks from the collective eye-roll from of Sharks fans after Doug Wilson signed Scott last summer. He’s seen as a Neanderthalic relic by most fans, with little redeemable hockey skill. But anyone that wears a T-shirt that features himself scoring one of his rare goals can’t be all bad.
7. Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators
Even if we leave out the civil suit for sexual assault he just settled, Ribeiro remains a player whose behavior saw him run out of Glendale and whose has a career of FIFA-quality diving. Some Predators fans are willing to stomach it all in the name of second-chances and points at center. Others … not so much.
6. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets
Another entry in the “widespread disrespect” category, even after a respectable season for a playoff team. Pavelec’s status as perhaps the worst starter in the NHL has been well chronicled. The best that can be said for his status with Jets fans is that they tolerate him.
5. Raffi Torres, San Jose Sharks
Torres gets a scintilla of sympathy for his injury issues in the last year, but that doesn’t erase the fact that he’s a suspension waiting to happen who’s administered more head shots than a yearbook photographer.
4. Patrick Kaleta, Buffalo Sabres
Kaleta crosses the line more than a clumsy bowler, with the illegal hits and the head butting and the general disregard for opponents. He’s amassed nearly 20 games of suspension from the NHL, and the Sabres asked him to make “significant changes to his style.” He’s a free agent now, and getting character building press and recognition for being a LEGO enthusiast.
3. Matt Cooke, Minnesota Wild
Every time you figured Cooke has become that dynamic fourth-liner and special teams player who, at the very least, endeared himself to his current fans, he does something like the Tyson Barrie hit and all the memories of the Marc Savard incident come flooding back. As the Minnesota City Paper headline stated after Cooke was bought out by the Wild: “DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON YOUR WAY OUT.”
2. Steve Ott, St. Louis Blues
At one point, a prototypical pest in the NHL: One that played on the edge and did some very good things outside the agitation game, like winning faceoffs. But now he’s a perfect storm of suck: a player whose antics are now longer justified by his contributions. It’s possible he’s hated more by Blues fans than the other 29 fan bases.
1. Zac Rinaldo, Boston Bruins
There are very few things on which the hockey world can agree. Everything from shootouts to outdoor games to the fancy stats to Gary Bettman, our lives are filled each day with small wars fought over any and all subjects.
Which is why talking about Zac Rinaldo is such a breath of fresh air, because the overwhelming consensus is that he’s atrocious.
NHL fans viewed him as a stone-handed knucklehead inexplicably holding down a roster spot. Flyers fans called him an “embarrassment.” When the Bruins acquired him, columnists noted he was “not someone who’s made hockey teams for his ability to play hockey” and questioned what the hell the team was thinking.
Rinaldo says “changing for the better will happen,” so maybe he ends up endearing himself to Bruins fans and changing the minds of his league-wide critics.
Or he’s suspended after opening night. One of the two.
That's our list ... who makes yours?
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