Hockey is a game that is about far more than just goals scored. Because of the physical nature of the sport, some of the most important players on the ice are the strong men who protect the goal scorers. Below are five of the top ten enforcers in Islanders history.
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10. Brian Curran
|Brian Curran |
Curran spent only one full season – 1986-1987 – with the Islanders, but his impact is lasting. His record of 356 penalty minutes still stands as the all-time season high for any Islander. That mark was also Curran’s career high. Curran rarely missed an opportunity to scrap with arguably the most renowned enforcer of all time, Detroit’s Bob Probert. Curran’s career was marred by fighting injuries, notably two broken jaws and a broken nose.
9. Brendan Witt
|Brendan Witt |
The current Islanders alternate captain and defensive leader, Witt is among the toughest Islanders on the team today. During his two years with the Islanders, Witt’s fiery play and vocal presence on the ice have made him an instant hit on Long Island. This past year against the Penguins, Witt notably held up-and-coming star Evgeni Malkin in check. Whether it was through open ice hits or physical play in front of the net, Witt threw off the young superstar, holding Malkin to a -6 rating in their five meetings.
8. Ken Baumgartner
|Ken Baumgartner |
Baumgartner played for three seasons with the Islanders, beginning with the 1989-1990 season. In his time on the Island, Baumgartner spent at least 194 minutes in the penalty box in each season. His 282 penalty minutes in 1990-1991 are the fifth highest penalty minutes in a season in team history. Baumgartner, as his numbers suggest, was recognized as one of the best enforcers in the league. Current Islanders scout Eric Cairns noted Ken Baumgartner as one of his fiercest teammates in the NHL. However, Baumgartner had a reputation as a “brawler with a brain.” In the time he spent on the Island, Baumgartner also received a degree in business and finance from Long Island’s own Hofstra University.
7. Steve Webb
|Steve Webb |
Webb joined the Islanders in 1996, the first of eight years he would spend with the team. He was known for his role as an agitator, teaming up with Eric Cairns and Rich Pilon as the Isles’ most physical players. Webb began to create a name for himself during the 2001-2002 season for his hitting. His open ice hits in particular made him a fan favorite. In his rookie season, Webb had 20 fights and 144 penalty minutes. The Coliseum faithful will always remember his bone-crushing hit on Toronto Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker. The hit, delivered in the 2002 playoffs, came a night after Tucker injured Isles captain Michael Peca. Webb’s devotion to the team was unquestionable, and his status in recent Islanders history as a team player and enforcer will not soon be forgotten.
6. Eric Cairns
|Eric Cairns |
Cairns spent six years with the Islanders, and is eighth all time on the team in penalty minutes. During Cairns’ time on Long Island, he established quite the reputation as an enforcer. Cairns led the team in penalty minutes in four of his six years on the team, registering over 100 minutes in every season but one. Cairns was also a notorious fighter. In a moment that many Islanders fans will remember, Cairns defeated Shayne Corson in the 2002 playoffs. As he skated off the ice, Cairns pointed to the Coliseum faithful, and left the game to a heroic roar from the crowd.
Check back later this week for the Top 5
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* NYI TOP 10: DRAFT STEALS