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The Penalty Box: CTN takes some hits

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com


Perhaps Crashing the Net should tackle the physical elements of the game in each week’s Opening Faceoff Needless to say, the Top 20 list of the game’s best hitters got the blood pumping and the fingers hitting the keyboard as e-mail after e-mail poured in from all corners of the globe.

It was not just quantity; however, it was quality, as well. E-mailers made impassioned and logical pleas for their favorite candidates that did not make the list. As you will see, it makes for quality reading, as does the non checking-related missives.

So, as always, enjoy this issue of the Penalty Box and remember that you can take part in hockey’s best online forum by simply dropping CTN a note at roarkeblog@nhl.com. Remember to include your name and hometown if you want to make the cut.

Shawn P. Roarke
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I believe Robyn Regehr of the Calgary Flames to be an awesome hitter worthy of the Top 20. Every game I have seen, he has destroyed guys. There are too many to list.
Keep up the great work,

-- Rick Vaile

Rick, thanks for considering my small contribution to the great hockey discourse “great.” CTN is truly humbled. Robyn Regehr is a good addition to the list. The fact that he plays on the same team as Dion Phaneuf hurt his candidacy when CTN sat down to formulate last week’s list. Phaneuf’s brilliance when it comes to hitting casts everyone around him – no matter how effective – in the shadows. CTN thinks this is what happened here.


Montreal is second in the League in hits and only one player makes the Top 20?  What about Steve Begin, Francis Bouillin and Tom Kostopolous?
-- Bob Norris, Edmonton


Bob, thanks for checking in. Your question about the lack of Canadiens on the list is a good one. Let CTN say, however, that Begin was left off the list because he has missed almost half the season through injury. When he is in the lineup, Begin is a true treat to watch, especially in puck pursuit, where he is a tenacious bulldog. Bouillon is also an honorable mention candidate. And, his stock with CTN went up a few notches Sunday when he willingly engaged with the much taller, much heavier Colton Orr of the New York Rangers.

How could you have a Top 20 hitters list and not mention Jared Boll of Columbus?  I went to a preseason game when they played the Blackhawks and he hit everything that moved. Plus, he’s pretty good at dropping the gloves, too. Any chance of revising the list?
-- Jay P. Rebscher


Boll
Jay, a solid inquiry by you. CTN must admit that he has only seen Boll play a few times this season. But the young man has left quite an impression upon each viewing. CTN would argue that Boll does not have the body of work to hold up against most of his competition on the Top 20 list. CTN thinks that if this list appears next year, Boll’s candidacy will have a lot more merit.


Your 20 biggest hitters list, with the exception of a handful of those guys was absolutely aweful.
-- Brian Bowser


Brian, thank you for that constructive criticism. CTN has to say though that his ability to identify good bodycheckers still outstrips your ability to form coherent, correctly spelled sentences. So, at least CTN has that going for himself.

Hey CTN,
Awesome list of big-time bodycheckers. I have to agree with almost every single one. I can almost predict your response to this point, because I know you had to pick the top 20 hitters, but I'll make it anyway. Although my favorite pick of yours has to be Mike Komisarek (being a Habs fan), I believe you may have overlooked Francis Bouillon. This is a guy who is smaller than Saku Koivu and throws his body around with reckless abandon.  He'll fight too, without hesitation. Habs fans will all remember last season when Bouillon dropped Darcy Tucker with one punch at the Bell Centre. Having been at that game, I remember maybe more than others. Anyway, great list, but would've loved to see Bouillon on there.

On another note, Dillinger Escape Plan ROCKS.  If there's one thing you do before you die, see them live. I saw them twice in Guelph where I used to live and once in Montreal since I moved here. Truly, they are gods of metal.
-- Greg Beilhartz


Bouillon
Greg, solid points about Bouillon, many of which were addressed in an earlier response. His scrappiness always has a place with CTN. Also, CTN hopes to take you up on the seeing DEP in concert. Although CTN is getting a little long in the tooth to be haunting metal shows, CTN still likes the occasional metal concert. Dillinger Escape Plan is on CTN’s lists of concerts to catch in the near future.

Hey Shawn,
I was surprised that Derian Hatcher did not make the list of heavy hitters. The one thing evident in every Flyers game is the fact that players from other teams don't even try to hit ‘Hatch.’ They purposefully avoid him, with good reason.  Hell, even his own teammate (Lupul) ended up on the wrong end of a Hatcher hit. Players avoid him because they know the power of his hits. It's a sign of respect. I think he's right up there with Rob Blake, Chris Pronger and Jason Smith.
-- David Williams


David, CTN thinks that Hatcher’s days of being an intimidating hitter are receding and that is why he was not on the list. Perhaps it is hangover from the clear struggles Hatcher had last season keeping up with the pace of play -- you can’t catch what you can’t hit – but Hatcher did not even make CTN’s original list. In an effort to be fair, CTN will play closer attention to Hatcher to see if he is regaining the form that once made him one of the most feared hitters in the game. Thanks for the head’s-up.


Are you insane?
There’s this guy out on the West Coast, might have heard of him, by the name of Douglas Murray. Have you seen this guy level people?
 -- Kent Bunn


Douglas Murray is one of the best body checkers in the NHL. Watch  Murray hit highlights
Kent, to answer your first question, yes CTN is insane – but only when medications are missed or dosages are confused. Otherwise, CTN is right as rain. To answer your second question, yes CTN has seen a chap named Doug Murray, a strapping Swedish defenseman that plies his trade for the Sharks, no? And, yes, CTN has seen Murray lay some people out. But, destroying the opposition is not the end game when it comes to hitting. Sure, it is entertaining and sure it has value. But, it also must usually accomplish a greater goal – in this case, separating a player from the puck. CTN would like to see Murray develop a more well-rounded checking style before he gains entry to this exclusive fraternity.

Hardest Hitters ... and you guys leave out Alexander Ovechkin? Tell me, how many times have you ever seen players take runs at guys full on, and instead of knocking them down, THEY go flying? This doesn't just happen once in a while – every time he has the puck. He destroys people left, right and center. How on earth did you miss that? Check out www.ovechkinfans.com and then maybe ya'll can open your eyes, stop kissing Crosby's butt, and realize how dominant this guy is. He destroys everyone -- and we're not talking about his goal-scoring ability here, we're talking about his ability to smoke people.
-- Sanjeet Soor


Ovechkin
Sanjeet, CTN doesn’t watch Alexander Ovechkin to see him hit people. It’s a nice added bonus, but it is not why CTN tunes in an “AO” game. I watch Ovechkin because CTN wants to see him make magic with the puck on his stick and CTN wants to see him score highlight-reel goals. When CTN watches Dion Phaneuf, CTN wants to see him deliver board-rattling hits and play solid defense. The fact that Phaneuf scores goals is a bonus, just as the fact that Ovechkin can run over people when the mood possesses him. CTN also has no idea where you get your facts from but you might want to visit www.hockeyreality.com and realize that CTN is a huge fan of AO. While it is popular to jump on the Crosby bandwagon, CTN has been among a vocal minority that has put Ovechkin on the same pedestal. There is no kissing up done in this space. CTN calls it like CTN sees it. Plus, CTN has never understood this Crosby vs. Ovechkin dichotomy and the suggestion that you can only like one of the two players. These two players bring different attributes to the table and appeal to different segments of the hockey population; it is as simple as that. But, each deserves all the attention and praise available. The game needs all the young superstars it can find. Why drag one through the mud in favor of another? It still doesn’t make sense to CTN, but then again maybe that is because CTN goes through life with his eyes closed.


Hey CTN,
Great article last week. I happen to love watching players throw the body around, but there is just never enough coverage of it. So, it was great to see my favorite nhl.com blogger write about. I am very curious to see what your list would look like if you didn't stay within the limits of current players. Also, though I'm sure you've got most of your blogs planned out for the rest of the season, I'd love to see you list the 20 best fighters (current or all time, it doesn't matter) because let’s face it, a good clean brawl is always good to watch, and it's part of the game. It adds to the drama and excitement, gets fans energized and can turn the tide of the that particular game. So how about it CTN, think you could squeeze in that article?
-- Tyler Moyes, Cambridge, Ont.



Tyler, CTN and you are far too similar in our hockey tastes, it appears. Like you, CTN likes a good donnybrook now and again, especially in the run of a game. There’s no need for the WWE showboating, however. You may get your wish one day and see a column on fighters, who knows? CTN does not plan out his weekly offering too far, often waiting for inspiration to strike close to the Wednesday deadline for copy submission, so it is a fluid situation. IN fact, as CTN answers this mailbag on Monday, CTN still has no clue as to the topic of this week’s Opening Faceoff. As for all-time hitters, that’s too tough to call. CTN, however, can tell you that Cam Neely, Terry O’Reilly, Scott Stevens and Clark Gillies would all be on that list.

With all the talk of the Sharks trading Patrick Marleau for Marian Hossa or anybody else, I'm wondering why they would do that? Admittedly, Marleau is playing well below his ability; but it’s not as if he's now a bad player and has lost his ability. He has just lost his form. Form is temporary, class is permanent, and, in Marleau, the Sharks have a player with a bucketload of class. With the playoffs not for a couple of months and the Sharks playing nicely -- if unspectacularly -- at the top of the Pacific Division without him, Marleau surely has time to find his form and return to be the player that we all know he is. It seems foolish to trade your captain for a player who offers probably less skill, just more form at this stage of the season, and I really hope that the Sharks don't trade him because he won’t stay off form forever. When his form returns, Marleau is a formidable talent. Also, where were Doug Murray and Steve Bernier on your top hitters list, and why did Columbus give up Jody Shelley, a fan favorite and a great enforcer so cheaply?
-- James, Oxfordshire, U.K.

Marleau
James, you make some excellent points about Patrick Marleau. Sometimes, it is hard to remember that he is just 28-years-old. This is a player that conceivably has another decade of elite-level hockey left in his body. Plus, he has been hot for the past 10 games, showing signs of breaking out of a season-long slump. But, there is also no denying that Marleau has struggled mightily this season. He’s on Pace for his lowest goal total of his career and will struggle, at the current pace, to top the points total he put up in his rookie year. That is almost unfathomable for a player that is only three seasons removed from representing Canada at the World Cup of Hockey. And, the Sharks need scoring if they plan to make a long run in the playoffs. Right now, the team has just two players – Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek – with more than 30 points and does not possess a 20-goal scorer on its roster. That just won’t cut it. To get an elite scorer like Atlanta’s Hossa, the Sharks will have to give up quality in return. However, CTN thinks Marleau is too steep a price to pay and can’t see that happening. As to your other points, CTN already addressed the exclusion of Murray in an earlier response. Bernier, meanwhile, is a good hitter, but not an elite bodychecker by any stretch of the imagination. Finally, the Blue Jackets gave up on Shelley because they ran out of roster room and Shelly was the logical person to go. Columbus has other players that can fill that role, especially youngster Jarrett Boll, at a cheaper salary. Shelley only fetched a late-round draft pick in return because there is not much of a market for this type of player in today’s NHL. With that said, CTN believes that Shelley will be a fine addition to the Sharks.

   

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