Dirty Cheaters? Sorting Through NHL Penalties Team-By-Team

RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 29: Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers participates in the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Dirty players? Cheaters? What's the difference and who's the biggest offender in the NHL? Here's a team-by-team breakdown of who gets away with what -- and how that might impact the playoffs.

With just ten games or so to go in the regular season, we've got a pretty good sample size to see who's been naughty and who's been nice over the course of the regular season. This isn't just a combined list of PIMs; thanks to the penalty tracker over at CBS Sports, lists of penalties have been broken down into categories.

Why is this relevant now? I don't think it's any surprise that several types of penalties wind up being called less during the stretch run and the playoffs. The standard of enforcement seemed to hold steady for two seasons following the lockout; after that, it's been fairly erratic, though things like interference have certainly gone out the window.

So let's break down penalties into two categories: dirty (boarding, charging, checking from behind, clipping, elbowing, kneeing, and roughing) and cheating (holding, holding the stick, hooking, goalie interference, interference, and tripping). Note that I'm NOT including fighting in with the dirty plays, as fighting tends to be two enforcers squaring off against each other, which is a bit different from, say, a boarding play.

Here are the teams sorted by dirty penalties so far this season:

Team Dirty
 Pittsburgh Penguins 84
 Buffalo Sabres 79
 Columbus Blue Jackets 73
 Montreal Canadiens 73
 New York Islanders 73
 New York Rangers 73
 Anaheim Ducks 70
 Edmonton Oilers 68
 Ottawa Senators 67
 Colorado Avalanche 62
 Dallas Stars 62
 Philadelphia Flyers 60
 St. Louis Blues 60
 Tampa Bay Lightning 57
 Toronto Maple Leafs 57
 Boston Bruins 54
 San Jose Sharks 53
 Vancouver Canucks 51
 Carolina Hurricanes 49
 Los Angeles Kings 46
 Minnesota Wild 45
 Phoenix Coyotes 44
 Washington Capitals 42
 Calgary Flames 40
 Chicago Blackhawks 39
 Nashville Predators 37
 Atlanta Thrashers 36
 New Jersey Devils 26
 Detroit Red Wings 23
 Florida Panthers 22

 

If you're focusing on who's dirty, here's a list of all players with nine or more "dirty" penalties. Not too many surprises here.

Player Team Pos GP Board Charge Check/Behind Clip Elbow Knee Rough Sum
Chris Neil OTT RW 70 0 1 0 0 0 0 16 17
Cody McLeod COL LW 60 3 1 0 0 1 0 11 16
Matt Cooke PIT LW 67 3 1 0 0 1 1 10 16
Patrick Kaleta BUF RW 50 1 3 0 0 0 1 9 14
Steve Ott DAL C 72 0 2 0 0 1 0 11 14
Steve Downie TB RW 48 1 2 0 0 0 0 10 13
Corey Perry ANA RW 72 1 2 0 0 0 0 9 12
Brad Staubitz MIN RW 62 2 3 0 0 0 0 7 12
Matt Carkner OTT D 50 1 0 0 0 1 0 10 12
Scott Hartnell PHI RW 71 4 1 0 0 0 0 7 12
Ladislav Smid EDM D 68 3 0 0 0 1 0 7 11
Trevor Gillies NYI LW 33 1 0 1 0 1 0 8 11
David Backes STL C 72 1 0 0 0 0 1 9 11
Mike Weber BUF D 48 1 2 0 0 0 1 6 10
Zenon Konopka NYI C 73 1 0 0 0 0 1 8 10
Sean Avery NYR LW 70 2 2 0 0 0 0 6 10
Brad Winchester ANA LW 66 0 1 0 0 1 1 6 9
Jarkko Ruutu ANA LW 63 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 9
Paul Gaustad BUF C 71 1 0 0 0 0 0 8 9
Derek Dorsett CLB RW 66 2 1 0 0 0 0 6 9
P.K. Subban MON D 68 0 0 0 0 1 0 8 9
Matt Martin NYI LW 59 4 1 0 0 1 0 3 9
Colton Orr TOR RW 46 0 1 0 0 0 1 7 9
John Erskine WAS D 65 3 0 0 0 1 0 5 9

 

Now let's look at cheating penalties:

Team Cheating
 Calgary Flames 192
 Washington Capitals 188
 Montreal Canadiens 183
 Columbus Blue Jackets 181
 Minnesota Wild 180
 Pittsburgh Penguins 177
 Detroit Red Wings 177
 Colorado Avalanche 174
 Tampa Bay Lightning 171
 Vancouver Canucks 170
 Phoenix Coyotes 169
 Philadelphia Flyers 163
 Anaheim Ducks 155
 Atlanta Thrashers 154
 Dallas Stars 152
 Boston Bruins 149
 Los Angeles Kings 149
 Buffalo Sabres 148
 Carolina Hurricanes 145
 San Jose Sharks 144
 Edmonton Oilers 142
 Nashville Predators 137
 New York Rangers 135
 New York Islanders 134
 Florida Panthers 131
 Chicago Blackhawks 130
 Ottawa Senators 127
 New Jersey Devils 118
 Toronto Maple Leafs 116
 St. Louis Blues 115

 

And the biggest offenders -- everyone with 15 or more "cheating" penalties:

Player Team Pos GP Hold HoldStick Hook GoalInt Int Trip Sum
Danny Briere PHI C 68 6 3 6 0 1 9 25
Brent Burns MIN D 71 6 0 4 1 7 4 22
Roman Hamrlik MON D 70 0 1 7 0 7 5 20
Mark Giordano CGY D 75 4 3 8 0 2 2 19
Jonathan Ericsson DET D 65 4 0 6 0 6 3 19
P.K. Subban MON D 68 1 0 4 1 4 9 19
Victor Hedman TB D 71 6 1 5 0 1 6 19
Christian Ehrhoff VAN D 70 4 0 8 0 1 6 19
Adrian Aucoin PHO D 67 3 1 6 0 2 6 18
Steven Stamkos TB C 72 2 0 4 2 2 8 18
Cory Sarich CGY D 69 3 1 5 0 5 3 17
Steve Ott DAL C 72 0 0 5 1 7 4 17
Clayton Stoner MIN D 48 3 3 6 0 2 3 17
Lars Eller MON C 68 5 1 6 0 2 3 17
Alexander Semin WAS LW 58 0 0 7 0 4 6 17
Tobias Enstrom ATL D 66 1 2 8 0 3 2 16
Jordan Leopold BUF D 69 4 0 6 0 2 4 16
Antoine Vermette CLB C 72 3 1 2 0 3 7 16
Paul Stastny COL C 68 1 1 6 0 3 5 16
Alex Goligoski DAL D 73 0 0 9 0 3 4 16
Todd Bertuzzi DET RW 73 6 0 2 2 3 3 16
Theo Peckham EDM D 61 5 0 5 0 4 2 16
Dainius Zubrus NJ RW 71 0 0 6 1 2 7 16
Erik Karlsson OTT D 69 4 0 4 0 4 4 16
Matt Cooke PIT LW 67 2 0 2 2 4 6 16
Joni Pitkanen CAR D 63 3 1 7 0 3 1 15
Rene Bourque CGY RW 73 2 0 6 0 3 4 15
Jay Bouwmeester CGY D 75 3 0 6 0 5 1 15
Derick Brassard CLB C 64 3 1 3 2 3 3 15
Karlis Skrastins DAL D 68 3 0 6 0 1 5 15
Dustin Brown LA RW 73 2 0 3 0 4 6 15
Braydon Coburn PHI D 71 3 0 5 0 3 4 15
Brooks Laich WAS C 73 0 0 4 3 4 4 15


Cheating penalties tend to lighten up in the last quarter of the season and the playoffs while dirty penalties are the kinds that tend to still get noticed whenever the season. If that trend continues, then it's important to differentiate between the two styles of penalties because one of those categories will lessen, which means that the teams at the top of the "cheating" list will be able to get away with interference, hooking, holding, etc.

I'm a big fan of holding that standard of enforcement from start to finish (the notion of "letting them play" always puzzled me, because wouldn't letting them play really mean that the unskilled players SHOULDN'T get away with cheating?) and I hope that if we see a drop in, say, Calgary's PIMs over the next 10 games, it's due to them playing cleaner as they need points.

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