Thursday, October 23, 2008

Top 10 Adams Division Tough Guys

A tip of the lid to Down Goes Brown for an educational rundown of the Top 10 Norris Division Tough Guys.

Never missing an opportunity to steal someone else's idea, here's my list of top Adams Division pugilists.

A little background: The Adams Division existed from 1974-93, with a variety of lineups influenced by relocations, realignments and expansion. At various times it included the Leafs, North Stars and Senators, but for the purposes of this list I'm going with the post-1981 lineup of Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, Montreal and Quebec. Each team is represented with at least one guy on the list, though the Whalers and Nords made it a little tough. For some reason that is lost on me, the Adams got rid of most of its goons during the mid-to-late '80s, so a lot of the guys on this list toiled in relative obscurity while Probert and Clark and Grimson were getting all the

Dale Hunter - Probably one of the most hated players of all time, but undeniably a tough bastard to play against. Like Stan Jonathan he was one of those scrappy little guys who would drop 'em with anyone. He fought Ulf Samuelsson 7 times, which is a small bit of redemption for his transgressions.

His years as a Cap make it easy to forget that Hunter played 7 years in Quebec, and had a key role in the "Good Friday Brawl" in the '84 Adams Division Finals.

Lyndon Byers -
Byers' contribution to the Bruins juggernaut of the late '80s was pretty straightforward... patrol around and make sure nobody messes with Bourque or Janney (Cam Neely didn't need that kind of protection). He was never really in the upper rung of elite heavyweights, but he knew his role and was always on call.

Here's a vid of LB in a vicious bout with the Sabres' Clark Gillies:

Jim McKenzie - "Underrated" seems to be the word most often used to describe McKenzie. A clean, toe-to-toe type of brawler who was really the only tough Whaler other than Verbeek.

Anyone who can stand in against the Twister is a badass in my book:

Larry Playfair - Brad May and Rob Ray did so much to define the concept of "Sabres enforcer" that Playfair is almost forgotten. But this was an old-school, bruiser of a man who would've been right at home in Slap Shot.

Here are fights 2 and 3 of his feud with Chris Nilan:

Jay Miller - Miller was a classic "goon", peaking at 20 points but reliably racking up 250-300 PIMs per season. One of the best southpaws of his time, Miller held long-running feuds with heavyweights like Nilan, Kordic and Kocur.

Here he is against Nilan... a real Adams Division heavyweight matchup:

Brad May - May was actually a somewhat useful player, coming close to scoring 20 goals a couple of times. But his role as an enforcer, especially during the time when he and Ray were both racking up 300+ PIM on the same team, overshadows his other contributions. I don't know if any other team has ever had two players with 300 PIM, but I doubt it.

May takes on Shayne Corson in this vid:

Stan Jonathan - Like a bulldog, Jonathan was pound-for-pound the meanest breed of fighter. Considered a lightweight, he stood a mere 5'8" and rarely fought an opponent at an advantage. Though he never racked up huge PIM numbers, he held his ground as one of the top pugilists of his era. He was also a pretty solid hockey player, scoring 27 goals one year.

Here's Jonathan's infamous beatdown/forced-retirement number on Pierre Bouchard. One of the most vicious fights of all time:

John Kordic - It's easy to forget that Kordic was only 27 when he died of cocaine overdose. By that time he had already established himself as a premier tough guy for the Habs. In particular he tortured Basil McRae with numerous beatdowns, going undefeated in 10 fights. He also fought Jay Miller 12 times, which again is even more remarkable when you consider that 11 of those bouts occurred in a span of two and a half years.

His nickname was "Rambo". Wicked.

Kordic vs. Miller, 1-4:

Rob Ray - God I used to hate this guy. Any time the league makes a rule specifically aimed at your shenanigans, you've moved into Sean Avery territory. In Ray's case, it was the fact that he would do a striptease before every fight, which of course made every bout ridiculously one-sided until they started requiring tiedowns. But you can't deny that Ray was one of the truly elite goons of the 1990s. There was a period when he was probably the best fighter in the league.

A great matchup between Ray and Tie Domi:

Chris Nilan - "Knuckles" was the premier fighter in the Adams Division, period. He racked up an astounding 300 career fights, taking on everyone from Paul Coffey to Bob Probert. To date, he still has the highest PIM average of any player, ever. He was penalized 10 times in one game. They had to change the rules when he got selected for the All-Star Team. He beat down Torrie Robertson 10 times.

I could go on all night. This guy was nails.

Here's Nilan taking on Stan Jonathan, two mean SOB's representing bitter rivals in a nice scrap:

Let me know if you'd have done it different...

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Down Goes Brown said...

Nice work.

Hard to argue with Nilan at #1. I was never a fan of Rob Ray -- like Peluso, he was more of a quantity over quality guy. What about Tony Twist?

And congratulations(?) to John Kordic for making both the Adams and Norris list.

Tom said...

Twist was a really tough decision, especially since he would be at or near the top of the list. I finally decided not to include him since I felt he was more of a Blue than a Nord... having played only 24, 44, and 34 games in his three Adams seasons.

Jim McKenzie was in a similar position, but I gave in and added him because the Whalers had to have somebody on there and McKenzie logged 60+ games in a couple of his years with the Whale.