Tag: villains

Paul Gaustad, Milan Lucic

Don’t expect a less aggressive Milan Lucic


Just about every NHL team has a guy who can be an absolute force when everything clicks. A lot of pundits will criticize “light switch” players for their “off” nights, but the truth is that it’s not always that simple. Still, there’s some concern that a recent suspension and plenty of controversy might slow down the battering ram known as Milan Lucic.

Neither the Boston Bruins nor Lucic want the hulking winger to yield to the pressure to alter his approach, though, according to this story by CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty.

“I can’t change my game,” Lucic said. “I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol. Obviously a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion, and I can’t lose that part of my game.”

That game happens to feature a frightening combination of killer instinct and imposing size, which means he’s prone to play the role of an occasional villain. Lucic joked about his appearance on last night’s episode of HBO 24/7, when Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds lambasted him for a supposed hit from behind, screaming “You know you did it, Looch!”

An unrepentant Lucic is a great thing for the Bruins and an unsettling thing for the NHL’s other 29 teams. There’s nothing wrong with him embracing a villainous role, as long as he isn’t tying anyone to train tracks or checking people skull-first.

Are the Bruins villains? If so, should they embrace it?

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Four

Interesting piece today from CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty about Boston Bruins’ reputation. In it, Haggerty suggests that rather than fight the “media hysteria and Colin Campbell-based conspiracy theories,” the Bruins should accept it.

Well, not just accept it. Haggs thinks the B’s should embrace it.

The Bruins continue to play the role that best suits them: biggest, baddest hockey team on the block that nobody else wants to face once things get a little rough. The Sabres will get their chance to answer the call on Nov. 23 in their own backyard, and the Bruins won’t be backing down from the challenge.

It’s not going to win Lucic and Co. any popularity contests outside New England, but it’s a damned good formula for hockey success.

That’s all that should matter to a Bruins team unconcerned with the growing angry mobs in Montreal, Vancouver and any other NHL city that Boston decides to kick off the playground.

I guess the idea is for the Bruins to join the Broad Street Bullies (circa 1972-78) or, more recently, the Anaheim Ducks (circa 2007) as teams that embraced their tough/nasty/dirty reputations…and rode them to a Stanley Cup.

There’s no denying the Bruins are tough. But are they really villains?

They’ve certainly been cast that way, thanks in large part to three incidents: Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty, Brad Marchand on Daniel Sedin and, most recently, Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller.

Yet it wasn’t that long ago Boston was the victimized team, not the villainous one. Marc Savard’s career was derailed by Matt Cooke, who received little-to-no punishment whatsoever. (If anyone’s a villain, it’s Cooke. Also, remember when the B’s caught heat for not immediately retaliating?)

There was also Patrice Bergeron getting nailed by Philadelphia’s Randy Jones, who got a whopping two-game suspension. (Bergeron was out for almost an entire year with a concussion while the Flyers emerged the villains, openly complaining that Jones shouldn’t have been suspended at all.)

I just don’t see the Bruins as a collection of evil characters devoted to wickedness and illegalities. Aside from their aforementioned incidents, Chara and Lucic should be classified as “tough” more than anything else. Marchand’s got the whole Ken Linesman/rat thing going, but there are plenty of those already in the NHL — Steve Ott, Dave Bolland, Steve Downie and Dan Carcillo, etc. — and I don’t see how Noseface is worse than any of them.

After that, who’s left? Shawn Thornton’s an honest player. So’s Greg Campbell. The rest of the roster is filled with guys that are tough to play against, but nobody you’d call dirty and/or cheap.

The Bruins might be perceived as villains, but there’s always a difference between perception and reality.

That might make it tough to embrace the role.

Vancouver Canucks bristle at ‘villain’ title

Mark Recchi, Maxim Lapierre

While some outlets have hammered on the storyline a bit more than others, it seems like the consensus is that the Vancouver Canucks are the “bad guys” of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. (At least for people who enjoy the practice of adopting villains and heroes for sporting events in this age.)

That’s not to say that the Boston Bruins are being fitted for a halo anytime soon. Tim Thomas’ great play generates comparisons to the work of Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy, but his unfiltered rage also reminded some of the fury of Billy Smith or Ron Hextall. Brad Marchand has the tendency to get under peoples’ skin and the team occasionally earns back its historical nickname of the “Big, Bad Bruins.” (See: their brawl-filled regular season game against the smallish Montreal Canadiens.)

All of that aside, the conventional wisdom is that the Canucks aren’t exactly the darling of unbiased observers. Antics highlighted by Aaron Rome’s hit and Alexandre Burrows bite – not to mention the claims of diving, which may or may not be fair in the grand scheme of things – haven’t made Vancouver an adopted favorite among many fans.

The Canucks seem to bristle at the claims of villainy, as Joe Haggerty explains.

“I don’t think we’re in the villain role. I really don’t,” said Bieksa. “There are a few people that don’t like the way we play, but usually when you win people don’t like that. I know when we played Chicago last year I don’t remember too many people saying anything nice about them – but I’m pretty sure if you asked them they couldn’t care less.

“We don’t feel like villains. We feel like we have all of Canada cheering for us and that’s an entire country. So how can you be a villain when a whole country is cheering for you?”

It might be a stretch to say that all of Canada is rooting for the Canucks – one can assume that fans of division rivals such as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames might be reluctant to cross that line – but it’s reasonable to think that many Canadians are pulling for them. It’s been 18 years since Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens became the last Canadian-based team to win a Stanley Cup, although the chalice obviously spends plenty of time north of the border either way.

However the rest of the hockey world feels, a Canucks Cup win would make them heroes in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. Something tells me they care a lot more about that designation than any media-fueled “villain” labels.

Bruins and Canucks most likely to become villains in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks

Back in simpler times, the difference between “bad” and “good” was clear and undeniable. Antagonists wore suspicious mustaches and tied damsels in distress to train tracks while heroes shined like Superman. Blame it on “Generation X” or any other catalyst of cynicism, but most modern rivalries come down to shades of gray rather than obvious black-and-white battles. (Seriously, if professional wrestling catches on to the concept of anti-heroes, you know that simpler times are going away.)

When it comes to professional sports, a player can be a hero at home and receive boos whenever they touch the puck on the road. How often have you heard some variation of the phrase: “You hate the guy until he ends up on your team,” after all?

The 2011 Stanley Cup finals feature two physical teams who carried themselves this far based on plenty of factors, with their overall talent levels probably ranking the highest. That being said, they made some enemies along the way. Here are our picks for the players most likely to earn “villain” status in opposing venues during this best-of-seven championship series.

Vancouver Villains

Ryan Kesler – The one thing more infuriating than a talented opponent is an opponent who is fully aware of his talent. Kesler came into the NHL as a full-time chirper with some undeniable talent brimming within. Now he’s almost the opposite: a world-class two-way forward who can still get under opponents’ skin. Kesler became a true villain in Nashville by dominating the Predators and hamming it up in the process. The Bruins’ defense is pretty thin after their dynamic top duo, so if Claude Julien sics Zdeno Chara on the Sedin twins, Kesler could secure himself a golden opportunity to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Raffi Torres – Torres always struck me as the type of guy who owned the face of a villain, but he justified that instinctive assumption through three rounds of the playoffs. His most infamous hits remain the two checks that left Brent Seabrook reeling in the first round, but Torres continues to land thunderous blows that won’t endear him to the opposition.

Kevin Bieksa – He’s a gritty blueliner who has been on a scoring tear lately. Bieksa managed four goals and five points in Vancouver’s five games versus the San Jose Sharks, including that wacky double-OT goal that ended the series. His rough style makes him unpopular with other teams already, but recording heart-breaking tallies pushes him over the top.

Boston Baddies

Brad Marchand/Andrew Ference – Here are two players who received negative attention for their questionable goal celebrations. Marchand made that ill-fated golf swing gesture (that ended up ultimately being accurate) toward the Toronto Maple Leafs late in the regular season while Ference flipped off the Montreal Canadiens crowd in the first round. Marchand’s scoring skills and pest-like tendencies make him a stronger choice for villainy, but it makes sense to monitor both of them.

Nathan Horton – Speaking of questionable gestures toward the opposing crowd, what are the chances that Vancouver’s Green Men will come up with an absurd comedy bit regarding Horton’s water bottle incident? Is it 95, 98 or 99.99 percent? Maybe Horton will be more of a source of mockery than villainous anger, though.

Zdeno Chara – He might be a relatively even-keeled fellow for a man of his stature, but he is a physical force nonetheless. Tim Thomas is an equal obstacle in Vancouver’s path to a first Cup, but Chara’s size and defensive assignment might make him easier for Canucks fans to hate. Fair or not, that notorious hit on Max Pacioretty makes him a candidate for villain status for at least a little bit longer too, doesn’t it?

Milan Lucic – Could the Vancouver-born behemoth come back to haunt his former hometown? Chances are high that Cam Neely comparisons will make Canucks fans queasy either way.


Ultimately, just about anyone can become a villain in the framework of a championship series. All it takes is an unfortunate hit, questionable comment to the press or an overly boisterous goal celebration to become the object of disaffection. Feel free to speculate in the comments regarding which Bruins and Canucks are likely to earn villain status in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.