Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Punisher

In the Marvel Comics Universe, The Punisher is a fierce anti-hero who has no super powers. He just has an intense work ethic and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He uses a mix of brute force and intimidation to overcome his enemies. There is nothing flashy or exceptional about him, just raw power. If the heroes of Marvel Comics were to don skates and sticks and take to the ice then there is no question in my mind that The Punisher would be none other than Hall of Fame Inductee, Scott Stevens.

Scott Stevens started his career with the Washington Capitals where he was able to grow defensively under such players as Rod Langway and Doug Jarvis. After the 1990 season the St. Louis Blues signed him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, giving up 5 first round draft picks in the process. The very next season though, the Blues attempted to sign Brendan Shanahan of the New Jersey Devils, to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent. The Devils and Blues attempted to determine "fair compensation" for Shanahan, with the Blues offering Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind'amour and two draft picks, but the Devils wanting Scott Stevens. An independent arbitrator ruled in favour of the Devils and one of the most important transactions in league history was made.

Tangent Warning: Don't believe me that this was an important trade? Do you think that the Devils would have been able to win any Stanley Cups without Scott Stevens? Do you remember that there was a lot of talk during the 94-95 season that the Devils were going to move to Nasvhille, but after they won the cup they stayed? Do you remember that the Blues traded Shanahan to Hartford for Chris Pronger, the core of their team for several years? Do you remember that the Whalers traded Shanahan to the Red Wings in 1996, when he proved to be the missing piece of their championship puzzle? Really, the two biggest powerhouses of the inter-lockout era, the Wings and Devils, were either directly or indirectly made possibly by this very trade....tangent over...

Stevens earned the majority of his fame in New Jersey, captaining the team to three Stanley Cups between 1995 and 2003. However the majority of Stevens' fame comes from his reputation as being among the greatest open ice hitters ever. Need proof? Here is the Sports Centre top 10 Scott Stevens hits...

Scary, eh? Pay special attention to the hit on Eric Lindros, which essentially ended the career of one of the potentially best players the league has ever seen. (Do you think that would have happened if Stevens were playing for the Blues and therefore in the Western Conference and NOT meeting the Flyers in the playoffs?...I'm done tangenting now I guess)

Despite never being much of an offensive threat, Stevens was able to receive recognition on a repeated basis, playing in thirteen NHL All-Star Games, and being one of only six Defensemen to with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Like the comic book fans who prefer the outer-worldly feats of Superman or The Flash, the majority of NHL fans have preferred the smooth skating and incredible stick handling of the Alexander Ovechkin's or Daniel Briere's of the world. However it is comforting to know that in the larger-than-life world of professional sports that the working class anti-hero still has a place in our hearts.

Until next time,


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