With this summer's departure of hate-magnet Chris Pronger, you figure the Ducks would finally be out of suspendable jerks with the initials "CP", but we mustn't forget the ever-irritating presence of Corey Fucking Perry. While it is certainly Pronger that brought out the vast majority of boos in out-of-town arenas (justifiably -- he plays a great public villain), the hatred that is directed towards Perry by opposition fans is something more special and intense.
It's not just our good pal commenter Ruben who's taken me to task for rooting for Perry, I've heard it from all over -- my Red Wings buddy, for example, after winning game seven, declared to me (in the typical magnanimous style of Detroit fans), "I wish I knew where Corey Perry lived. I want to drive up to his house and punch him in the nuts." Not Chris Pronger, notorious Wing eliminator. Not Mike Brown, who destroyed Hudler after a drop pass. Not Scott Niedermayer, who had fought Datsyuk at the closing whistle, nor Frenchy Beauchemin, who had broken Kopecky's face. Not Marchant, not Getzlaf, not Hiller, not anybody who was really instrumental in the series. Corey Fucking Perry. He drives opposition fans nuts.
And I get it, Duck haters. He yaps, he dives, he pushes after whistles, and he has a tendency of forgetting how to skate vertically whenever in "falling distance" of an opposition goaltender. I also never ever ever ever ever worry when Corey Perry is fallen on the ice waiting for a trainer -- so far in his career, he's faked it almost every time. He's got the mouthy attitude of an Avery-like pest but without his own fists backing him up (blame Todd Fedoruk for that -- he always had his back when Perry first showed up in this league). Though in fairness, it's not like Perry never fights -- he did get in two punching contests in the postseason alone.
And, of course, he scores like a superstar. He's either the highest-scoring pest in the league or the most-obnoxious scorer in the league, depending on the moment, but his offense is legit. He's increased his points and goals total all four years of his career, and especially with linemate Getzlaf, has a habit of controlling the puck for extended stretches in the offensive zone. Perry works great in the cycle with his size and fancy stickwork, and he's got a sneaky shot -- clearly part of the reason Perry is hated so intensely is his ability to hurt opponents on the scoreboard, too. (Feel free to elaborate on your own reasons in the comments, though -- should be fun.)
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And then there's this:
Really, you can take all of Pronger's elbows and stomps, Mike Brown's big hit, and all the rest of Anaheim's post-lockout belligerence, and out of all of that -- this is probably the video that's toughest for me to watch (possible exception: Brad May's suckerpunch, but there wasn't any proper video of that). It's Claude Giroux -- a non-factor who I'd barely ever heard of from Philly -- clearly without the puck, and way away from the net, and Perry just reaches out and clocks him. Perry got four games as a first-timer, but man. Just stupid.
There's definitely times I wish Corey Perry could keep his head.
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Enough belly-aching, though -- there's definitely a huge upside to Perry, aside from aggravating behavior. The guy is flat-out an offensive wizard. Coming out of the lockout, when Brian "Racist" Burke was cleaning house of any European talent not named "Selanne", "Pahlsson", or "Back-up-netminder", it used to bother me a bit -- in a Don-Cherrian way, I worried about the notion of the Ducks becoming a bit too North American, too straightforwardly north-south in their style, lacking the creative benefits of European-style speed and finesse.
But it was really watching three specific players in those first few months that gave me hope -- Scott Niedermayer, whose skating and smarts (and lack of a proper slapshot) sufficiently escaped the North American mold. Andy McDonald, whose speed and lack of size made him play a creative style. And Corey Perry, whose ability to stickhandle a puck in very tight spaces was eye-opening. They just had a skillset and style of play that seemed sufficiently different from the typical dump-and-chase mold.
It's probably safe to pencil in Perry this season on Getzlaf's wing, with either Bobby Ryan, Joffrey Lupul, or some lucky passenger as the third member -- there just doesn't seem to be reason to split up the Getzlaf-Perry buddy system after sticking with it for four years. (Note: I didn't do a goal-differential breakdown for Perry, but it should be similar enough to Getzlaf's broken-out season.) But now more than ever, Randy Carlyle has roster options among his top six forwards -- should things start sour for the Ducks (or if Getzlaf and Perry's penalty problems become too much), he may experiment with other RWs like Selanne, Ryan, or Lupul. Regardless, Perry will be on a very good scoring line, and figures to have another obnoxiously productive year.
I have to say, as Getzlaf and Perry grew up together in this league -- first year as fourth-liners, then as second-liners, and for the last two years top-liners -- I've enjoyed Perry's antics more and more. Simply his ability to drive opposing fans red with anger is a unique asset, and one which I probably enjoy a bit too much. Yeah, the Ducks could probably be improved if Corey Perry decided to become an upstanding NHL citizen and concentrate fully on just scoring, but I tell you -- I'd miss the opposing fan spite.
With the departures over the past few years of Chris Pronger, Brad May, and Todd Bertuzzi (a.k.a. Captain Elbows and the Suckerpunch Kids), the Ducks are running out of true NHL villains -- guys like Niedermayer and Selanne are too diplomatic to play such a role. Keep it up, Perry -- may your yappy play and offensive production continue to inspire opposing fans into wishing to punch you in the balls. That would at least mean a continued smirk on my face.