I really have to hand it to Adrian Dater this season. His blog All Things Avs (though it's more of an online journal, which is different than a blog) has been quite the Blender Of Feces. His latest spoon in the toilet is this post, in which he calls Dion Phaneuf "a punk" for his dirty tricks on the ice and his tendency to go running for cover when somebody tries to call him on it.
Dater didn't just stop there, though, he dragged Detroit into it by comparing Phadouche to Pistons pest-of-the-past Bill Laimbeer, one of the most infamous dirty players in NBA history. In the days before defense was banned completely from professional basketball, Laimbeer's elbows made Chris Pronger's look pillowy in comparison. Cheap shots after the whistle, clutching and grabbing for no reason, quick jabs into the back and head, you name it, Laimbeer did it. And he ran his big mouth the whole time.
He was so annoying even Larry Bird tried to kick his ass once.
Well, of course the Detroit faithful didn't like that comparison, because anyone who's ever played for a Detroit team is somehow Mother Theresa to them. They are outraged that Dater, who has often defended Claude Lemieux (the Avalanche uberpest of long ago), would both criticize Phaneuf and bring one of Emptytown's patron saints of sports into it. Boo hoo hoo.
It's impossible to deny that Dion Phaneuf is a dirty, cheap player who hides behind his face shield, his teammates and the refs. Claude Lemieux did the same thing. That's why they are/were valuable to their teams, and that's what they are/were paid to do. Of course, Lemieux was also ridiculously clutch during the playoffs, and Phaneuf hasn't won jack in the post-season. That's really the only difference. Oh, and Lemieux played better against the Wings.
For as much as I (and everyone else here) criticize Phadouche (see what I did there with his name?), I freely admit that he's accomplished exactly what he means to do: get under our skin. His sole purpose is to throw the opposition off their game by annoying the crap out of them. Whether it's a petty wisecrack at Peter Forsberg or a cheap elbow to the back of Paul Stastny or a late, from-behind hit on Tyler Arnason, Phadouche exists solely to shake his opponents up and make them lose their focus.
That's what Claude Lemieux did, too. And Bill Laimbeer.
Sure, the stupid instigator penalty doesn't make it easy for the victims of Phadouche to get back at him, and it encourages cowardly acts by pests like him and Steve Ott, but those players still have a place in the game and always will.
I tend to believe that sports should always be a partisan affair. I don't trust people who claim to like a particular sport but like (or dislike) all teams equally (I'm looking at you, Buccigross). That's bullshit. Take a side, and root for your team with all your heart---and against whoever they play in every single game. Pests are there to focus our partisanship, either for or against a team. Dion Phaneuf helps me hate the Flames, which is what I'm supposed to do, as an Avalanche fan. Darren McCarty helped me hate the Wings. Steve Ott helps me to hate the Stars, and so on.
Honestly, I have to give props to Phadouche, because what he does on the ice really makes it easy for me to hate him and his stupid team. And that's exactly how it should be.