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Getting to know Darcy Tucker

I don't like Darcy Tucker.

There, I said it.

I hate him more than anyone else in the NHL, actually. I hate him more than Chelios, I hate him more than Avery. I don't hate him as much as Bettman, but he doesn't count (perhaps he can't).

I don't think he's a particularly bad - or dirty - player. In fact, I think he's a pretty fair player who will help the Avs (not as much as Andrew Brunette, but that's a different matter entirely). For me, it's all about the whining. I absolutely detest when players argue penalties like Tucker does. I have no qualms with the ocassional disagreement, but every time I've seen Tucker, he seems to be in full showboating mode over every flipping call, justified or not. He reminds me of another guy I hate - Jeremy Roenick. I remember a game against San Jose this year when Roenick argued a high sticking penalty all the way to the box, and then stood at the door shouting at the ref for a few minutes later. Because, you know, those high sticking calls are really a judgement call. What really stuck in my proverbial craw, however, was when one of the younger Sharks took a penalty later in that game. Want to guess what he did? Yep - bitched and moaned all the way to the box and then stood at the door, shouting at the ref. I haven't paid a ton of attention to Tucker lately, but I really don't want to see that sort of junk rub off on the young guys on the Avs. The first time we see David Jones pull a Tucker with a ref, I'm going to be riding the "I Told You So Train" like a kid on the coin-operated helicopter in the Wal-Mart foyer.

Once again, I turned to Sean from Down Goes Brown to give us the skinny on Tucker. I don't think there were any more Leafs bought out this year, so I believe this will be our final installment with Sean. Thanks again for the terrific insight. And the herpes mild skin irritation.

When he first arrived in Toronto he was purely an agitator, although one who would drop the gloves from time to time. Over time he became a more complete player, earned a spot on the top two lines and status as one of the most popular players in Toronto.

He scored 28 goals in 2005-06 and was on pace to improve on that in 2006-07 with 24 in 56 games before getting hurt. Many of those goals came on the powerplay, as the Leafs would run plays designed to feed him on a cross-crease pass that he usually buried.

Despite being small by NHL standards he was a ferocious hitter and decent fighter who could hold his own against the top cruserweights. Unlike most physical players, however, he's not very good defensively and is only average five-on-five. Once his powerplay time dropped, his production fell off badly this season.

He's certianly not a popular player around the league, which isn't totally unjustified. There was a stretch early in his Toronto time when he was borderline out-of-control, culminating in his famous kamikaze leap into the Senators bench. He'll dive occasionally and spends a lot of time going after referees. On the other hand, he can't really be called a dirty player (the Peca hit was clean) and he's never stepped over the line as badly as guys like Avery have.

He never got along with the Toronto media and was criticized fairly consistently for his on-ice antics, earning the nickname "Sideshow Bob" at one point. That seemed to bother him, and since the lockout he worked hard to clean up his image. Ironically, the same media that criticized him for being out of control later blamed that transformation for his lack of effectiveness.

The most important thing to know about Tucker's 2007-08 season is that he was hurt. Nobody seems to know where or how badly, but his shoulder seemed to bother him for most of the year. New coach Ron Wilson even went as far as saying that Tucker looked "worn down", which isn't good news for an undersized guy who turned 33 this year. The Leafs seem to think that he's breaking down. On the other hand, if he's completely healthy next year you could see a nice rebound in his offensive numbers.

Overall, Tucker is a guy who should play on the third line, score 20 goals, defend his teammates and energize the fans. At $2.25/year, he's a great bargain if he's healthy. I like this signing a lot for the Avs.
I'm not in the "like it" camp yet, and my strong personal bias will probably keep me from every getting there. But, Tucker's part of the family now, and I will do my best to keep the smarmy comments to a minimum (or at least keep them directed at Arnason) as long as he's able to keep the complaining down to a dull roar.