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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Sin Bin Legends: Top 5 NHL Players for Career Playoff Penalty Minutes

With the group of players featured in this blog post it was hard to come up with a unifying thread for the introduction piece. As a result, I present to you to the top five players with the most career penalty minutes in the playoffs. The top four have already individually been featured in the blog in previous posts, so I've tried to add some new context to the information below. Of most interest is the general decrease in penalty minutes in the playoffs, which seems to follow the general trend across regular season play. Less fighting, less brawls, less penalties. Looking at 2016 to 2013, only in two seasons was the top penalty getter receiving more than 50 penalty minutes.

1 - Dale Hunter - 731 penalty minutes in 186 career games (3.93 minutes per game)

The middle Hunter brother twice recorded 90+ penalty minutes in a single playoff (10th and 11th highest single playoff totals). 35 of these penalty minutes came in 1993 playoffs, where he was suspended for what was then a record 21 games for hit from behind on the Islanders Pierre Turgeon. Forgotten in the aftermath is that Hunter had scored seven goals in six games to that point.

2 - Chris Nilan - 541 penalty minutes in 111 career games (4.87 minutes per game)

Twice led the playoffs in penalty minutes, including record for single playoff minutes at 141 during Montreal’s 1986 Cup victory. Many of these minutes came during bitter Adams Division playoff games against Boston, whom the Habs faced in 10 straight playoffs.

3 - Claude Lemieux - 529 penalty minutes in 234 career games (2.26 minutes per game)

The most infamous agitator of the 1990s, Lemieux never had more than 68 minutes in a single playoffs (his first in 1986), but is #3 on the list based on volume, ranking #4 all-time in playoff games played. During the 1996 playoffs Lemieux is best remembered for a hit from behind on Detroit’s Kris Draper, and the aftermath in the following playoffs.

4 - Rick Tocchet - 471 penalty minutes in 145 games (3.25 minutes per game)

A premier power forward in the late 1980s and 1990s, Tocchet eclipse 69 penalty minutes on three occasions and led the 2000 playoffs with 49 penalty minutes 

5 - Willi Plett - 466 penalty minutes in 83 games (5.61 minutes per game)

A member of the Broad Street Bullies, Plett was ironically born to Russian Mennonite parents. He didn’t let the pacifism he was raised on apply to the ice, as he has the most career playoff penalty minutes of any of his teammates. He sits second only to Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz in penalty minutes per game, with the Hammer clocking in at 5.72 penalty minutes per game.

490 - Bob Beers

A defenceman, Beers was drafted 210th overall by Boston in 1985. After playing a partial season at Northern Arizona University, he transferred to Maine where he played three seasons of with the Black Bears. Beers turned pro in 1989-90, not having to travel far as he joined the Maine Mariners of the AHL. That season he also played in three regular season games with the Bruins, as well as 14 playoff games as Boston made it to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the last gasp of the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty.

Beers’ NHL experience increased over the next two seasons (16 and 31 games respectively). Early in the 1992-93 season he was traded to Tampa Bay for Stephane Richer. In his first full NHL season Beers broke out in a big way, playing in 64 games, scoring 12 goals and 36 points. His time with the Lightning was short, as the following season he was traded to Edmonton for Chris Joseph. Split between the Lightning and Oilers, Beers scored a career-high 43 points, along with 11 goals.

He parlayed the two best seasons of his career into a free agent deal with the New York Islanders. Beers played only 22 games during the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, scoring nine points. The following season he played in only 13 games, spending the majority of the season with Utah in the IHL, winning the Turner Cup. Beers returned to Boston for the 1996-97 season, scoring three goals and seven points in 37 games with the Bruins. After sitting out the 1997-98 season, Beers returned for two seasons with Providence in the AHL, winning a Calder Cup in 1999. 

In eight NHL seasons, Beers played in 258 games, scoring 28 goals and 107 points. For the last 20 years he has worked as an analyst for local radio in the Boston area.

YouTube clip: scoring against Pittsburgh during a 1992 game with Tampa Bay. 

491 - Sylvain Couturier

A centre, Couturier was drafted 65th overall by Los Angeles in 1986. He played two additional seasons with Laval in the QMJHL following the draft, scoring 70 goals and 137 points in the 1987-88 season. Couturier turned pro in 1988-89, playing in 16 games with the Kings, scoring one goal and four points.

From 1990-91 to 1992-93 he played with Phoenix in the IHL, averaging over a point per game, and winning the Turner Cup in 1993. During this time he appeared in 17 games with the Kings, scoring three goals and four points in what would be his final NHL games. In January 1993 Couturier was traded to Detroit alongside Paul Coffey in a six player swap that saw Jimmy Carson sent to the Kings.

From 1993-94 to 1996-97 Couturier played in Milwaukee, scoring 41 goals and 92 points in 80 games during his first season with the Admirals. He played his final four pro seasons in Germany before retiring. In three NHL seasons, Couturier played in 33 games, scoring four goals and nine points.

From 2002 to 2022 he worked for Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL, first as an assistant coach, then as general manager. Couturier was briefly relieved of his GM duties by owner Leo-Guy Morrissette, but was re-hired upon the sale of the team. Upon his return he lead the Titan to a Memorial Cup title in 2018. In 2022-23 he was hired by rival Cape Breton as their GM. Couturier’s son Sean is a long-time NHLer with Philadelphia and winner of the 2020 Selke Trophy.

YouTube clip: low grade video of a fight from a 1989 AHL game between New Haven and Sherbrooke. 

492 - Kimbi Daniels

A centre, Daniels was drafted 44th overall by Philadelphia in 1990. He played one final season with Swift Current in the WHL, scoring 118 points. During this season he also appeared in his first two NHL games.

An undersized player for the time (5’10” and 175 pounds), Daniels played 25 games with the Flyers in 1991-92, scoring a goal and an assist, while also playing part of the season again in Swift Current. Daniels became a full-time pro in 1993-94, which begans an incredible odyssey spanning five leagues and 15 teams in six seasons:

  • IHL - Salt Lake City, Minnesota, San Antonio, Quebec

  • Colonial League - Detroit

  • ECHL - Jacksonville, Charlotte, Wheeling, New Orleans, Tallahassee

  • AHL - Baltimore, Rochester, Hamilton, Providence

  • Slovenia

Daniels’ nomadic ways came to an end in 2000-01 when he joined Anchorage of the WCHL. In his first season he scored 36 goals and 89 points while recording 182 penalty minutes in 66 games. He played two more seasons with the Aces, then made the move with the franchise to the ECHL, playing the next five seasons with the Alaska Aces. Daniels’ final pro season came in 2008-09 with Phoenix in the ECHL.

In Daniels’ NHL career he played two seasons and 27 games, scoring one goal and three points. During the rest of his pro hockey career he played 901 games across 16 seasons, scoring 305 goals and 867 points while recording 1521 penalty minutes. Daniels was also a winner throughout his career, winning a Memorial Cup (CHL) in 1989, a Kelly Cup (ECHL) in 2006 and an Allan Cup (Canada men’s senior hockey) in 2010. He currently coaches youth hockey in Alaska.

YouTube video: fittingly, a tribute video from Daniels’ induction into the Alaska Aces Hall of Fame: 

493 - Darryl Shannon

A defenceman, Shannon was drafted 36th overall by Toronto in 1986. He played two more seasons with Windsor in the OHL, scoring 83 points in the 1987-88 season. Shannon turned pro in 1988-89 with Newmarket in the AHL, where he would play the most of his first three pro seasons, also appearing in 34 games with the Leafs during that time.

Shannon’s rookie NHL season came in 1991-92, playing in 48 games, scoring two goals and 10 points. His playing time decreased to 16 games with the Leafs the following season. Shannon signed with Winnipeg for the 1993-94 season, joining his brother Darrin with the Jets. The shortened 1994-95 season was his first season with no AHL time, playing in 40 games, scoring five goals and 14 points.

February 1996 saw Shannon traded to Buffalo with Michal Grosek for Craig Muni. His years with the Sabres were the best of his career, including back-to-back 20+ point seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98. During the 1998-99 season he earned Norris Trophy and all-star votes as the Sabres made the Stanley Cup Finals, although he played only two playoff games that season. That off-season he was selected by Atlanta in the expansion draft and in February of 2000 he was traded to Calgary in a four player swap. Split between the Thrashers and Flames, Shannon had his best statistical season, scoring six goals and 27 points.

His final NHL stop was with Montreal in 2000-01, playing in seven games. From 2001 to 2004 Shannon played in Germany, winning a league title in 2003. In 13 NHL seasons he played in 544 games, scoring 28 goals and 139 points. In retirement Shannon is active with the Sabres’ alumni organization, playing frequently in charity games.

YouTube clip: scoring a short-handed goal against Philadelphia during the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. 

494 - Jim McKenzie

A left winger, McKenzie was drafted 73rd overall by Hartford in 1989 after completing his fourth season in the WHL. He turned pro immediately in the 1989-90 season, playing with Binghamton in the AHL while also appearing in four games with the Whalers. The following season he appeared in 41 games, scoring four goals, seven points and recording 108 penalty minutes. In 1991-92 McKenzie would score a career-high five goals.

In December 1993 he was sent to Dallas in a three-way trade that also involved Florida. McKeznie played 34 games with Stars, scoring five points and 63 penalty minutes before a second in-season trade to Pittsburgh. McKenzie finished the season with the Penguins, then signed with the New York Islanders as a free agent. He would never suit up for the Isles, as he was claimed by Winnipeg prior to the start of the 1995-96 season. In three seasons with the Winnipeg/Phoenix organization McKenzie had two seasons with 200+ penalty minutes and equalled his career high of five goals in the 1996-97 season.

June 1998 saw a trade to Anaheim for Jean-Francois Jomphe; in his first season with the Ducks he scored five goals for the third time in his career. Part way through the 1999-2000 season McKenzie was claimed off waivers by Washington, spending a season with the Capitals before joining New Jersey. He played three seasons with the Devils, scoring a career-high 12 points in 2002-03. McKenzie also appeared in 13 playoff games that season as the Devils defeated Anaheim in seven games to win the Stanley Cup. McKenzie spent one season with Nashville, retiring after the 2003-04 season.

In 15 NHL seasons, McKenzie played in 880 games, scoring 48 goals, 100 points and recording 1739 penalty minutes. He played in 51 career playoff games, recording zero points. Early in retirement McKenzie worked as a broadcaster with Nashville, then moved into coaching in 2011-12 with Muskegon in the UHL. In 2013 he joined Florida as pro scout, where he stayed until joining the Vegas Golden Knights in 2016, where he is still employed.

YouTube clip: McKenzie’s segment from the Honor and Courage DVD produced by NHL in 2005. 

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