In posting two hat tricks already this season, Ducks right winger Corey Perry is reminding NHL fans the Hart Trophy-winning season he had in 2010-11 was not mere chance occurrence. He and center Ryan Getzlaf have already combined for 10 goals and 20 points, and having two consistent Hart Trophy candidates in the lineup is, of course, one of the key reasons (if not the key) to their team’s success.
But what Perry has that sets him apart – what gave Anaheim one of the little extra edges it needed to win the Stanley Cup in 2007 – is the simple, unmistakable fact he’s fresh out of damns to give, and that includes giving a damn about having his supply of damns restocked. And at 29 years of age, he looks to be more dangerous than ever and primed to challenge his career-best 50-goal, 98-point, Rocket Richard-winning ’10-11 campaign.
Where so many similarly skilled NHLers choose an out-of-your-face approach to playing, Perry plays in your face, on it, around it and under it. From filling your glove with water to stealing the stick right out of your hand to using his stick as one half of a kebab and your most tender of regions as the other half, he’s almost obsessively devoted to making your experience as his opponent as miserable as humanly possible. He’s what former Ducks teammate Chris Pronger would’ve been were he a forward and three inches shorter. You see him and wish he and Oilers agitator extraordinaire Esa Tikkanen or Flyers anti-hero Ken 'The Rat' Linseman could’ve played each other in a Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson-style cross-generational dream showdown.
Is he dirty? Is a random Kardashian the antithesis of shy? Anyone who isn’t the most ardent of Ducks fans would have to admit Perry not only pushes the envelope, but uses the sharp end of the envelope to kill you with dozens of paper cuts over the course of a game. But, as was true of Pronger, Perry is only doing what the NHL allows him to get away with. If the league wished to sand down his sharp edges, it would’ve done so long ago. It’s clearly happy with this version of Perry and that probably puts it in the sole company of Anaheim’s players, management and fans. And much like the hips of Shakira, results don’t lie: when you’ve won an NHL championship and two Olympic gold medals and a World Junior title and a Memorial Cup championship, you’re accomplishing what you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s one thing to be a player whose one role is that of a professional s.o.b., but when you can make the opposition hate you with the searing heat of 10 trillion suns and at the same time break their hearts and backs with clutch goal-scoring, you set yourself apart as a particularly valuable asset and target of derision.
When he steps on the ice, Perry is a living, breathing root canal at the DMV. But he can also play the game at a level few others can. And if he’s either a nominee or the winner of the Hart Trophy again, it should be perfectly clear as to why.