For better or worse, fighting is a part of hockey. It entertains fans and also allows teams to “police” the game. Yet while it’s true that few people stay in their seat for a fight, it’s a shame that so many enforcers don’t leave their seats on the bench until it’s time to march off to a boxing match on ice.
With that in mind, it seemed worthwhile to see if there are semi-regular fighters who can actually play. I put together a short list of the league’s best “mini-enforcers”: players who were involved in at least 10 fights per season in 2010-11 and 2009-10 but still managed to bring a nice offensive boost to the table. (Fight totals via Hockey Fights.com.)
Ryane Clowe: 12 fights and 62 points in 2010-11; 11 fights and 57 points in 2009-10.
Steve Ott: 10 fights and 32 points in 10-11; 11 fights and 36 points in 09-10.
Brandon Prust: 18 fights and 29 points in 10-11; 25 fights and 14 points in 09-10.
Chris Neil: 12 fights and 16 points in 10-11; 13 fights and 22 points in 09-10
Other noteworthy players
Defenseman Theo Peckham is a little newer to the NHL, but he averaged more 18 minutes per game and engaged in 10 fights last season. Steve Downie and Milan Lucic aren’t usually in the 10 fight range, but they’re willing to drop the gloves and have much higher ceilings as scorers than anyone but Clowe. Zenon Konopka can do one thing beyond fighting: win faceoffs. Derek Dorsett might be worthy of an “honorable mention” alongside Neil as guys who fight a lot but can sprinkle in a bit more offense than usual.
When you look at that list, it seems like most of the players can be labeled as pests who fight a bit more than usual or enforcers who get a light amount of points. Clowe stands out in that group, though. He fought the likes of Paul Bissonnette and Jared Boll last season, but also showed how much of an impact he could make while playing focused hockey by scoring 15 points in 17 playoff contests in 2011.
Perhaps there’s a current player who provides an even better combination of fighting ability and on-ice usefulness, but if there’s only one player that future “mini-enforcers” could be modeled after, it might just be Clowe.