NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15: Cam Janssen #25 of the New Jersey Devils fights Brian McGrattan #23 of the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on October 15, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Big Question: Is there still a role for the designated fighter in the NHL?


The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: Is there still a role for the designated fighter in the NHL?

The role of the enforcer has been debated extensively recently. (And now it’s going to be debated again!) More and more people seem to believe designated fighters are a luxury teams can’t afford. The fourth line shouldn’t just be a dumping ground for brawlers that skate on their ankles. If you can’t play the game at a high level, you shouldn’t be in the NHL.

The other side of the argument is an old one. If you don’t have an enforcer, your best players are going to get abused. Oilers tough guy Darcy Hordichuk has likened his role to “having a gun in your house.” You might not need it, but it’s a good thing to have in case a rampaging killer busts down your door, or something like that.

Hordichuk, a noted master of the simile, also said having an enforcer is “like having a Hells Angel” on the team.

“They know I’m there,” he said. “Everyone kind of calms down. Everybody thinks they’re a tough guy until you poke one of them in the ear.”

Of course, this was before Hordichuk tried to stick up for Taylor Hall by charging after Vancouver’s Keith Ballard on Saturday night. Ballard threw out his hip, Hordichuk went flying, and now Hordichuk’s got a sore knee.

Message: sent.

On the other hand, consider what happened Saturday in Nashville. The Devils were trailing the Predators, 2-0, when New Jersey’s Cam Janssen dropped the gloves with Brian McGrattan and fought…for like an hour.

“We’re down by two. I thought we were playing good, but just to give that extra spark. I thought it was the right time,” Janssen told the Star-Ledger. “In a building like that, when you’re not at home, you really have to pick your spots, especially with a big guy like that. I figured that was the right time, so I did it.”

The Devils ended up winning, 3-2, in a shootout.

Obviously Janssen didn’t singlehandedly win the game for his team – he didn’t even play three minutes – but according to New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer, the fight gave the team a much-needed kick in the pants.

“I think it really lifted up our team a lot,” said DeBoer. “You hear that said, but that fight really got our bench going.”

So, is there still a role for the designated fighter in the NHL? Your input is requested below in the comments section…

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?

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You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.