A curious development from this season is all the punches being thrown in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning lead the NHL with 10 fights through their first eight games and, according to defenseman Radko Gudas (who leads the team in scraps, with three), it’s all part of establishing identity.
“It’s what we’re trying to build here,” Gudas told the Tampa Bay Times. “We don’t like to be pushed around, and we don’t like when some guys think they can lay out our top guys and not pay for it.”
As for head coach Jon Cooper? He’s OK with the fights as well, lauding Gudas for taking on Boston’s Jarome Iginla during a 5-0 drubbing by the Bruins on Saturday.
“I have zero problem with that,” Cooper said. “That’s two tough guys getting in each other’s kitchen trying to stick up for their team and themselves.
“That’s a big part of our makeup, and will continue to be in the future.”
All of this is very interesting given what Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman said in early October. Yzerman turned heads by speaking out against fighting, suggesting players should get game misconducts for dropping the mitts.
“We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting,” Yzerman explained. “We’re stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be.
“Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting.”
When asked about how those ideas mesh with his current club and Cooper’s coaching philosophy, Yzerman was blunt.
“I just want to win games,” he told the Times. “I don’t tell the coach how to coach the team. We’re not going to tell players to fight or don’t fight.
“I just want them to play good hockey.”