My opinion is that the enforcer is going the way of the dodo. I’m not necessarily celebrating their extinction; it just seems obvious to me that in a speed-and-skill-fueled NHL, knuckedraggers are unnecessary. With that thought – and the struggles of Derek Boogaard, Georges Laraque and Donald Brashear in mind as well – I asked PHT readers if enforcers really help teams win hockey games.
Check out the poll results below (click to enlarge).
I admit that the question was a bit too simplistic, but the goal was to see if readers found enforcers important. Here is a more worthwhile comparison, though. Thanks to the always vital Hockeyfights.com, I was able to look at the league’s fighting major leaders in the regular season and playoffs.
First, the top 5 in fighting majors during the 2009-10 season.
1. Zenon Konopka – 33
2 (tied). Ian Laperriere – 25
Brandon Prust – 25
4. Matt Carkner – 24
5. Colton Orr – 23
Now, let’s take a look at the top fighters during the playoffs.
1. Justin Abdelkader – 2
17 players tied with one fight.
OK, I admit, the regular season is much longer than the postseason. Obviously, there are more opportunities for fights with 30 teams playing 82 games. Still, the difference is striking. I mean, every player on that top 5 regular season list fought more times than the entire NHL in the playoffs.
Naturally, the stakes are higher in playoff games so players don’t want to risk suspensions or instigator penalties. Still, it’s interesting that the playoffs put up all those great numbers without thuggish behavior. I’m not a part of the “take fighting out of hockey” club, but I don’t need knuckles thrown to enjoy hockey. Sometimes, the threat of violence is helpful in deterring too many shenanigans (uh oh, I’m not going into “nuclear weapons maintain peace” talk, am I?).
That being said, I wonder if the typical fighters will need to be able to skate (maybe even score) a bit to remain relevant in the NHL going forward. I, for one, think it’s a good thing.