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

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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…