The Montreal Canadiens have a new approach to fighting

9 Comments

Interesting piece from the Globe and Mail on what Brad Staubitz represents for the Montreal Canadiens.

Staubitz, 27, was claimed off waivers from Minnesota at the trade deadline. Prior to joining the Habs, Staubitz had eight goals, 10 assists and 432 penalty minutes in 196 career games — and upon donning the bleu, blanc et rouge, he racked up 17 more PIM in his first game against Tampa Bay.

In case you were wondering, those penalties weren’t for hooking and/or interference. Staubitz likes to chuck knuckles — he’s fought 45 times since making his NHL debut in 2008-09 — and his Habs debut featured him defending teammate Alexei Emelin (who was jumped by Tampa’s Ryan Malone) and a spirited tilt with Lightning tough guy Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

“That’s a big part of my game,” Staubitz said. “I’m going to stick up for my teammates.”

The Staubitz acquisition represents a change in Montreal’s approach to on-ice retribution. The team hasn’t employed a legitimate enforcer since Georges Laraque was released midway through his three-year, $4.5 million deal — Travis Moen has been the de facto fighter ever since, but he’s a middleweight at best.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth sees the value in retaining a heavyweight.

“Nobody will admit it openly, but I think I can admit it makes a team more cohesive when you’ve got that element,” he explained. “Players can back up certain actions on the ice. The other team knows, players of that nature can even out things or just not allow things of that nature to go on.

“It makes everybody a little bit more physical, a little bit braver to some extent. Nobody’s going to admit that personally, but I think I’m allowed to, and that’s the element we’re trying to create, but it’s more about a team toughness.”

GM Pierre Gauthier wouldn’t go as far as Cunneyworth (calling it “an adjustment” rather than a philosophy change) but several Habs players were on board with the increase in team toughness.

“I love it, I think [Staubitz is] a great acquisition,” said RW Ryan White. “He does his job well.”