There are few things more exciting than a good hockey fight.
The crowd gets energized, the pace of the game picks up. Fights in hockey are awesome. People who say fighting needs to go away need to find another sports to watch. Fighting needs to stay, it’s the goons that need to go away.
Right now the Blues are paying two guys, D.J. King and Cam Janssen, to fill the same role: Chief pugilist. Kinger and Cam dress infrequently and rarely see the ice when they are dressed. The Blues’ version of the Bash Brothers is around to play about two shifts a period, hit anything that moves, and drop the gloves. They are the enforcer, the goon, or the tough guy. Or as I like to call them: dinosaurs.
Gone are the days of Rob Ray, Bob Probert, Tony Twist and Kelly Chase. In the post-lockout NHL, offense is the name of the game. With all the rule changes to increase scoring, teams can’t beat the other team to a win.
As the great American philosopher Sean "Jay-Z" Carter once said, "Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t." With that in mind, take a gander at the numbers. According to hockey-fights.com, the top-5 teams with the most fights this season are the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Blues. Of those five teams, only one team (the Flyers) would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Look at the bottom five: Washington, Detroit, Nashville, Buffalo and the Islanders. Of those five teams, only the Islanders are currently out of the playoff race.
The Caps are the best team in the league, yet are last in fights. The pro-goon argument always brings up how teams need to protect their stars. No star outside of Sidney Crosby shines brighter than Alex Ovechkin, but the Caps don’t fight.
Again, fighting has a place in the game. If a team needs a spark, a building needs to be woken up or a teammate defended, by all means drop the mitts let ’em go. But to have a guy whose sole job it is to do that seems silly. B.J. Crombeen has 15 fights this year. Dude is not a goon, but he can fight. Why not dress a guy like him — a guy who can do things besides fight?
In the NHL, teams are only allowed to dress 18 skaters. Dressing a goon is like dressing 17.5. He’s only going to be on the ice for a few shifts and, if he’s lucky enough to have a dance partner, he’s going to be in the box for long stretches of time. Guys like King and Cam have more skill than your average rec-league player, but compared to the rest of the NHL, they’re limited. It’s obvious they aren’t trusted to play defense, otherwise they’d be on the ice in the third to protect a lead. The duo also isn’t going to strike fear in any goalie. They are simply one-trick ponies.
Cam and the Deej average about seven shifts per game, which is between four and four-and-a-half minutes of ice time. Not to keep going back to the top-5 well, but the top-5 teams in the NHL (Washington, San Jose, Chicago, Phoenix and Vancouver) regularly dress guys who play at least 10 shifts per game and at least six minutes a night. Take San Jose out of the equation, and the numbers go up to a low of seven minutes.
Every night the Blues dress King and Cam, they are down an extra penalty killer, and a stable fourth line. Someone else, usually T.J. Oshie or Jay McClement has to skate a double shift because they’re either in the box or on the bench. Why would a team put itself in this situation?
During the Olympics, Brian Burke talked about how he wanted his top-6 forwards to be scorers and his bottom-six to be grinders. Everyone on the top-lines played on the power play, everyone on the bottom two lines played the penalty kill. Now, David Backes as a fourth liner only happens every four years, but it’s an interesting concept. Why shouldn’t the Blues adapt a strategy of more multi-dimensional players?
Fighting is awesome. It’s exciting and it should absolutely stay in the game, but the enforcers of old are dinosaurs. If all a player can do is skate around and drop the gloves, he serves little value to team. Winning teams dress guys who can do more, not guys who can do less.