August 16 2014 08:00AM
Now that the Stats Wars are over, I expect the next bastion of hockey traditionalists to fall to be the role of fourth line
energy guy designated fighter. Because, really, having a guy like Colton Orr taking up a roster spot is literally pointless.
If you missed it, Trevor Linden was on Team1040 a couple of weeks back and he openly questioned the role of fighting in hockey. Interestingly, Linden also singled out Coach's Corner as one of the leading influences in promoting the need for that role. Can't wait to see Cherry stomp on his "Trevor Linden for Rookie of the Year" button.
Anyway, Linden's bigger point is that this mentality that you need an enforcer to protect your stars or provide an energy boost, or shift momentum by doing some face punching, has been coached in. But if you look around the league, the successful teams have started taking that option away from their coaches.
Look at Chicago where Joel Quenneville stubbornly kept going back to Brandon Bollig in the Conference Final. So what did Stan Bowman do? Shipped Bollig off to Calgary for a draft pick.
Never change, Burkie. Never change.
Somebody should let the Sportsnet graphics department know that they're going to need to add more digits to the GRITCHART for Flames broadcasts this year.
And look at the supposedly rough and tumble Bruins, who let one of their key leaders leave town as a free agent. No, I'm not talking about Jarome Iginla. Come on, 30 goal scorers are easily replaceable in the NHL. You know what isn't as easy to replace? Shawn Thornton's personality in the dressing room.
Well, I did a little digging and it turns out Haggerty is right. Some things are easier to do than others, when it comes to the Boston Bruins. But he left out the hardest:
But we'll let that slide. The important thin here, is that Joe Haggerty, who has never met an ex-Bruin he didn't slag, finally found it in his heart to heap praise on someone on his way out of town. And of course he chose to pen his ode to the man, the myth, the legend: Shawn Thornton, who once fought eleventy-three Canucks at one time, and would have beat up Tony Gallagher too, if it wasn't for those darn kids.
Anyway, I'm kind of getting off track here, but the best part of these is when a Bruins fanboy invariably pipes up to say that poor, poor Haggs can't win:
I just wish haters would pick a side RT @Papa__Roche so Haggs is too much of a homer and also runs people out of town? Sounds good, twitter— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) August 14, 2014
Unfortunately, when it comes to Haggerty, being an apologist and being too critical just means stepping through the black and yellow tinted looking glass:
But enough of that. Let's get back to
point of all this pointlessness of fighting.
In Haggerty's paean to Thorton, he goes to great lengths to extol the virtues of having a tough guy patrolling the ice like a real-life Batman:
He played with a toughness and swagger that raised the confidence level of players around him, and made Boston’s skill players feel like they were protected from the league’s predators.
The great part is that Haggerty doesn't miss a beat in completely contradicting this quaint notion of Thornton's role as a deterrent in the very next sentence:
It didn’t make the B’s bullet proof, obviously, as evidenced by the hard head shots that guys like Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron have taken over the years.
But the best part comes when he tries to back up this long-discredited justification for on-ice thugs by quoting Daniel Paille:
“With Shawn here, he had that intimidation factor where you knew you could get away with certain things because he was on the ice. This season it’s going to be different, and guys are going to have to fight because of it. I don’t think that’s a big deal.”
Go back and read that again. I'll wait.
Did you see what Paille is actually saying there? The effect that Thornton and guys like him actually have is not to deter the other team from taking liberties with your players. No, their main impact is to embolden the chippier, dirtier players on your team and act as an enabler for cheap shots the other way:
Guys like Paille and Marchand know that if they go out and thrown an elbow here, poke a stick there, they won't have to answer the bell. No, good ol' Shawn will step in and fight your battles for you.
If you take Paille at his word, the best way to get cheap shots out of the game is to get rid of the enforcers. Or should we start calling them enablers?
So to bring this back to Trevor Linden's comments on the radio:
And I'm not sure that the intended use of fighting - which is to protect our stars - actually works. I think it's something that as we go down the path the NHL is going to have to look at.
You have to think that the NHL is starting to come around on this, and it won't be long before the designated goon is a thing of the past.*
* not applicable in Calgary or where prohibited by law
Switching gears, thought I would mention one development in the Pacific Division this week that is worth noting. The
Winnipeg Jets Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Quebec Nordiques announced that they were changing the name of their arena. At first, I was little disappointed. I mean, given what the team and the NHL have been doing to the city of Glendale, I thought calling the it the Jobing arena was really fitting. But now that I see who the Coyotes' new naming partner is, I think it's still rather appropriate:
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