The days of Dave Semenko, Bob Probert and Tie Domi when teams had a player on the roster that was strictly a goon are long gone. Today’s enforcer needs to do more than just drop the gloves. If the NHL is serious about increasing scoring they need to get rid of the instigator penalty. The day they introduced the instigator rule was the day when scoring started to decrease. Superstars rarely got hit back then because if Wayne Gretzky or Steve Yzerman ever got hit then Semenko or Probert were sent out to forcefully explain to that player that he shouldn’t be doing that. Scorers were allowed to do what they do best because teams were doing their own policing and protecting. Anyways that is another topic for another day.
Today’s goon has to bring more the table then his fists, if you research any of these players or other goons you will find that they are usually solid defensively, an agitator or an energy player. They need to prove that they are not a liability on the ice and earn their ice time but having other skills. Let’s look at the 5 enforcers currently in the NHL:
ZENON KONOPKA (Tampa Bay Lightning): Konopka is the current NHL leader in PIMs (185) and fights (21). Konopka is in his 4th NHL season and playing with his 3rd team but seems to have found a role with Tampa Bay. Konopka is a 4th liner energy player who dishes out punishment. Konopka is averaging 8 minutes of ice time, he won’t get you points but if your hockey pool rewards PIMs and fights then he becomes a valuable asset.
JARED BOLL (Columbus Blue Jackets): Boll lead the NHL in fighting majors in the 07-08 season with 27, last season he had 24 and this season he is up to 17 fights majors, so you know he fights a lot. Boll has seen his average ice time drop 3 minutes but that hasn’t stopped him from throwing down with an opponent. Boll does provide a little offense with 5 goals and 10+ points but his true value is when he is agitating his opponents and getting them off their game.
RICK RYPIEN (Vancouver Canucks): Rypien does not let his size or lack thereof, hold him back. Rypien’s best fights have been against players that are much bigger than he is. When the Canucks need an energy boost they can always count on Rypien to kick-start the emotion in a game. Rypien is absolutely reckless on the ice and that has lead to a few injuries. Rypien has fought 11 times this season and won many of them.
ZACK STORTINI (Edmonton Oilers): Stortini lead all fighters last season with 25 fights, this year he hasn’t dropped the gloves as much with only 12 fights. Stortini doesn’t win many fights but that hasn’t stopped him from trying. Stortini does get a regular shift and can chip in 6-8 goals a season. The Oilers are terrible this season; everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. The Oilers will finish last overall and are likely just playing out the season, expect Stortini to start dropping the gloves more as the season winds down to give the fans something to cheer about.
BRANDON PRUST (New York Rangers): If your pool rewards fights but not penalty minutes then Prust is your man. Prust has 98 minutes in penalties this year and only 8 minutes are from minor penalties, that’s 90 PIMs thanks to 18 fighting majors this season. Donald Brashear’s days as a top enforcer with the Rangers are coming to an end and as Prust will take over that role. Prust saw around 14 minutes of ice time in Calgary and should continue to play that much in New York on the 3rd line.