My take on the current state of Fighting in Hockey

The great game of hockey is very unique, like no other. You could even fight a player on the other team at the expense of sitting in the sin bin for 5 minutes. Fighting in hockey draws a lot of casual viewership. Once you see it once, you want to see it again and again. There’s nothing like two men wanting to duke it out to give their respective teams a shot of energy. Who doesn’t love fighting in this sport?

 

Apparently the NHL doesn’t anymore.

 

At Tuesday night’s game between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets, Josh Anderson of the Jackets shoved Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and of course you knew McQuaid wasn’t going to take it. These guys’ are true heavyweights. Anderson weighs 221 pounds and stands at 6’3 and McQuaid comes in at 212 pounds with a height of 6’4. To say this would be good fight to watch would be an understatement. They both dropped their gloves signifying it was go time.

 

However the linesman closest to the action stopped the two from even starting to fight. Instead we saw both men draw 2 minute roughing minors for legit nothing. My initial reaction when I was watching this was “why?” In what was a drama filled game I decided to give the refs a pass for this one.

 

Fast forward to Thursday night’s heated matchup between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. William Carrier of the Sabres and once again Adam McQuaid went for blows on each other. When the fight started, the linesmen immediately broke it up. Carrier and McQuaid still traded shots on one another even when the referees were in the middle of it. They should’ve stayed out of their business and let them duke it out because I really thought one of the referees was going to eat shot to the jaw. Hasn’t been the first time that’s happened. The NHL should be embarrassed with the way they’re handling this situation.

 

Fight totals have been going down season by season. That’s natural as the NHL wants to implement more talent in the league, but if you were to tell me in 2009 that fights were going to drop from 734 to 344 7 years later I would’ve laughed in your face. Sure enough it did and that’s mind blowing.

 

Currently the team that sits as the fighting major leader is the Anaheim Ducks with 25 fights, which aren’t too low 37 games into the season. Let’s look at the bottom of those standings. Capitals are last with 3 and the Blackhawks, Rangers and Hurricanes are tied for 2nd to last with 4. Even in the lockout-shortened year in 2013, the last place team in fights was the Oilers with 13 fights. God that’s pathetic. Goes to show how much fighting has dipped in just a few short seasons.

 

Fighting being banned would turn a lot of the old time hockey fans away. Taking out fights would be a big mistake from a business standpoint as well in viewership, ticket sales departments. The league doesn’t need that, as the NHL doesn’t get as much attention as the other leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB. Fighting is still kind of there but only half-heartedly as they’re really trying to prevent more head injuries.

 

Rules over the years have changed like not allowing players to take off their own helmets while fighting. Another one was how all players must wear visors unless you were grandfathered in before the new rule became official in June of 2013. With the way the league handled concussions and brain trauma back in the day, the league knew they had to do something before more lawsuits crept in. Even more so with the deaths of NHL enforcers Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien.

 

Whatever the NHL decides to do in the long run with fights really doesn’t matter to me. I still love the sport and everything it stands for. The speed and skill at the level these players play at is incredible and a joy to watch. It’s the NHL’s choice on whether or not to cut fighting out altogether. If they do ever decide to pull the trigger and ban fighting, they just better prepare for the backlash that comes along with it.

Photo credit: Fred Squillante of the Columbus Dispatch

 

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Preview: Bruins VS Blue Jackets

The Christmas break has come and gone, the NHL is back in business and all is right in the world again with 10 total games on Tuesday’s NHL slate. One of those is a physical matchup that features the Boston Bruins who head back out on the road to Nationwide Arena to take on the red hot Columbus Blue Jackets. Watch the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams as the puck drops at 7 PM EST on NESN.

The Rundown:

Well who would’ve thought the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in first place in the NHL at the holiday break? With a record of 23-5-4, Columbus is a danger team and have been on fire all season long. These sizzling Jackets have yet to lose in December and are currently riding a 12 game winning streak heading into their matchup with the Bruins. The current winning streak also holds as the franchise record. Jackets will go for lucky number 13 in a row tonight at home in a suddenly packed house at Nationwide Arena. Columbus only has 5 regulation losses in 32 games but two of those losses have come against the Bruins.

Boston however, is trending the other way with 7 losses in their last 10 games and are looking to right the ship against the NHL’s best. Lack of goal scoring and the backup goaltending situation has made this team a roller coaster to watch on a nightly basis. The Black and Gold also need more from their special teams starting with their power play as they’re ranked 28th overall only converting 13.9 %. That’s not going to get it done. Tweaks will be needed if the power play continues to struggle. On the other side of special teams, the B’s have a stout penalty kill unit as they’re ranked 3rd in the NHL killing off 87.3 % of penalties. Their PK has a tough test Tuesday night as they go up against the Blue Jackets who currently own the #1 power play in hockey at 26.9 %.

Player Spotlight:

Nineteen-year-old Zach Werenski is having one hell of a season for Columbus thus far and he has a lot to do with the Blue Jackets success on the power play. His stat line is pretty interesting, 6 goals, 15 assists and 21 points but 11 of those points have come on the power play. These numbers are proving to be Calder Memorial trophy worthy, but with a crowded rookie class this year of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Jimmy Vesey, Patrick Laine and Matt Murray, it’ll be awfully tough for the 1st year defenseman to take home the Calder.

Patrice Bergeron is a top star in the NHL and has graced Bruins fans for years with his well-rounded game, clutch game winning goals, and extreme amount of toughness. All that being said, he has not gotten off to the best start this season. As a matter of fact, this is his worst offensive start to a season he has had in his career. Bergeron still plays a fantastic two way game but has not found the score sheet much at all this year. With only 5 goals, 5 assists and 10 points in 33 games played it’s not like this is a small sample size. Those are atrocious numbers for a player of Bergeron’s caliber. The Bruins are going to need to get him going as soon as possible if their going to want any chance to get back into the playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2014.

Projected Lines:

Boston:

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner/Tim Schaller—David Krejci—David Backes

Frank Vatrano—Austin Czarnik—Riley Nash

Anton Blidh—Dominic Moore—Jimmy Hayes/Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara—Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller—Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Columbus:

Brandon Saad—Alexander Wennberg—Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner—Brandon Dubinsky—Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert—William Karlsson—Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell—Lukas Sedlak—Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski— Seth Jones

Jack Johnson—David Savard

Ryan Murray—Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Storylines:

At morning skate, Bruins defenseman John Michael Liles skated with the team for the first time since the concussion he suffered on November 27th. Coach Claude Julien confirmed that he’s been skating for a few times on his own but still not cleared for contact. With Liles on his way back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see what the B’s do with their defense, as they will have 8 defenseman on the roster upon his return.

Game-day Prediction:

4-3 Boston

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports