Fight-night at MSG not helping case to keep fisticuffs in the game

Robin
Robin Short
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Some fun in New York this week, huh, with the Rangers and New Jersey Devils acting like it was 1975 all over again, six starters dropping the mitts before the anthem singer was barely off the ice.

Heck, all that was missing were a few Devils charging into the Madison Square Garden stands - a la the '79 Bruins - to whack some schmuck with a shoe.

Ah, the good ol' days.

The donnybrook to open Monday's Rangers-Devils game, not to mention the beatdown delivered to Mike Komisarek compliments of Milan Lucic in Boston, has brought the age-old issue of fighting in hockey to the forefront. Again.

The National Hockey League clearly does not want to rid itself of fighting, or more stringent rules, beyond the instigator minor, would have been instituted by now.

And that's fine. While I do not subscribe to the theory duking it out is "a part" of hockey, I recognize the fact it brings a certain entertainment value, for wont of a better term. And given the immense popularity of mixed martial arts, there's a fair number of folks out there who like their blood and guts.

What hockey does not need, however, is the 'staged' fighting form of the game, the likes of which we saw three seconds into the Rangers-Devils matchup, when the six forwards simultaneously dropped the gloves. Admittedly, we see less of these things, but the National Hockey League still employs some whose 'hockey' skill set would otherwise leave them challenged to play in the ECHL, let alone the NHL.

It might be argued fighting should be banned from the NHL altogether. If fighting leads to immediate ejection from a National Football League game, the toughest of the pro team sports, why should it be permitted in pro hockey?

Tough to argue.

But if your business is to sell tickets and appease your customers, we all know those who eschew fighting and turn their heads in disgust are in the considerable minority.

Besides, evidence suggests having a player or three on your team who enjoys trading punches doesn't hurt one's chances of winning. The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference, and also top the NHL with 62 major penalties. Last year, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup and finished second with 71 fighting majors. Five years ago, the Anaheim Ducks, on their way to a Stanley Cup, topped everyone else with 71 fighting majors.

While there is no statistical analysis indicating if all those fights were either 'staged' or reactionary, it's a good bet there were a few involving a couple of 'tough guys' lining up across from each other, exchanging the menacing glares.

Entertaining, for sure, but completely unnecessary.

It's that type of stuff the game could do without.

°°°°°

With more and more chatter surrounding Patrick Roy and his possible employment with the Montreal Canadiens next season - likely in the general manager's chair - we wonder if the Canadiens will address a scouting department that hasn't exactly produced a plethora of talent through the draft.

Consider this: from 2000 to 2007 - and we use the five years between and '07 and now as a reasonable time for a player to graduate from junior or college and groom a few years on the farm - the Canadiens have selected 67 players. Of those 67, 34 have played in Montreal. Of the 34, only four - Max PaciorettyP.K. SubbanCarey Price and Tomas Plekanec - have become what we would generally consider a good National Hockey League player. Seven others - Ryan McDonaghMikhail GrabovskiMark StreitJaroslav HalakRon Hainsey and the Kostitsyn brothers - have been peddled.

Not only have Bob Gainey, and his less-is-more concept for signing undersized players, and Pierre Gauthier fallen down on the job, the scouting staff has produced very, very little.

Hard to believe the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, two of Canada's storied NHL franchises, with the amount of resources available to them, have become such a mess.

°°°°°

How is it Zach O'Brien of St. John's can go two full seasons of major junior hockey - any form of competitive hockey, for that matter - without picking up a single minor penalty?

O'Brien's other numbers - 50 goals and 101 points, second in league scoring - are prominent, but zero PIMs?

Any pro scout looking at that dubious number can only come to one conclusion: this guy's not involved in the play.

Hate to say it. But it's true.

°°°°°

If St. John's does not get Paul Postma and Derek Meech back in time for the playoffs - and both are expected to be ready for the post season - the IceCaps could be in trouble. With apologies toSpencer Machacek and Jason Jaffray, Postma has been the best IceCaps' player this season, and Meech gives St. John's an NHL defenceman.

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: National Hockey League, Madison Square Garden, New Jersey Devils Montreal Canadiens National Football League Boston Bruins IceCaps Toronto Maple Leafs

Geographic location: New York, St. John's, Montreal Canada

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  • Paul Busch
    March 24, 2012 - 16:24

    Given the nature of the game, and the culture of hockey, the total elimination of fighting would be difficult. I would suggest adding a game misconduct for any fight and toss both combatants. If two players really want to resolve something they they still can but I would bet that it would have to be important. They would think twice about fighting and make better decisions on when to drop the gloves. Regarding the success rate of teams who fight the most - statistically the record shows that it hurts more than helps. Check out the stats in this blog - http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.ca/2012/02/additional-statistics-on-impact-of.html - which has stats from the past 12 NHL seasons. Teams that fight the most are less successful than teams that fight the least. It also has some interesting observations about whether fighting polices the game, as some would suggest.