The Obsession With Protection

Jonathan Willis
May 16 2012 11:33AM

There’s a theory here and elsewhere that NHL teams need enforcers, not just because people find it fun to watch one guy hit another guy in the face, but because without enforcers players are going to get hurt.

I thought Lowetide had a nice backhanded comment at thought philosophy over at his other site this morning:

The Edmonton Oilers are probably going to spend a lot of money on someone like Jordin Tootoo this summer. We know that the management group in place subscribes to the theory that protection is required and that’s the reason RNH fell into the boards and hurt himself.

We’ve discussed in the past how there really isn’t any such thing as protection. Players get hit – and not just hit, hit in ways intended to cause injury – all the time regardless of how much muscle there is in the lineup.

But the other point is that injuries often turn out to be the result of bad luck, ruts in the ice, a mild hit that went wrong, or a 100 other things as frequently as they’re the result of somebody headhunting.

When we stroll down the Oilers’ injury list this year, we see that borne out. There’s no enforcer on the planet who can make Ryan Whitney’s knee or ankle better. Ben Eager’s recurring back problems aren’t going to get fixed that way. Darcy Hordichuk isn’t going to pound that rut in the ice into submission for having the temerity to take out Nugent-Hopkins. I’m also relatively confident that Andy Sutton’s groin injury would not have been prevented if only the Oilers had indulged in a little more pugilism.

Sure, there were a few examples of hard hits. Sarich on Hall probably would have resulted in nothing if Hall hadn’t fallen over with Sarich en route, but that’s one people feel should have been avenged. Ditto for Nash on Peckham (digression: though it probably would have been helpful if Peckham hadn’t been allowed to play two minutes after getting spread-eagled on the ice).

Personally, I think those hits are going to happen no matter what. Sarich is going to hit guys; it’s what he does. Nash is going to try and rub out guys in the corner when they have the puck; that’s one of the things he’s paid for. Anyway, the hits on Corey Potter and Alex Plante are the two that really stand out to me as particularly egregious, though again there’s no particular evidence than an enforcer (or another enforcer, or a different enforcer, or an enforcer who can play, or toughness in the top-six, or any of the other 100 variants of the ‘muscle in the lineup’ idea) is going to stop that sort of thing from happening.

But even if they did stop the hits on Potter and Plante, and even Hall and Peckham too, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would still have been injured this season. Same for Ryan Whitney. Same for Ben Eager. There’s no way around that.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 TradleY
May 16 2012, 11:41AM
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FIST

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#2 Archaeologuy
May 16 2012, 11:45AM
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I really dont think the role of the enforcer is there to change the game so much as it is there to ease the minds of the other players. They feel better knowing someone is there to have their back. It's an emotional salve.

The enforcer is there like John Coffey in the Green Mile. He can take all the evil and turn it towards himself.

Will he prevent big hits? Maybe a couple (over a season) but he isnt a force field. What he will do is add a little bit of courage, hopefully, or prevent that moment of hesitation from hampering our guys.

There has to be a reason clubs are giving them money they seemingly dont have to. My best guess is that they affect the dressing room more than the game.

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#3 jr_christ
May 16 2012, 11:46AM
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HAHA Willis you old SOB you.

Good read.

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#4 ItsTheBGB
May 16 2012, 11:53AM
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The Eberle injury, too. If we had 7 enforcers on the team, there's no way Jamie Benn would leave the bench. He would have never caught Eberle's leg during a routine round-about on the ice, he would be quivering on the pine in fear for his life!

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#5 Mantastic
May 16 2012, 11:54AM
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I agree with Arc, it's more a mental protection then a physical one, so that star players can play the way they want without getting bullied mentally or thrown off their game.

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If the players want it you spend the 700k on it, it's just that simple.

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#7 dawgbone98
May 16 2012, 12:24PM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Players also believe that putting the left skate on before the right skate is better luck (or whatever their favourite superstition is).

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#8 Spydyr
May 16 2012, 12:27PM
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So.....no one remembers the Boogieman(God rest his soul) running rough shot over this team for years.Perhaps Hemsky will remember.

Tough guys are still needed in today NHL.

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#9 CaptainLander
May 16 2012, 12:42PM
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Good on you Willis, you often hear about other teams "Taking liberties" (a term I hate). Attempting to injury another player is a part of the game and a rather lucrative career for those that do it. Torres on Hossa was not exactly an attempt to separate the player from the puck. In fact every time a player "finishes a check" is not an attempt to separate a player from the puck, which I understand was the original purpose of having physical contact. Do individuals like Torres not make those hits because he may get a punch from someone bigger then him, not a chance. I don't believe he will stop doing it after a 25 game suspension, because as much as the league would hate to admit it he said it true after the Eberle hit, " If I don't make that hit, I won't have a job." and for millions of dollars sure as heck he will make that hit again. Hitting with the intent to injury is and will always be a part of the game, but even if you removed this kind of hitting from the game you will not prevent injury. I am fine removing the dancing bear routine from the game. To replace a player that may have an ability to score a game winning goal for a guy that plays his best "hockey" without a stick in his hand is ludicrous. The Oilers as a team need to show they can win with a couple injuries, if they can't they will never win.

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#10 jake
May 16 2012, 12:46PM
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Deterrence - Not being afraid to cleanly run other team's stars, not their goons. No team thinks twice about Kronwalling one of ours.

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#11 etownman
May 16 2012, 12:59PM
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I think there is role for an enforcer on a team Jonathan! The Oilers have the perfect example of how this works if you have the 'right' enforcer!

Ales Hemsky didn't have too many shoulder problems when George Laraque was riding the range! After George left town there were a lot of key Oilers that ended up on IR with serious injuries courtesy of players like Derek Boogard! No, this is one thing I agree with Cherry on, the Oil need to protect their young guys & it should be one big mean mother trucker who can skate & hit!

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#12 SK Oiler Fan
May 16 2012, 12:59PM
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Thank you Archeology Guy. The anti-enforcer bandwagon has been filling up lately, I suspect mostly with people that haven't played hockey at a high level.

Fact - Injuries are going to happen with and without enforcers so drop that out of any arguement. Like you say it may prevent 1 or 2 morons from running a skilled young player / year.

Fact - Like it or not intimidation is still a big part of the NHL. Until the refs start calling games how the rule book says it should be called rather than "managing the game" this will not change. Remember, this league is slow to change and is very traditional (no touch icing).

It's that extra bit of courage and comfort that the skill players get from knowing they have a tough SOB on call should things get out of hand. There's no advanced stat to indicate having a tough SOB helps win games - you'll just have to rely on the players, coaches, and GMs that think a form of toughness is required on their team to be successful. I would think they know what they need to get through a NHL season.

Fact - Finding a tough SOB that can play effectively is difficult. That's where a shrewd GM and a coach that manages his icetime properly and pairs him up with appropriate linemates is required.

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#13 melancholyculkin
May 16 2012, 01:15PM
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@Archaeologuy

I'm not sure I buy that. Maybe there is something to making sure your stars have "peace of mind", but I would think that having a fourth line that doesn't bleed goals and scoring chances against would do a lot more to put Taylor Hall at ease.

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#14 Quicksilver ballet
May 16 2012, 01:20PM
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There's still so little going on here that this issue keeps getting magnified. Teams, more often than not come into Rexall and dictate the pace of the game. The Oilers rarely initiate anything and continue to mostly respond to whats happened, after the fact. Teams exist in a hockey hell if their core player group is in transition (top 7 forwards,top 3 D and a goalie), till they have this group settled we're in for much the same year after year.

As the talent level continues to increase/mature this will become less of an issue. The game will change dramatically when the Oilers opponent is down 2-0. Till these kids take charge here, the Oilers will continue to lose the battle on the scoreboard and in the alley. Hall needs to be his own enforcer, Hopkins and Eberle will continue to reduce putting themselves in vulnerable positions.

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#15 VMR
May 16 2012, 01:23PM
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Enforcers arent there for protection we need them for revenge!!!!!!

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#16 Archaeologuy
May 16 2012, 01:28PM
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@Meloncholyculkin

Yeah, but how many 4th lines dont actually bleed chances against? They are, by definition, a collection of the worst players on the team. I get that it seems like BS, but when you mix in the testimonies of former enforcers it really appears as though they took on a lot of the agonizing presure of playing against the big uglies from the opposing teams. Many of them turned to vice just to cope with it themselves. (Not an excuse, just an observation)

Many of these guys are loved by their teammates and men who get paid a tonne of cash to tinker with the chemistries of their dressing rooms are still handing out roster spots and ice time to tough guys, though less and less.

If you cant quantify their contribution from in-game data then maybe it's time to consider that the most integral part of their job isnt being done in-game.

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#17 Henry
May 16 2012, 01:36PM
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There are different kinds of tough guys in the NHL. Tootoo is more of an assassin than a protector. If a game turns into a tit-for-tat, you ran my star so I'll put yours in the hospital sort of affair, Tootoo is your guy. I think those tactics are for baseball.

Around December this year Whitney came back for a few games with his bad ankle. Ryan Kesler skated by well after Whitney passed the puck and gave him a two hander on the ankle. Whitney wasn't hurt, but could have been; doesn't matter he could have been hurt. If Dave Semenko was on the team he would have taken the instigator or whatever and meted out some punishment right on Kesler even if he is smaller and it isn't fair. That sort of tough guy keeps a*holes in line and has value.

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#18 FastOil
May 16 2012, 01:45PM
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I wouldn't mind if they acquired a tough "hockey player" or two. As for designated fighters, no thanks.

Someone mentioned baseball. Maybe the league could have a roster spot for the designated fighter, like designated hitter, that was extra to the roster. They could think of it as a PR thing because everyone knows Americans only watch hockey for the fights.

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#19 Team Hall
May 16 2012, 01:57PM
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The sad thing is that I remember that movie clear as day, and now one of the characters is dead and the other is old.

where does the time go?

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#20 D-Man
May 16 2012, 02:03PM
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Henry wrote:

There are different kinds of tough guys in the NHL. Tootoo is more of an assassin than a protector. If a game turns into a tit-for-tat, you ran my star so I'll put yours in the hospital sort of affair, Tootoo is your guy. I think those tactics are for baseball.

Around December this year Whitney came back for a few games with his bad ankle. Ryan Kesler skated by well after Whitney passed the puck and gave him a two hander on the ankle. Whitney wasn't hurt, but could have been; doesn't matter he could have been hurt. If Dave Semenko was on the team he would have taken the instigator or whatever and meted out some punishment right on Kesler even if he is smaller and it isn't fair. That sort of tough guy keeps a*holes in line and has value.

I think the bigger issue is the validity of the instigator rule... I know the NHL will never take the rule out, but IMO allow the players to deal with the Kesler's and the Cooke's (circa 2010-11) themselves...

I wonder how Kesler would have responded if a Smac or even a Hordi lined up against him the shift after that slash...

I know - call me a Neanderthal, but I do think eliminating that rule will solve a huge amount of head hits we're seeing today.

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#21 jonnyquixote
May 16 2012, 02:04PM
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This is a silly argument - in essence, the statement is that a hockey team doesn't need enforcers because enforcers can't 100% protect skill players from all and every injury.

The real question should be: can they reduce the risk of injury (especially intentionally or negligently inflicted by an opposing player)?

Maybe they do or maybe they don't. I don't know. I think there are likely too many variables for the mathletes to weigh in on this one with anything worth more than idle speculation or giggles. I think you'd have to look at situations where a star player received (or was about to receive) abuse from opposition, that opposition got his face punched in good, and then see how much room/courtesy that star player got in the immediate future from that opposition.

The instigator rule may have changed things since then, but I do know that Gretzky gave Semenko a car and insisted McSorley come with him to California. He did those things for a reason, but maybe that reason was that they were secretly dating.

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#22 Mike Z
May 16 2012, 02:28PM
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Doubt that even 1965 style protection (off-ice assault and battery) deterred nutbars like Sanderson.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2011/08/26/sheet_friday_mailbag/

But paychecks cut right to the incentive to maim. Capital punishment may not deter but it sure eliminates repeat head breakers. It's as easy as 1-2-3. Quarter season, full season, life time.

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#23 Truth
May 16 2012, 02:37PM
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Alberta Highway Patrol Sherriffs should be removed from the road because they are not preventing accidents. Somebody bumped into my car in the parking lot this morning.

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#24 Aitch
May 16 2012, 02:38PM
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I may not be adding anything here, but it would appear that Willis is limiting the role played by the tough guys of the league to just protection. That's a pretty one-dimensional player. SMacIntyre was that type of player. All he could do was intimidate and fight. But he couldn't play hockey.

We don't need another SMacIntyre. What we do need is a couple of players capable of riding shotgun with some of the skill players when the need arises. Players who won't hurt you on the scoreboard while protecting you on the roster sheet. They don't have to be one-dimensional goons. I think we have just that player in Eager. I'm willing to give him the benefit of a doubt on his season last year and see how he does this season. The man can skate, hit, fight and actually play hockey when he keeps his head on straight.

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#25 Pucker
May 16 2012, 02:44PM
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Enforcers typically fight enforcers.

Something was lacking back when Regehr and the Flames were beating up the Hemsky and the Oilers. They could all the hitting they wanted with no thought of retribution.

McIntyre couldn't catch up to anyone. Laraque wouldn't fight anyone unless they agreed. Someone earlier mentioned the Boogie-Man. He was effective because he'd go after anyone, and that helps the team. There's not many like him.

It's team toughness we need. Players on the ice that can play and go after a Regehr-type player. Not to beat the crap out of him (though sometimes that would be nice), but to just let them be aware that if he's going to hand out late, agressive hits, he's going to get some back. He may still continue to do it, but not to the same degreee. I do believe the Oiler's got beaten pretty good every time a team came out aggressive. This needs to be countered. I don't know how but until they do, they're not going to make it past the first round of the playoffs.

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#26 Cody
May 16 2012, 02:52PM
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I was an enforcer for many years, and I have witnessed first hand the change in the other team if there is a little fear/respect there.

The oilers injuries started piling up shortly after Laraque left. He was feared, but he is not what we need. Nobody is going to avoid hitting Nuge because our fighter will go fight their fighter. The person who commits the crime is the one that should be punished for it, and it should be on the same shift. If that is not possible the next shift.

Because of the instigator rule a lot of coaches are hesitant to allow their fighter to do his job. It is worth taking a penalty in a close game in order to send a message to the entire league that taking liberties on our stars will not be tolerated. This is especially true early in the season. A tight game 7 playoff game may not be the time to send a message now that the instigator rule is in.

I was watching a game due to injury. the other team had a Cooke type player who was sticking, hacking, and elbowing our stars every chance he got. I went and got dressed and went on the ice even though I was injured. Tey never put their pest back on the ice the rest of the game, because they knew exactly what would happen. When we played them again he took his lick'n and then played the cleanest hockey you have ever seen. There is no way he would take liberties on my stars while I was at the game.

I am not saying this will stop injuries, because nothing can. I am saying his attitude and intent changed when he knew there would be repercussions for his actions. This attitude change will reduce injuries.

I think the biggest mistake made in the game was introducing the instigator rule and because of it Shanny will have to give longer and longer suspensions to try to build that same fear in players until players (especialy large players who's shoulders are at the head height of opposing players) are scared to hit at all for fear of missing large portions of the season.

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#27 Cody
May 16 2012, 03:05PM
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There were also a large number of games where the Oilers did not show up with the intensity required to win games.

A good enforcer should be able to play as well as fight. He should typically play with the most intesnity on the team which is infectous.

A good coach recognizing the team's lack of intensity will either increase the 4th line's ice time to increase the team intensity or send the fighter out to start something, as winning a big fight can energize the team.

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#28 NewfoundlandOil
May 16 2012, 03:31PM
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Have to agree with Aitch. We have the guy.

However, Eager had a bad year and its too easy for us to crap all over him. Eager is exactly the type of "enforcer" you need. Not a goon but a hard working, fast skating guy who's willing to get his hands dirty.

The best deterent to guys targeting the skilled players is a 3rd and 4th line that do a tremendous job of forechecking and grinding down whoever they play against. Force the other team to defend.

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#29 dawgbone98
May 16 2012, 03:41PM
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Some of you keep bringing up how after Laraque left, the Oilers ran into injuries.

But after they had guys like Smac, Stortini, Hordichuk, etc... in their lineup, they still had injuries.

And Cody, yeah winning a fight has virtually no impact on the game. For every instance where the team scored a big goal afterwards, there's an instance where the opposition scored. Thrown in the mix are a bunch of times when absolutely nothing changes.

I mean you could argue that there's a rise of adrenaline amongst the team after a fight, but how long does that last, especially if you aren't immediately on the ice after it?

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#30 CaptainLander
May 16 2012, 03:52PM
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@D-Man

I would bet Kesler makes that slash ever time regardless of who lines up against him.

I think Gretz did more to protect himself then Semenko ever did, by scoring almost every time the Oil had a power play.

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#31 Rama Lama
May 16 2012, 03:57PM
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Just how many speeders do you think would drive the speed limit if they knew there were no cops around?

We all understand enforcement and live with it every day........this point is obviously lost on JW. A policeman makes everyone act differently.

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#32 DSF
May 16 2012, 04:05PM
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The issue is really having the players with the gonads to be the hammer rather that the nail.

Dustin Brown is the best current example of the kind of player who can lead his team in hits, disrupt the oppositions best players and play hockey at a high level.

Eager might be a poor man's Dustin Brown but when the rest of the team is comprised of players who shy away from physical play and won't stand up for their team mates (see Horcoff, Shawn as a prime example) teams with toughness will trample them.

Anyone who thinks intimidation is not a part of pro hockey is fooling themselves.

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#35 bdiddy18
May 16 2012, 04:26PM
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Maybe the philosophy changes if they get a new coach! So let's hope that happens.

It is a dumb tactic anyways, having an enforcer that is going to play 2-5 mins a night and basically is cement with fists makes no sense at all. Essentially you start every game playing one man short vs your opponent. How exactly is this a recipe to win games?

There used to be a time that the 4th line was used as your developing line. At least one vet as a forward or alternatively some experienced d men while the rest of the line provided youth, energy, hits and the occasional goal.

This would allow the potential for the unexpected goal or momentum change that the opponent was not prepared for. Since attention will be focused on the top two lines the 4th line can surprise anytime. Add a little offensive flair and who knows you got that timely goal in the third that gives you the win, or that surprising shift that wins you a playoff game.

Oilers have none of that when you ice hordichuck, macintyre etc...you end up benching the 4th line.

Also the nature of the kids doesn't mean the enforcer can do anything about it anyways. Ebs, Hall, Nuge are not shy to muck and fight for the puck and take an extra shot in exchange for an offensive play. That's their dna, so they are going to get hit as simple as that. They also can make the opponent play for that hit if it creates a powerplay.

Like everything else - it will just take time - once they grow into their bodies they won't be knocked over anymore and absorb more hits. The sedins were mops for the first five years in the NHL.

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#36 Quicksilver ballet
May 16 2012, 04:27PM
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Well said DSF

When will Steve Tambellini step back and honestly asses his roster. Outside of the 3 kids, this roster is a gongshow.

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#37 Clyde Frog
May 16 2012, 04:31PM
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Wait, Laraque could also score against the Avalanch! He wasn't completely one-dimensional...!

But yes; when we had him, we hated the fact he wouldn't Boogard it up. For an enforcer to be truly effective does he need to be paired with a Clutterbuck? Or does he just have to be fast enough to truck the opposition?

I don't think there is an easy answer to how to move forward on enforcers or pests.

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#38 Oiler Al
May 16 2012, 04:35PM
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Who are the tough guys on the present Oilers team: [Tough meaning:. Hit hard and often, hard on the puck, and not afraid to drop the mitts once in while when needed] [ Enforcers need not apply.. Hordichuck].

Sutton, Eager, Peckham, and Smid to a degree.

Throws the odd body check.. Jones, and Petrel.

Thats about it... There is zero toughness on the top six at this point.

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#39 Walter Sobchak
May 16 2012, 04:55PM
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YES!! Agreed DSF! Props to you sir.

I especially like the part about Horcoff, and may I add Jones in there as well.

The Oilers are the softest team to play against in the NHL.

There is not one player on the Oilers who scares anyone in the NHL including Hordichuck who plays a grand total of 2 minutes a game.

Get players that can take the fight to the other teams, initiate instead of react, hit instead of getting hit, take a suspension or two and get a tough guy that can play more then two minutes a game.

Was Hordichuck really an upgrade over S.Mac?

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#40 etownman
May 16 2012, 05:50PM
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Jonathan/dawgbone the point is Laraque was 'the man'! Nobody wanted to mess with him! The type of helacious runs we saw Boogard (or other boneheads) take at Hemsky (and other Oilers) just didn't happen when he was here! That's the type of deterrent the Oilers need & George could play a lick when put on the ice. Not sure what his TOI was with the Oil but he could contribute in a positive way!

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#41 Mumbai max
May 16 2012, 06:58PM
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The obvious flaw in this argument is that you do not know which vicious hits and/injuries WERE avoided by having an enforcer.

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#42 Spydyr
May 16 2012, 07:06PM
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NewfoundlandOil wrote:

Have to agree with Aitch. We have the guy.

However, Eager had a bad year and its too easy for us to crap all over him. Eager is exactly the type of "enforcer" you need. Not a goon but a hard working, fast skating guy who's willing to get his hands dirty.

The best deterent to guys targeting the skilled players is a 3rd and 4th line that do a tremendous job of forechecking and grinding down whoever they play against. Force the other team to defend.

In a game late in the year.Cannot remember against who.A player took a blatant run at Nuge. As Nuge was yapping with the offending player Eager skated right by and went to the bench.

On that play Eager jumped the shark for me.Trade bait if anyone is willing to take him.

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#43 Sean John
May 16 2012, 08:15PM
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it's an alpha male's game!!! intimidation is a real thing. for the anti-fighting crowd i the solution for you: soccer.

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#44 @Oilanderp
May 16 2012, 08:57PM
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The implementation of the instigator rule has made the enforcer almost ineffective. I would also bet that it has resulted in increased headshots or other dangerous infractions. Self-policing is out the window and if the NHL keeps that instigator rule then gradually, I fear, the enforcer role will fade away to be replaced by general team toughness.

Maybe I'm wrong but I'd like to see a study of injuries and suspensions before and after the instigator rule was implemented.

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#45 DSF
May 16 2012, 09:07PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Well said DSF

When will Steve Tambellini step back and honestly asses his roster. Outside of the 3 kids, this roster is a gongshow.

And the 3 kids are just an accident waiting to happen.

Can you imagine how they would fare in a playoff series against the Kings or Bruins?

They'd be all in triage by game 2.

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#46 Wäx Män Riley
May 16 2012, 09:21PM
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etownman wrote:

I think there is role for an enforcer on a team Jonathan! The Oilers have the perfect example of how this works if you have the 'right' enforcer!

Ales Hemsky didn't have too many shoulder problems when George Laraque was riding the range! After George left town there were a lot of key Oilers that ended up on IR with serious injuries courtesy of players like Derek Boogard! No, this is one thing I agree with Cherry on, the Oil need to protect their young guys & it should be one big mean mother trucker who can skate & hit!

Hemsky played with Laraque for only 3 seasons.... Hemsky's first 3 in the league. Makes sense that his shoulder hadn't taken as much punishment.

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#47 Reality Check to the head
May 16 2012, 10:03PM
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Until the oilers are in the class of Detroit in which they make the other team pay for their dumb penalties, I think the Oilers need a player who can skate by the other bench and let every player on the other team know that they are accountable.

But the player has to be able to skate and actually play real minutes.

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#48 Wanyes bastard child
May 16 2012, 10:18PM
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Reality Check to the head wrote:

Until the oilers are in the class of Detroit in which they make the other team pay for their dumb penalties, I think the Oilers need a player who can skate by the other bench and let every player on the other team know that they are accountable.

But the player has to be able to skate and actually play real minutes.

Umm, we were first in the league for PP for quite some time and I think we finished 2nd or 3rd at the end of the year. In fact, didn't we do better than Detroit?

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#49 The Beaker
May 16 2012, 11:56PM
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I havent got time to read commentz as im heading to sleep but how can you know Sarich's hit would have "probably ended up as nothing".... That dude was about to steamroll Hall (it wouldnt have been a headshot however). The redemtion for Sarich shouldnt have just been for the Hall hit, it should have been for the fact that Sarich ran around that whole night and was the only player sparking that team. The oilers needed to do something about him that night, period.

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#50 Reality Check to the head
May 17 2012, 12:39AM
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@waynes bastard

Detroit still drew 10% more penalties (around 30 more). It also seemed to me that Edm stopped getting calls in the last quarter of the season (not sure why, maybe the refs were prepping players and fans on what to expect in the playoffs). While the Oil had a better percentage, the players need to get the opposition into the box to actually do damage.

Back to my point. Someone has to be able to be the nuclear deterrent for the young guys. He also need to be able to skate and hold their own. Alot to ask for.

I know that Big George wasnt always the best enforcer, but numerous times he would skate by the other teams bench/tough guy/pesk and give a warning, and that was all that was needed in most situations.

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