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.