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Friday, September 10, 2010

Fight Club - Part 2

The other day I talked about how "enforcing" is important to the game of hockey and why it is critical for players to be able to police other players. Today I wanted to tip my hat to five rugged players who I think are the best at what they do.


1. Colton Orr:

Back in July I wrote in my post, The Long Con, that if we had resigned popular enforcer Colton Orr during the summer of 2009 instead of letting him sign with Toronto, we might actually have had some cash to throw at a decent playmaker. Since Orr's departure, we have tried to fill his role with guys like Aaron Voros ($1 mill), Donald Brashear ($1.4 mill), and Derek Boogaard ($1.65 mill). At the time of my post, the roster included all three players, which totaled $4,050,000. It was a lot of dough to spend on enforcers considering Orr's contract with the Maple Leafs was worth $1 mill per season for 4 years.


Alas, Sather has since traded away Voros and Brashear, so that argument kind of went out the window. With only Derek Boogaard left, it still however remains to be seen if letting Colton Orr walk was the right decision. Since then, Orr has quickly made a name for himself around hockey circles as one of the best enforcers in the league. According to hockeyfights.com, Colton Orr dropped the gloves 23 times last season, which was the 5th highest in the league. Boogaard on the other hand, squared off only 9 times for Minnesota last season. What he’ll do with his first season as a Ranger remains to be seen.

Listed at 6’3 220lbs, Orr is considered a heavyweight. If you look at the list of players he has fought in recent seasons, they are mostly heavyweights as well. Orr doesn’t go after teams’ star players or talk sh*t to those who avoid confrontations, like some other goons around the league. He’ll generally only engage other enforcers, which I think is respectful.

So he scraps a lot, he wins a lot, and he does all of it against other players in his weight class. Perhaps his best attribute though is his entertainment value. Some guys go out, take their lumps, and skate to the box. Not Orr.

After fights in the Garden he’d thrust his arms in the air on to get the arena amped up or flash a bloody smile to the let the crowd know he’s having fun too. On the road he’d take his helmet off and slide it towards center ice at the opposing team’s logo, as if to say f-u to the fans. It was classic.

2. Cam Janssen:
If Orr is the best of the heavyweight division, then I think the best of the light heavyweights is Cam Janssen of the St. Louis Blues. Listed at 5’11 200 lbs, this dude can scrap. Over the past two seasons he’s dropped the gloves 38 times, albeit while playing in less than a hundred games.

What I also like about Janssen is he’s not afraid to step up to the big boys. This past season the majority of his battles were against guys over the 6’3 220 pound mark. He fought Colton Orr twice, Brian McGrattan, Matt Carkner, Jared Boll, Jodey Shelley, and Nick Boyton, to name a few. Still, the former Devil is only the same size as Daniel Carcillo of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Speaking of Carcillo, I have to say although the kid scraps a lot; his matchups are pretty unimpressive. I mean Craig Adams, Craig Rivet, Tim Gleason and of course Marian Gaborik? These guys fight like maybe a handful of times a lifetime, they're not brawlers. Janssen is much more fearless considering his weight class. If Derek Boogaard doesn't pan out, Janssen is a guy worth keeping an eye on.


3. George Parros:
George Parros is just a beast. Listed at 6’5, he’s one of the most feared heavyweights in hockey. I almost picked Boogaard instead, but Boogaard’s almost so big (6'8) there are few actually willing to matchup against him. Parros on the other hand drop the gloves 19 times last season, not bad considering his size.


What I like about Parros is he knows when to fight and when to put his fists down and play hockey. You rarely hear of him taking a bad penalty or losing his cool. Most enforcers have a bullseye on their back when it comes to officiating and thus are prone to taking bad penalties at inopportune moments. Parros seems to be able to avoid that stigma.

It's a shame Parros plays for the Ducks and not an Eastern Conference team. I would have liked to see him and Boogaard square off more often. The Rangers will play the Ducks only once this season in Anaheim. You can bet that Boogie will be in the lineup.

Little quick fact: Parros actually grew up in Jersey and went to high school in Morristown. Apparently he's no dummy either. Parros went to Princeton University and wrote his senior thesis on the West Coast longshoremen's labor dispute. Enforcers are just thugs are they? G’head, you tell him.

4. Milan Lucic:
Milan Lucic is actually more of a powerforward than enforcer, but he will stand up for teammates when called upon, plus he can score goals too. He is the perfect mold for old-school Bruins hockey. What I like about Lucic is he's not just some 4th line guy who skates for 8 minutes a game, picks a fight, and then cashes his check. The guy gets quality minutes on the Bruins first line and is a trusted piece of the puzzle when the game is on the line.


Lucic was injured most of last season, but when he's healthy he is one of the better powerforwards in the Eastern Conference. I'm excited to see to who will matchup against him when the Rangers play the Bruins this year. Whoever it is, they will most certainly have their hands full.

5. Sean Avery:
Last but not least, Avery is one of the few agitators who actually backs up all the smack-talk. If you’re not a Rangers fan you probably loathe him, but let’s face it, the guy can hold his own. Avery draws plenty of penalties, has a great stride, good stick handling abilities and a superb right-hand hook. I’d say he’s the consummate agitator when he is on his game.

The problem with Avery is that he's small by NHL comparisons. He's listed at 5'10 195 lbs, but that's exaggerated. I've met him a couple of times and he's probably 5'8 180 lbs tops. His diminutive stature doesn't leave him many guys to square up with, so he's constantly taking on guys much bigger than him.

Of course anyone who follows the Rangers enough will tell you that some games he is the most entertaining guy on the ice and other games he is putting the team in jeopardy with the stupid penalties he often takes. Deserving or not, between the scraps, the big hits, and the supermodel girlfriends, the guy gets more press than most elite hockey players.