The Leafs need hockey players, not boxers
While I had hoped the Komarov signing would have ended some of this speculation, it still lingers on and Iâ€™m really confused about something that seems to be a regular occurrence on message boards, Twitter, comment sections, etc. It is Torontoâ€™s love fest with the idea of signing George Parros. I honestly canâ€™t wrap my head around this mindset. My best guess is that the argument goes â€œDressing a big tough guy will keep their players from starting shit,â€ right? Or is it the more truthful, â€œWhen my team is losing and spent $200 on tickets I still want to get a show.â€ Does that sound more accurate?
Either way, I have a hard time getting on board with it. Even Jay Rosehill occupying a roster spot seems to irk me, and paying Colton Orr $1,000,000 a season for five minutes a night and an occasional scrap was an absolute waste. We all witnessed firsthand that it accomplished nothing other than one priceless moment where Matt Carkner begged for his life.
I will say this before the pro-fighting crowdÂ completelyÂ tunes me out: I like a good hockey fight. Sometimes I wish I didnâ€™t, but Iâ€™d be an absolute liar if I said I didnâ€™t leap across the couch to change the channel whenever someone tweets that a fight is going on in a game Iâ€™m not watching. Itâ€™s exciting, most of the time it involves two willing combatants, and most of them seem to be well aware of the repercussions and choose to do it anyway. Fighting is not the issue.
Rather than have my post on Parros just be a video of me running down a hallway screaming in terror, proceeded by me banging my head against a brick wall screaming â€œNo, No, No,â€ over and over again, I thought Iâ€™d air my thoughts in a more traditional manner. My issues are simple. (Well my issues related to Parros are simple; my personal issues are a little more involved.) I donâ€™t think it is wise to use a roster spot on someone you do not want to play for more than 5 minutes a night. Looking at the Devils and Kings right now, itâ€™s clear that rolling a fourth line that can play is helpful in going deep in the playoffs. Not surprisingly, the Rangers ran with three forward lines and generally two defensive pairings and ran out of gas, partially because they do not have a fourth line that can play more than 5 minutes a night (2 minutes in Stu Bickelâ€™s case.)
At the moment the Leafs have 2/3rds of a fourth line that can play. Mike Brown has a decent set of wheels; Steckel is a faceoff guru and solid penalty killer, and Brown fought almost as often as Parros did last season anyways. For that fourth line to be effective there needs to some other complementary element. Certainly the Leafs can benefit from a pest like Komarov in the lineup. They could benefit from specialist (penalty killer, shootout, etc.,) or they could use this as a spot to give rookies their cup of coffee in the NHL. While you donâ€™t want to play your prospects less than 10 minutes a night for a significant stretch of time, what is the harm in bringing up guys like Ashton, Dâ€™Amigo, or Mueller, who can play a solid two way game and get some exposure to the NHL before returning to AHL?
Just a fun fact for you: In his 413 NHL games, George Parros has played over 10 minutes in a game only 19 times or 4.6 percent of his career.
The next thing that concerns me; who does a heavyweight actually fight, and why? George Parros seems to deal exclusively in heavyweights, and last season the one exception seemed to be Mark Stuart of the Jets. In fact, Stuart (with an ATOI over 17min) was the only player Parros fought who averaged more than 8 minutes of playing time a night. Â Mark Stuart and Brad Winchester were the only players Parros fought that cracked double digits in points last season (Stuart 14, Winchester 10.)
So really, with the exception of Stuart, Parros is not really giving his team an advantage by taking someone significant to the box for 5 minutes. None of his opponents were guilty of cheapshots in their games. 6 of his 11 fighting majors came as staged fights off of faceoff and another 4 came while his team was in possession of the puck, so heâ€™s not exactly picking his spots. When was the last time you saw an enforcer pummel someone like Patrick Kaleta? Brad Marchand? Matt Cooke? If Parros or Orr went after any of these players theyâ€™d turtle and Parros would take a two minute penalty for prematurely dropping his gloves. The players who police clowns like that are guys like Schenn, not a heavyweight.
So where do I expect the Leafs to find this somewhat unnecessary, but ultimately entertaining form of truculence? The answer is in old time hockey. Last summer Tyler Dellow had a post (found here) reminding us that the modern goon did not exist prior to the 80s. Itâ€™s a good reminder that players like Dave Schultz, Terry Oâ€™Reilly, Stan Jonathan and others actually could contribute on the score sheet as well. With that in mind, players like Phaneuf, Schenn, Komisarek and of course Brown can regularly step up for fisticuffs, though preferably not Phaneuf. All have a legitimate reason for being on an NHL roster, and heck, losing one of them for 5 minutes would be less of a worry if you had an extra NHL capable player in your lineup instead of an enforcer who would likely have circles skated around him by Jason Allison. If there is a game where the Leafs are desperate for an enforcer, Jamie Devane is just a call-up away. Iâ€™m pretty sure heâ€™s punching at an NHL level already.
Of course, there is also the issue of the number of contracts and the number of cap dollars tied up in enforcers as well. This season the Leafs had Mike Brown, Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill, Jamie Devane, David Broll and Richard Greenop all signed and punching in four different leagues (Broll not really being a big deal because of the entry level contract slide rule.) Nonetheless, that was five enforcers occupying players contracts when the maximum is fifty. That is just plain stupid. Heading into the offseason the Leafs can now free themselves of Greenop and Rosehill, and for his own health along with being for the good of the Leafs, I truly hope Colton Orr retires. So it could just be Brown, Broll, and Devane (conveniently all three actually know how to play hockey to some degree as well.) If the Leafs are somehow freed from the 1.6 million tied up in Orr and Rosehill, why would there be a rush to throw that money back into an enforcer, especially after Burke has reluctantly admitted that the role carries little value because the rats have taken over the game? Other physical options like Komarov, Ross, and Biggs are also on the way and soon that will give a strong bottom six forward group that will be the sour pain in the ass Burke has been looking for.
That last sentence dovetails into the most important point: goons are not physical players. Okay, thatâ€™s not entirely true, but they certainly are not useful physical players. Sure, Parros and Orr can throw a hit if the target is standing still. Sure, punching someone in the face is physical, but shouldnâ€™t the ultimate goal for physicality be finding those 3rd line wingers (Clutterbuck) who will pinball himself from player to player, knocking as many guys to the ice as possible? Shouldnâ€™t it be finding Alex Burrows or Johan Franzen types who dig pucks out of corners and go to the front of the net while his other linemates play a tight possession game? This is what the Leafs have been lacking (besides Kulemin and potentially Frattin.)
Finally, George Parros, at 32, is old for an enforcer. Not even considering that his already soft skating has lost a step, heâ€™s less likely to truly wallop an opponent as well. Frankly, if you feel the need to lust after an enforcer UFA, you should probably be looking at Tanner Glass, who is 27, plays over 13 minutes a night and still found time to drop the gloves seven times last season.
Personally, I like Parros the person, not the fighter. Heâ€™s got a great moustache, heâ€™s educated, and he seems to have fun doing what he does. I can see the appeal of having a guy like him available to deflect the media after rough games, and Iâ€™ll assume heâ€™s a great team guy. The fact is none of those things improve the on-ice product in any significant way. While I agree players get pumped up when they see a fight just like the fans do, Iâ€™ve argued in the past that there isnâ€™t any statistical bump from it, and while I canâ€™t find my post hereâ€™s one that is even better from JP Nikota. Itâ€™s also very likely – win or lose – the team that just had a guy step up to George Parros is just as pumped after a tilt.
So please join me in saying “no” to overpriced, single-purpose enforcers, and hello to around a million dollars of cap space that can go towards fixing actual problems in the Leafs roster.