Accepting the fact that the Leafs will always have an enforcer

Accepting the fact that the Leafs will always have an enforcer

Photo: Associated Press

It’s painful for me to admit, but as much I will continue to bitch about how useless Colton Orr, Mike Brown, and (presumably) Frazer McLaren are, they will always have a spot on a Dave Nonis/Randy Carlyle run team. This is clearly an issue that I and many others have a difficult time coming to terms with, but it’s true. An enforcer will be dressed every night, and we’ll all be treated to a sideshow (admittedly an entertaining sideshow most of time) before proceeding to move on with the game, and coming back to terms with the other shortcomings of the lineup. Since I’m ready to concede that there will be an enforcer, I’d like to make the following asks. They will fall on deaf ears, but I’m going to make them anyway. Hopefully we can move past this annoying little issue and begin discussing the bigger issues of the roster.

Limit the team to one enforcer
This doesn’t seem like a horrible thing to ask for. On a team that has questionable depth across the board, it seems foolish to tie up three roster spots a night on players who don’t add value beyond their ability to punch. It is rare for games to descend into a chaotic event with multiple fights featuring multiple players, and in those rare cases you’re still carrying Phaneuf, Komisarek, and Steckel on the roster who can step up if necessary.

Fourth Lines can do other things besides punching
The fourth line has been nothing more than a punchatorium, when it could be an option to carry players who fill specialized roles that are best suited to match up against their opponents. I’m not complaining about the inclusion of Steckel who fills the role of faceoff specialist, as well as penalty kill contributor, but it would be great to see either additional scoring depth, a Marlies prospect looking to prove themself, or demote agitator Leo Komarov to the fourth line. These players could likely add more value substituting into the top 3 lines rather than being rolled out as a fourth line. As we saw against the Bruins, the fourth line devoid of any hockey skill can cause great damage to the team even if they only play four minutes a night.  As much as people want to believe that Mike Brown has something to offer beyond fighting, it’s not significant enough to say he should ever be in the lineup at the same time as another enforcer.

If you’re going to use an enforcer, can it be one that also plays hockey?
This is my one time plea for Mark Fraser being the Leafs enforcer. Out of the Leafs goon squad, he’s the only one who has been able to average over ten minutes a night. Not surprisingly, he’s the one who has added some value beyond fights as well. He’s blocked shots, he hits, and he’s even seeing some time on the penalty kill. None of the other enforcers are capable of filling this role, and it may make more sense to regularly dress Fraser as either the 6th or possibly 7th defenseman and run with 11 forwards. Of course, it would be easier to make a case for Fraser if he didn’t get tuned in his second bout on Saturday night.

When Colton Orr hits 400 career games, can he please be scratched for the rest of the year?
I know it near sounds like it, but I actually don’t mind watching fights. The exception is I can’t enjoy watching Colton Orr fight anymore. With what we’ve learned about concussions, and CTE, it’s incredibly difficult to watch someone like Orr, who has suffered a severe concussion in the past, take repeated punches to the head. With only fourteen games left until Orr qualifies for his total NHL pension, I’d like to see him bow out so he can enjoy the rest of his life without fear of permanent brain damage. Some of Marc Savard, Keith Primeau, and Chris Prongers comments on living with post concussion syndrome are the most depressing statements you’ll ever see.

Let’s acknowledge that fighting is a very small part of team toughness
As much as I’d prefer to see the Leafs go more in the direction of becoming a strong possession team, I’ll admit I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing in some toughness to go along with that increase in skill. Size does not equal toughness, as demonstrated by James van Riemsdyk, but fighting doesn’t necessarily equate to toughness, either. Does the addition of Frazer McLaren make other teams take note of the Leafs? Not likely. The toughness that the Leafs need comes in the form of net presence in the top six, players that will give defensemen a moment of hesitation before retrieving pucks from the corner, or a bottom six player who is ready to drop down and block shots when trapped in their own zone. Mike Brown makes a poor substitute for Dustin Brown or David Clarkson.

So Toronto, enjoy your fights. They’re not going anywhere any time soon. Some of them are entertaining, some of them are well timed (see Fraser engaging after a hit on Kessel), and while the value they add remains debatable (see the table of showing winning percentage of when Orr fights) they are a fan favourite. Hopefully, in moderation, we can all accept this part of the game, and we will no longer see such a portion of roster dedicated to people who do not play hockey well.

Monday Morning Links…

A Brief History of Dave Nonis
Blue Chip Prospects takes a look at Dave Nonis’ time with the ‘Nucks as GM. Fun Fact: He’s not a bad drafter.

The aspect of the Leafs roster that should give us the most cause for optimism going forward
VLM takes a look at the differing opinions of Leafs Land. As for who where the optimism lies, I naturally default to the defensive prospect pipeline, while out the other side of my mouth saying, “the Leafs acquire a top pairing defenseman.”

Kessel Still Goal-Less, Leafs Stay “Work in Progress”
Notes from Jonas Siegel.

Why was Boston’s Goal Waived Off?
PPP has the NHL Situation Room explanation, and an awfully clever photoshop.

Randumbness? The NHL is less predictable than you think
Unpredictable?! That seems like could benefit the Leafs

2013 NHL Mock Draft- 1st Look
Even in Mock Drafts the Leafs pick a player I don’t want sandwiched between two players I’d love to see in Toronto.

Vintage Leafs has added some new photos
More photos of Wayne Thomas’ mask please!

Design Firm Reveals Stars Concepts
Looks like the Stars will have a really ugly logo next season.

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