Top NHL Fighters by Weight Class

SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT

Brian McGrattan

McGrattan

The grizzled fighter has been in his fair share of tussles, and after seeing his fight against up-and-comer Patrick Bordeleau (below), it’s clear that Calgary’s Brian McGrattan still has his touch (that touch being a pile-driving right-hand).  McGrattan began his professional career in the American league, the way most enforcers do.  In 2004-2005, the year of the NHL lockout, McGrattan had his most prolific fighting season, tallying 551 penalty minutes in just 71 AHL games played.  With the extra media coverage and publicity the AHL gained during that year, he earned an NHL spot with the Ottawa Senators the following season.  During his three years in Ottawa, McGrattan fought 37 times and earned a reputation as one of the best fighters in hockey.

After some problems with drugs and alcohol, McGrattan is more than three years clean and sober, and once again sits atop of the hockey food-chain.

HEAVYWEIGHT

Milan Lucic

Lucic

Perhaps the best-overall fighter in the NHL, Lucic has a stunning 30-10-4 fighting record, according to hockeyfights.com, since joining the Boston Bruins as a 19-year-old.  But, lately his offensive contributions have kept him out of the penalty box.  He is averaging 17:19 of ice-time per-game, third most among Boston forwards.

MIDDLEWEIGHT

Brandon Prust

brandon-prust-fighting

Prust, a veteran of 91 NHL tilts, is known for often taking on much larger opponents.  But, even with a size disadvantage, Prust has a winning fight record: 41-32-18 according to hockeyfights.com.  He began his NHL career in Calgary, making a name for himself playing with McGrattan, who helped mold him into the world-class scrapper he is today.

Unsettling Trend at THN

I have been increasingly disappointed in the opinions expressed by The Hockey News.  I am a 20-year-old from the US and there is very little hockey coverage where I live.  I live and breathe hockey, so five years ago when I saw an ad for the magazine I immediately subscribed.  I haven’t always agreed with all of their writers, especially Ken Campbell, but I respected the wide range of opinions in the publication.  I was very disappointed when Eric Duhatschek stopped writing the Overtime page forcing me to read Ken Campbell’s insulting pieces every week.

Still none of these things made me particularly upset at the magazine as a whole, just Ken Campbell, who I still recognize as a skilled writer.  What has brought me to this point of overwhelming frustration is the recent piece on 100 People of Power and

Mike Milbury

Influence in Hockey. Mike Milbury, who I believe to be either a blow-hard while on CBC or a puppet during his shifts on NBC, a person who has no real use on national television, was given credit for “stirring the pot,” while  not-surprisingly  Don Cherry was criticized and disrespected for the n’th time.  Still none of this surprised me enough to write about or complain, but the comments regarding Ron

MacLean, who apparently “fawns over Cherry” crossed the line.

MacLean is the most intelligent, insightful and devoted host of any hockey broadcast in North America, including TSN, Sportsnet, (both of which I regularly watch even though I live in the United States) and any excuse for a hockey broadcast in the states.

Ron MacLean

He regularly promotes Canadian culture and does a tremendous job covering our game on Hockey Day in Canada every year.  He has earned eight Gemini awards for his work on CBC and all that The Hockey News staff could come up with to fill his section is that he is “an effective point guard” and that he hosts Battle of The Blades.  The magazine is becoming more and more biased, not only against fighting, hitting, and toughness in hockey, but also the people in our sport who support these things that have helped define our game since March 3, 1875.

What it Takes

Sidney Crosby returned to the NHL last night and scored 2 goals and 4 points after missing nearly a year of action. 

There is no question that Crosby is the best player in the NHL, and last night was just another piece of evidence.  There are definitely other tremendous players in the NHL, but none have the three-zone dominance of Crosby. 

After the last two seasons, I find it almost comical to think that people could still believe that Alex Ovechkin is the world’s best player.  Ovechkin’s numbers have been down the last two years, but that’s not why he doesn’t match up to Crosby.  Ovechkin is only the best player on his team when he allows one of his teammates to get him the puck in the offensive zone.  He is in fact one of the worst players on his team in his own end because he is terrible defensively. There are a number of players I would rather have on my team than Ovechkin.  Two of the easiest to name are Pavel Datsyuk and Martin St. Louis.   

Datsyuk has great vision and is surprisingly strong on the puck.   He is a magician with the biscuit in the opponents end and one of the best defensive centermen in the game today.  Pavel won the Selke trophy, given to the league’s best defensive-forward, in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  Datsyuk plays a three-zone game just like Crosby, but with less explosive power.

Martin St. Louis is another player who is equally strong in each zone.  He has scored 80 or more points in each of the last five NHL seasons including 2007-2008 when his Lightning team put up the league’s worst record.  He is the main reason Steven Stamkos is the scorer that he is and I am willing to bet Steven would agree with me.  It has always been said that your best players should be your hardest workers and that is definitely the case for St. Louis.  He is a heart and soul player and a leader on his team.

The bottom line is Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world and will be for as long as he plays.  Truly great players must be devoted to excellence in all three zones, for the whole shift, every shift.  That is the case with Crosby as well as with Datsyuk and St. Louis.  Until Ovechkin figures this out, he and his team will continue their losing ways.

The ‘Newer’ NHL

At the start of this preseason, the NHL introduced a few new rules and instituted a much stiffer system of supplementary discipline in all situations.  The league appointed Brendan Shanahan to become the NHL’s new Director of Player Safety and Hockey Operations.  He is now in charge of all supplemental discipline, including the new amendments to rule 48 which now makes it illegal for any player to deliver a body check “..in which the head is targeted and the principle point of contact.”  “However…the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to, or simultaneous with the hit…on an otherwise legal body…check can be considered.”

Since the adoption of the rule there have been nine suspensions, inculding eight during preseason play.  This rule is a good step in helping to curb concussions in hockey and I do think that eventually the players will be able to tell when they have a chance to make a legal hit, and when to avoid an illegal one.  There will always be a few instances in which myself and others disagree with Shanahan’s rulings but that is inevitable with the change.

However, one suspension that I don’t understand at all is the recent two-game ban that Pierre-Marc Bouchard of the Minnesota Wild recieved for a high-stick/slash on Matt Calvert.   The video shows that while battling for position, Calvert initiates contact and Bouchard.  He responds by trying to lightly slash Calvert on his glove but Calvert lifts Bouchard’s stick and the slash rides up Calvert’s stick into his face.  In the video, Shanahan explains the suspension, but does not explain that this is an occurrence that, without the stick lift, happens on a nightly basis with no negative consequences. This is not to say that Calvert is to blame, but a series of legal plays worked together and went bad.  This is unfortunate, but not suspendable in my eyes.  I am concerned that suspending players in situations like this, where an injury occurs while no one is to blame, will hurt our game by discouraging competetive play.  It will confuse the players and make them more unhappy heading into the summer where another lockout is possible.

Hockey is a physical game where injury is possible and in some situations, likely.  Hockey players take these risks into account when they lace up the skates at any level.  Sometimes players deserve to be suspended because they have made an illegal play that results in an injury in a situation that injury was avoidable.  But there are also plays where players are injured where, based on the competetive nature of the game, the injury is unavoidable.  This is a fine line that Shanahan and the NHL must be able identify it if they are to keep our game safe while allowing its players to perform and put their best product out on the ice.