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.

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Montreal Falling

The Montreal Canadiens have long been regarded as one of the NHL’s classiest organizations, but the team is quickly losing respect around the league.

The Canadiens finished admirably last season, losing a close seven-game-overtime series to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.  The team had some glaring issues heading into the 2011-2012 season, but failed to address many of them.

Eric Cole was acquired via free agency to add some size and scoring up front.  Defenseman Chris Campoli was signed to a one year contract, to fill a void on defense left by the injured Andrei MarkovGeneral Manager Pierre Gauthier stopped there and failed to fully address the team’s defensive problems.

Perry Pearn

Not surprisingly, the Canadiens started the season poorly, posting a 1-5-2 record through Oct. 24.  In an effort to help satisfy Montreal’s fans’ concern, Gauthier dismissed assistant Coach Perry Pearn mere hours prior to a game on Oct. 26.  Pearn is a respected member of the hockey community and the firing sparked widespread criticism.

The team seemed to respond to the firing, winning four straight games, but quickly faded back into mediocrity.  By Dec. 17 the continued public outcry for change in Montreal caused Gauthier to sacrifice another innocent, firing head coach Jacques Martin just before a home game against the Devils.  Martin was in his third season with the Habs and earned a 96-75-25 record in 196 regular season games with the team.

The firing was not very surprising, but many in the media posed the question: should it have been Martin or Gauthier getting the axe?

Pierre Gauthier

Gauthier immediately named assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth interim-head coach.  The firing occurred directly before the game, making it impossible for Cunneyworth to address the media.  This may seem like a non-issue, but the fact that Cunneyworth became the first only-English-speaking coach in Montreal since 1971 is still a major problem in Quebec.  Had Cunneyworth been able to address the situation, he could have explained that he did indeed plan to learn French, as Marc Crawford had done when he coached the Nordiques.

Jacques Martin

Following a loss to the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 10, forward Mike Cammalleri was reported to have said that the team loses because they “play like losers.”  Cammalleri said later that the quote was taken out of context and that what he meant was that the team needed an attitude adjustment if they planned on picking themselves up.

Gauthier decided to ignore one of the team’s most important leaders’ concerns and instead adjusted Cammalleri’s residence by trading him to Calgary, during a game against the Boston Bruins.  Montreal still remains last in wins in the Northeast Division since the trade.

Since Gauthier’s hiring, Montreal has quickly dug themselves into a massive hole, but not all of the blame can be placed at the GM’s feet.  There are a number of major issues facing the organization, young–gun P.K. Subban’s antics playing no small part.  Montreal will not make the playoffs this year, and by then it will be ownership’s turn to deal with the fallout.

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.

Takes Two to Tango

There was quite a bit of commotion surrounding Tampa’s 1-3-1 trap and Philly’s unwillingness to break the puck out in last night’s game in Tampa Bay.

As you can see in the video the Flyers would not advance the puck into the Lightning’s neural zone trap.  The play was blown dead in accordance with rule 72 which places the onus on the attacking team to keep play in continuous motion.  The Flyers continued their refusal to advance the puck a number of times after the instance shown in the video, each time forcing the referee to stop the play.

Former coach Mac Crawford shared his opinion on TSN during the game and said that Tampa Bay was to blame for the inactivity.

“This is typically something that could really hurt hockey,” Crawford said.  “Fans don’t want to watch that type of system where nothing happens.”

Aaron Ward, former NHL player and three-time Stanely Cup winner, also spoke about the matter on TSN.

“You know what’s in your locker room,” Ward said.  “Play to your strengths.  Understand what you have out there. Ohlund is gone, Hedman is gone, you wanna win a game and that’s what the National Hockey League is about, winning games.  Is it fun to watch?  No.  But, the bottom line is, in the National Hockey league you are judged on wins and wins alone and the two points in the column.”

I tend to agree with Ward on this issue.  The rules are in place for a reason and they clearly state that it is up to the attacking team to adjust to their opponents defensive strategy.  It is interesting to watch coaches battle each other with different strategies and last night peter Laviolette declined Guy Boucher’s invitation to dance.

Bizarro October in the NHL

As of November 1, the Edmonton Oilers were tied for first place in the Western Conference and the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild were all in playoff positions while the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins were dead last in the Eastern Conference.  This really is one of the strangest starts I can remember and the absolute worst by a Stanley Cup winner in NHL history.

I really am not very surprised that the Oilers are in their current position.  First in the West is definitely higher than I predicted, but the skill that the team possesses is undeniable.  The lines of Hall, Gagner and Eberle followed by Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky (currently injured) are two top lines that will win any team a lot of hockey games.  The Oil are still a little weak on the back-end, but they are getting strong goaltending out of Khabibulin and their players are commitment to their system.  Last season Edmonton finished the year with 571 blocked shots.  One month in they have 184.  This speaks volumes about the change in the players’ attitude.

As for the Bruins, I have absolutely no explanation.  Lack of effort and poor decisions are mainly to blame, but three wins and two losses to arch-rival Montreal in a one month is inexcusable.  Every player on that team must be held accountable even if the media is willing pin the team’s troubles on only Lucic and Horton.  Tyler Seguin’s emergence has been the bright light in the Bruins dismal first month posting 10 points in just 10 games.

The roller-coaster start of the Detroit Red Wings, a perrenial cup contender, has also been a shock.  Five games into the season Detroit and Washington were the only two undefeated teams in the NHL.  Both teams met on Oct. 22 and Detroit dropped the contest in a 7-0 rout.  After that game the Wings lost six in a row, dropping to 12th in the West.

October in the NHL always brings questions and projections about how the season will finish.  Simply put October is just another 30 days in a very long season.  Good teams and good players will always find success in good time, just as upstart teams and players with holes in their game will eventually level off.  Either way there is no arguing that this has been one crazy month.