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Cullen: Which NHL fighters are the most productive players?

Scott Cullen

7/13/2011 4:39:05 PM

Scott Cullen digs into the numbers to see which hockey fighters ranked among the best as overall hockey players during the 2010-2011 season.

The existence of the fighter in the NHL can be a contentious issue, as calls for stiffer penalties come up from time-to-time, all while the league promotes fisticuffs and violent play as part of the entertainment package.

When the team with the second-most fights in the league during the regular season, the Boston Bruins with 71, wins the Stanley Cup there is little reason to believe that teams are going to shy away from that style of play. Historically, teams in professional sports have been copycats, often adopting similar styles to recent champions in order to compete.

The Chicago Blackhawks, after watching the Cup get handed to the Bruins, went into free agency and signed three players that appear on this list -- Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell -- in addition to Steve Montador, who only had three fights last season, but racked up 20 fighting majors in the two prior years.

Only one team, the Detroit Red Wings, didn't have one player with at least five fights last season.

So, if this style of play is not going away, it might be useful to know the most effective players that are also capable of dropping the gloves.

Since I'm into ranking pretty much everything, from time-to-time I attempt to rank fighters on their "other" productivity -- things like goals, assists, plus-minus etc. -- that are used to generate the TSN.ca Player Rankings.

Trying to be inclusive, I've set the minimum number of fights at five, which means there are plenty of players included that bring more to the game than just pugilism, but they're lumped in.

Nathan Horton, Ryane Clowe, Milan Lucic and Scott Hartnell are productive power forwards, capable of scoring goals and scrapping when needed, so they're not surprisingly at the top of the list, but there are a wide range of roles covered.

From agitators like Steve Downie, Steve Ott and Sean Avery, to heavyweights like George Parros and Colton Orr, to checkers Gregory Cambpell, Jake Dowell and Craig Adams, they're included here.

Even if a player doesn't rank highly in this measure, that isn't to say he's not doing his job.

Enforcers for example, aren't expected to provide offence, nor are they put in the position to score, so living down to those expectations isn't an indictment of their contributions. It's not a great revelation to unearth that some of the league's bone crushers aren't the most adept players.

If a player can provide the fisticuffs when necessary, then he's doing what he is supposed to in the handful of minutes of ice time he receives. However, there are tough guys that evolve and become more valuable players, capable of taking a regular shift and it's those players that may be of extra value.

Certainly, Shawn Thornton was a useful piece of the puzzle on the Bruins' Cup-winning team. The Rangers' Brandon Prust is another frequent combatant who has proven to be deserving of a more significant role. Tim Jackman performed well when given the chance in Calgary last season.

It also needs to be said, particularly for the fight fans, that there is no grading on the quality of a player's fights, or whether they are a heavyweight when the gloves come off. The number of fights just helps to serve as a guide that, yes, these are players that are willing to drop the gloves and tangle when the time comes.

Here, then, is my ranking of the fighters as players:

(Fight totals - FM - are taken from www.hockeyfights.com; teams are from the 2010-2011 season.)

Rank Player Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM Rating FM
1. Milan Lucic BOS 79 30 32 62 +28 121 75.92 7
2. Ryane Clowe SJ 75 24 38 62 +13 100 75.42 12
3. Nathan Horton BOS 80 26 27 53 +29 85 73.34 7
4. Scott Hartnell PHI 82 24 25 49 +14 142 71.75 6
5. Steve Downie TB 57 10 22 32 +8 171 69.07 7
6. Adam McQuaid BOS 67 3 12 15 +30 96 66.92 12
7. Paul Gaustad BUF 81 12 19 31 -7 101 66.24 5
8. Gregory Campbell BOS 80 13 16 29 +11 93 65.94 11
9. Steve Ott DAL 82 12 20 32 -9 183 65.37 10
10. Eric Brewer TB 76 9 7 16 +6 81 64.79 5
11. Michael Sauer NYR 76 3 12 15 +20 75 64.67 7
12. Brandon Prust NYR 82 13 16 29 +2 160 64.65 18
13. Wayne Simmonds LA 80 14 16 30 -2 75 64.44 6
14. Matt Hendricks WAS 77 9 16 25 -2 110 64.44 14
15. Shawn Thornton BOS 79 10 10 20 +8 122 64.06 14
16. Ryan Wilson COL 67 3 13 16 -8 68 63.95 6
17. Tim Jackman CGY 82 10 13 23 +4 86 63.63 12
18. Chris Thorburn ATL 82 9 10 19 -4 77 63.61 7
19. Sean Avery NYR 76 3 21 24 -4 174 62.83 12
20. Clayton Stoner MIN 57 2 7 9 +5 96 62.72 6
21. Jake Dowell CHI 79 6 15 21 +5 63 62.71 9
22. Arron Asham PIT 44 5 6 11 0 46 62.68 6
23. Cody McCormick BUF 81 8 12 20 +2 142 62.62 16
24. Matt Martin NYI 68 5 9 14 -13 147 62.29 13
25. Ben Eager SJ 68 7 10 17 +4 120 62.15 6
26. Tom Kostopoulos CGY 76 8 10 18 -4 74 62.09 6
27. Theo Peckham EDM 71 3 10 13 -5 198 62.07 10
28. David Clarkson NJ 82 12 6 18 -20 116 62.03 13
29. John Erskine WAS 73 4 7 11 +1 94 62.02 6
30. Zack Smith OTT 55 4 5 9 -11 120 61.84 6
31. Derek Dorsett CBJ 76 4 13 17 -15 184 61.74 17
32. Sean O'Donnell PHI 81 1 17 18 +8 87 61.55 7
33. Chris Neil OTT 80 6 10 16 -14 210 61.45 12
34. Jay Harrison CAR 72 3 7 10 +5 72 61.44 6
35. Travis Moen MTL 79 6 10 16 -4 96 61.44 8
36. Craig Adams PIT 80 4 11 15 -5 76 61.43 6
37. Mark Stuart ATL 54 2 4 6 0 47 61.21 7
38. Brandon Segal DAL 46 5 5 10 0 41 61.07 5
39. Michael Rupp PIT 81 9 8 17 -4 124 61.07 12
40. Brad Winchester ANA 76 10 6 16 -18 114 60.88 10
41. Luca Sbisa ANA 68 2 9 11 -11 43 60.88 5
42. Matt Bradley WAS 61 4 7 11 -3 68 60.74 10
43. Mike Brown TOR 50 3 5 8 +1 69 60.69 9
44. Jared Boll CBJ 73 7 5 12 -2 182 60.50 23
45. Matt Carkner OTT 50 1 6 7 0 136 60.28 12
46. Jamal Mayers SJ 78 3 11 14 +3 124 60.02 12
47. Ryan Reaves STL 28 2 2 4 -1 78 59.92 8
48. Shane O'Brien NAS 80 2 7 9 +1 83 59.82 5
49. Ryan Carter FLA 62 3 6 9 -1 66 59.75 6
50. Mike Komisarek TOR 75 1 9 10 -8 86 59.65 7
51. Eric Boulton ATL 69 6 4 10 +1 87 59.55 9
52. Kyle Clifford LA 76 7 7 14 -10 141 59.46 18
53. B.J. Crombeen STL 80 7 7 14 -18 154 59.45 17
54. Cody McLeod COL 71 5 3 8 -7 189 59.22 14
55. Tanner Glass VAN 73 3 7 10 -5 72 58.91 10
56. Eric Godard PIT 19 0 3 3 +4 105 58.71 7
57. Brad Staubitz MIN 71 4 5 9 -5 173 58.48 15
58. Zenon Konopka NYI 82 2 7 9 -14 307 58.36 25
59. Trevor Gillies NYI 39 2 0 2 -3 165 58.35 9
60. Micheal Haley NYI 27 2 1 3 -4 85 58.22 7
61. Jean-Francois Jacques EDM 51 4 1 5 -6 63 58.15 5
62. Dan Carcillo PHI 57 4 2 6 -14 127 57.89 13
63. Zack Stortini EDM 32 0 4 4 -2 76 57.82 8
64. Deryk Engelland PIT 63 3 7 10 -5 123 57.71 13
65. Jody Shelley PHI 58 2 2 4 0 127 57.54 12
66. Paul Bissonnette PHX 48 1 0 1 +6 71 57.46 13
67. Troy Bodie CAR 59 1 3 4 -7 61 57.35 11
68. Darcy Hordichuk FLA 64 1 4 5 -1 76 57.35 10
69. Derek Boogaard NYR 22 1 1 2 0 45 57.35 7
70. Kyle Chipchura ANA 40 0 2 2 +1 32 56.99 6
71. D.J. King WAS 16 0 2 2 -3 30 56.98 6
72. Jay Rosehill TOR 26 1 2 3 -6 71 56.92 7
73. George Parros ANA 78 3 1 4 -4 178 56.91 27
74. Brian Sutherby DAL 51 2 2 4 -10 58 56.86 8
75. Cam Janssen STL 54 1 3 4 -6 131 56.79 17
76. Colton Orr TOR 46 2 0 2 -1 128 56.49 13
77. John Scott CHI 40 0 1 1 0 72 56.47 8
78. Adam Mair NJ 65 1 3 4 -16 65 56.36 5
79. Krys Barch DAL 44 2 1 3 -7 80 55.82 12
80. Kevin Westgarth LA 56 0 3 3 -6 105 55.65 15
81. Tyson Strachan STL 29 0 1 1 -10 39 55.57 5
82. David Koci COL 35 1 0 1 -5 80 55.46 8
83. Sheldon Brookbank ANA 40 0 0 0 -8 63 55.21 7
84. Steve MacIntyre EDM 34 0 1 1 -1 93 55.13 7
85. Aaron Voros ANA 12 0 0 0 -4 43 54.44 5

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.