Here are my thoughts on the matter.
First off, I have been a fan of hockey only since 1995 when I first saw the sport. I grew up in a area that didn't have hockey so I really didn't even see the sport. It wasn't until I went to college when I saw my team play and absolutely loved the sport. The pro game was just as much fun as the college game was. Fighting was a cool aspect, but I hated the clutch and grab era of hockey and the college sport. When the NHL changed to take that kind of buffoonary out of hockey, I was happy. Same goes for the college game as well.
Now, I really did enjoy the enforcer era. Back then, the enforcers were there to protect the star players. Today, that is just not needed anymore. If you look at skilled clubs like the Kings or the Blackhawks, neither of them have enforcers that are playing on a regular basis. The Hawks signed Carcillo, and he has seen only limited action with the club. Kyle Clifford plays for the Kings and he has 87 PIMs which leads the team over 80 games.
The game has changed, and I believe it is for the better. The fans as a whole agree as well. Ticket sales are up. Profits are up. The NHL is going to expand again in a few years. The days of the enforcer are over for the most part. The days of having Sherrif Parker from the Avs on the roster are gone. Why have someone out there who just wants to beat the crap out of someone when you can have someone like Brian Bickell who is at least an offensive threat while having the ability to hold his own in an altercation?
I really feel for all the enforcers out there, but its just the way it goes. When the game changes, either you change with it or you phase out. All the players who could only defend by grabbing and clutching onto someone either dropped out of the league or adjusted their game. Same goes for the players who could really only fight.
Scott Parker was drafted in the 1st round of the NHL Entry Draft back in 1998. He really knew how to fight and only had one strong season in the minors. He was drafted for his toughness, not his skill. After the NHL killed the clutch and grabbing, Parker saw his role reduced and eventually he was shipped out of town. The Avs did bring him back in 08, but he couldn't adjust to anything other than fighting. He dropped out of the league.
Now, if you look at junior hockey, players aren't being drafted for their ability to fight anymore. Its all about the stats. Puck possession, goals, assists, points, plus/minus, etc. IMHO, that is where the game of hockey should be.
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