While fighting continues to be one of the bigger debates in circles around the National Hockey League, it remains one of the more popular aspects of the game in both traditional and non-traditional markets. But while the role of fighting has been reduced in the game in recent years, fans in the Pacific Division show no exception to the popularity of fighting that still exists among a majority of fans . Here’s a look at some of the division’s toughest customers and what they’ve done this season through Thursday.
(Note: All fight information is from hockeyfights.com)
Derek Dorsett – Vancouver Canucks – 14 fights this season
Arguably the top tough guy in the Pacific Divison, Derek Dorsett has dropped the gloves for 14 scraps this season, and is closing in on his NHL high of 17 fights, which he set back in the 2010-11 season with Columbus. His career high for fights in a season was during the 2007-08 season in the American Hockey League with Syracuse, where he fought 25 times.
Dorsett, who has appeared in 64 games in his first season in Vancouver and has recorded 19 points (5g, 14a) and 150 penalty minutes, has enjoyed mixed success in his scraps this season. On November 6, the Saskatchewan native made quick work of former Shark Andrew Desjardins, but on December 20, he didn’t last long against Calgary’s Deryk Engelland.
Dorsett’s main responsibility is to protect top line players like Radim Vrbata and the Sedin twins from opposing teams who might want to take liberties with them.
Kyle Clifford – Los Angeles Kings – 9 fights this season
When someone thinks of enforcers from the Pacific Division, one of the first names that might come to their mind is Kyle Clifford. Clifford has participated in nine fights this season, which is currently well short of the 18 he participated in during his first season in the NHL in the 2010-11 season, which also happened to be the highest fight total of his career. The only time he’s come close to that high since then was in 2011-12, when he dropped the gloves 10 times.
Clifford, who has appeared in 65 games for LA this season and has 13 points (6g, 7a) and 83 penalty minutes, has not had a lot of luck in fights this season. He has been taken down by fellow divisional tough guys Brandon Bollig and Dorsett.
Matt Hendricks – Edmonton Oilers – 8 fights this season
While Matt Hendricks doesn’t always get a lot of recognition among the division’s top enforcers, only Dorsett and Clifford have dropped the gloves more than he has this season. Hendricks’ career high for fights in a season came during the 2010-11 season when he had 14 with Washington.
Hendricks, who has 72 penalty minutes in 62 games in his first season with the Oilers, has had mixed luck at best in his scraps. On October 22, Hendricks had a decisive victory in a fight against Washington’s Liam O’Brien, but Dallas forward Travis Moen made quick work of him in a game on November 25.
Kyle Chipchura – Arizona Coyotes – 8 fights this season
When the Coyotes decided not to bring back fan favorite Paul Bissonnette last summer, they looked for someone to come in and fill the role of enforcer and this season Kyle Chipchura has been the one to step up for them. Chipchura’s eight scraps is coming close to tying his career high of 10 that was set during the 2009-10 season when he shared time between Montreal and Anaheim. This is a sharp rise from the one fight he had last season.
Chipchura, who has 45 penalty minutes and 12 points (4g, 8a) in 56 games this season, has had mixed success in scraps like many of the other enforcers in the Pacific. Nashville’s Paul Gaustad defeated Chipchura decisively in a fight just earlier this week, while he held his own earlier in the year against the likes of Steve Ott and now-teammate John Moore.
With Arizona more openly embracing a youth movement here in the coming season, don’t be surprised if the enforcer role becomes more important with the team as young stars like Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will need to be protected.