Monday, July 28, 2008

The Caps Year In Fights

En route to their first playoff appearance in half a decade, the 2007-08 Caps racked up only 33 fighting majors, good for 22nd in the League. Whether or not this is a positive or a negative can be debated (though without the context of each individual fight, I fail to see the usefullness of doing so), but what isn't up for discussion is the fact that the 33 fights were the fewest for a Caps team since the 2000-01 season. Here are the annual totals for the last seven seasons:
Of the 33 fights this past season, nine came with Glen Hanlon still behind the bench (which would pro-rate to 35 over the course of a full season) and 24 came under Bruce Boudreau's watch (which pro-rates to 32).

Now, Boudreau is hardly a pacifist - his 2005-06 and 2006-07 Hershey Bears combined for 182 fights in 160 games (thanks in large part to Louis Robitaille) - and his Caps had to pick their spots more carefully than Hanlon's did. Nevertheless, some will undoubtedly question the team's toughness. I won't (mainly for three reasons: 1) there's a world of difference between total fights and team toughness, 2) Donald Brashear, 3) the Detroit Red Wings), but that's neither here nor there right now, as the point of this post is to take a look back at the year that was in Caps fisticuffs.

Nine different Caps received fighting majors during the 2007-08 regular season, lead, of course, by Brashear (with 12). Matt Bradley was right behind Brash with an even ten (the most he's had in a season since 2003-04), and John Erskine fought four times in his 51 games. David Steckel's rookie season included two fights, and Chris Clark, Brooks Laich, Shaone Morrisonn and former Caps Matt Pettinger and Brian Sutherby all had one fight apiece.

How'd these pugilists fair? Using the incredibly scientific vote tallies, here's the breakout (note - if neither player in a fight was voted the winner by a majority, it's counted as a draw here):
That's a total of 10-10-13 overall and 3-7-9 for guys still with the team not named Donald. This team may be tough, but they're not going to physically intimidate anyone if #87's not in the lineup (which, I suppose, is why he is in there).

The most lopsided win for a Cap (again, by vote percentage) was this Erskine TKO of Boston's Milan Lucic:

Interestingly, the most convincing loss for a Cap also featured Lucic, and was this butt-kicking of Bradley:

Ouch (though I think I'd rather absorb that beating than listen to a full game called by Jack Edwards).

Finally, the highest-rated fight overall, not surprisingly, was this heavyweight bout between Brashear and Georges Laraque:

So what do you think - is this team tough enough? Do they need an enforcer in the lineup on a nightly basis? In light of the current cap concerns, did they need a million dollar pugilist?


Anonymous said...

I love a good hockey fight, but it concerns me a bit that Brash is the only guy who can win any with consistency.

Brian said...

With Mighty Joe Finley, I don't think we have too much to worry about. This guy started a fight in the post-weekend handshake last year.

Anonymous said...

He must have loved his "down goes Bradley" call, he used it twice! That's a good way to reinforce how clever and spontaneous that call was.

Melvisdog said...

I think the losses in games 2 & 3 against Philly can be partly attributed to team toughness and resolve. On the other hand, Brash going in a smacking around Briere for running Huet would have been extreme. But a slightly crazy middleweight could have nailed Briere in the corner, tripped Biron, or threw down with Hartnell. Regardless, the situation could have been nipped right there. There's no reason Huet should have been in the position to have to take a retalitory penalty. Instead it took until halfway through game 4 when the team woke up and stopped getting pushed around. By that point, as we all know, it was too late.

If you haven't looked at the Orland Kurtenblog's piece on Dan Carcillo, he's what I mean by slightly crazy (in his case, actually, I think if he wasn't a hockey player or in MMA, he'd be in jail). Nonetheless, it's worth the read.

Marky Narc said...

Oh man, JP - you have no idea how much I miss Dave Shea calling Bruins games.

Well... actually, I guess you do.

Anonymous said...

Watching that Nicky video (ahoy, matie!) doesn't make me feel much better. Two words come to mind:
"Pillsbury" and "Doughboy"

Anonymous said...

Fighting is part of NHL hockey, but it doesn't need to be part of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sorry anon, but I like a good hockey fight. And I particularly like seeing Lucic getting pounded after what he did to Pothier last year. Frankly, I hope he gets the snot kicked out of him by Brashear this season. Keep it up, JP!

Anonymous said...

I remember thinking kind of the same thing heading into last season. I wasnt sure we needed brashear, maybe he was taking a spot from a youngster. As the year went on, I realized a team like the Caps needs a player like Brashear. True some of those types of players come at a cheaper price, but Donlad is one of the best at what he does, providing an air of confidence not only to his teammates but the fans as well. Its a nice thing, and if you want the best you have to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, fighting serves a purpose in hockey but it's not synonymous with team toughness. I think the Caps aren't lacking in size and intensity, with a couple of exceptions (you can fill in the blanks), but overall they're still young and inexperienced by NHL standards.

I think that's why Brashear is still around, he offers some intangibles in addition to his fists which GMGM thinks are valuable. Maybe so but given the scarcity of cap space, I think it would be a good sign for the team if Brashear is used judiciously next season, i.e. he's a healthy scratch much more often, and then not picked up again. The Caps have players who can step up, albeit without his reputation and pugilistic skills, but you gotta make choices.

Anonymous said...

OK, dumb newbie question. I know a lot of people like to watch hockey fights, and I'm okay with that. *shrug* But how do these fights get started? I doubt these guys throw down the gloves for no reason. Can someone explain what makes these guys get in each others' faces and drop the mitts?

B19 said...


Some guys fight for no reason like Brashear(sometimes), while other guys like Clark or Steckel stick up for their teammates.

Anonymous said...

I stink at HTML but if you want to learn about hockey fights, mat I suggest

The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The Nhl that link will take you to the Amazon listing for it

Anonymous said...

Great research JP. This is fun to catalog. I would have guessed that Brads had a "winning" record.

JP said...

@ Pepper: Thx. Yeah, it was fun to look at, and, of course, with the fan voting it's far from scientific as to who won a given fight.

For the record, of Brads' six draws, he received more "winner" votes than his opponent in just two of 'em.