Every team needs their enforcers, the grinders, and those who get under the skin of their opponents.
But when is too many enforcers too much?
The Montreal Canadiens have a revolving door of grinders, who pack up their third and fourth lines and make their way into the top two lines on occasion.
Names such as Steve Begin, Tom Kostopolous, Maxim Lapierre, Georges Laraque, and on occasion Mathieu Dandenault and Guillaume Latendresse come to mind when asked about Canadiens gritty grinders.
Is this too much of a good thing?
In the past, I've aired on the side of only one or two gritty grinders, preferably those who can put the biscuit in the basket. Begin and Lapierre have shown flashes of offensive brilliance here and there, but in the long run have been confined to a solo job of being a grinder.
Add into that the signing of a fighter in Laraque this summer and the arrival of Kostopolous the summer before and there seems to be a clogged street towards who is the main grinders.
Taking a look at other NHL teams' grinders, such as the Anaheim Ducks, which may include Rob Niedermayer, Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen, George Parros, and Ryan Carter, there is alot more offense on those sticks that the stick of the Canadiens.
In Montreal, with so much depth in their prospects in the AHL, why are we spending money on grinders who together may score a combined 30 goals?
Instead, we could be giving a rookie prospect such as Kyle Chipchura, Matt D'Agostini, and Max Pacioretty the full-time job of trying to become a 20-30 goal scorer while being grinders.
With all the injuries suffered this season within the Canadiens lineup, those players have been given their chances. Yet, if there were no injuries, they would just continue their season in the AHL getting anxious to start an NHL career.
Add to that the fact that in the past Begin and Kostopolous have been known to take undisciplined penalties at the worst possible times, why are we jeopardizing success at those times with so many of these players?
Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Steve Begin takes a penalty in the third period that leads to a Daniel Briere goal that would eventually clinch the game, the series momentum, and ultimately the series altogether.
With both Begin and Kostopolous in contract years, GM Bob Gainey has some thinking and sorting to do.
Re-sign the grinders and hope they score more often and improve.
Or let them go and bring up young talent from the AHL.
The ball's in your court Mr.Gainey...
...please make the right decision.