Pure puckheads are ready to get back to cheering on their respective teams and/or soaking in the most competitive brand of hockey available on the continent. Fight fans and crossover hockey/wrestling enthusiasts should be ready to latch on to that nucleus of puckheads and start feasting their eyes on the enforcers’ specialties.
Hey, given the volatile, yet consistently uncertain outlook the NHL had over the past four months, more fans are unconditionally desirable at this point. If that means a few viewers who are in it chiefly for the spontaneous, miniature intermissions featuring at least two punching players, so be it.
This portion of the belated 2012-13 season preview is just for those prospective viewers. Here are the top 10 suspects to regularly engage in extracurricular activity during this year’s 48-game sprint.
He has since transferred to the Montreal Canadiens, which means he will now be in the same division as, among others, Thornton as well as newly acquired Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott.
On a team that has placed second in the league in total fights each of the last two seasons, Thornton has led all individual Bruins in that category each of the last four years. He may have likewise led them during his first season with the organization in 2007-08 if he had suited up for a few more than 58 games.
As a team, Boston is likely not seeking to stray from many trends in 2012-13 and odds are Thornton will not be either.
Every year, it seems Konopoka’s colors change, but never his high-ranking penchant for punches.
He led all brawlers with 33 matching major infractions as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009-10.
Playing the full 82-game schedule in 2010-11 with the Islanders, Konopka placed second in the NHL with 25 fights. He missed 27 contests as a Senator last year, but still mustered 18 tangles, only two shy of a share of the league lead.
Assuming he is available every night in his first year with the Minnesota Wild, he should easily be hovering around the same echelon once more.
With so much to build on and so much of the feisty head coach John Tortorella’s roster returning, not much change can be expected. Not even when the aforementioned Prust has gone elsewhere.
If anything, the absence of Prust means that Rupp, who was second on the team with 13 scraps, will be getting his own hands dirty a little more frequently. Even with a shorter schedule, it would not a major surprise if he matches or eclipses his total from 2011-12.
The Blue Jackets winger has placed among the NHL’s top six most frequent fighters in each of his first five professional campaigns. With each successive season, starting with 2007-08, he has finished first, second, sixth, third and fourth on the league leaderboard.
He hit a “career-low,” if you will, with 18 in 2011-12, although he dressed for a career-low 54 games, meaning he averaged exactly one fight in any given set of three appearances.
While the aforementioned Prust will have a heavy new platter of feuds in the Northeast Division, the Atlantic is not going to lose its tempestuous waters at any point in the near future.
In turn, the same concept of entering a more heated division amounting to more frequent flights will apply to Barch, a Panther-turned-Devil who will now be dealing with the Rangers, Flyers and Penguins on a regular basis.
Even as a Dallas Star and later a Panther, Barch logged a dozen fights in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 despite dressing for only 44 and 51 games in those seasons, respectively.
He might not dress for all 48 contests with New Jersey, but the Atlantic rivalry factor should naturally parlay him into the top 10.
Between the Flyers and Phantoms, he charged up a cumulative 48 games-played and 15 fights in 2011-12. In a split AHL/NHL season in 2010-11, he rolled up 22 skirmishes in a span of 66 games and brawled 11 times in 39 professional contests in 2009-10.
Provided he dresses often enough, Parros will essentially fill the aforementioned Barch’s skates with the Panthers. He enters his eighth full NHL campaign having engaged in 140 scraps over 358 career outings, translating to an average of exactly 20 per regular season or at least one every two-to-three games.