10 NHL Enforcers Least Likely to Find Work in the 2014-15 Season
For years an enforcer was considered an essential part of an NHL roster. Known more for their pugilistic skills than their hockey talent, enforcers were to prevent opponents from taking liberties against his more talented teammates. They usually saw limited ice time during the regular season and spent the playoffs relegated to the press box.
In recent years, however, the number of one-dimensional NHL enforcers has declined. In June The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa cited the instigator rule, concern over concussions and the mandatory use of visors among the contributing factors. Shinzawa also believes common sense is the underlying factor.
General managers and coaches are finally alert to the reality, both on the ice and on their payrolls, that one-dimensional tough guys are impediments to success. It makes no sense to dedicate a contract and a roster spot to a ruffian who averages five minutes of ice time per game and has fewer dance partners to engage. This is progress through evolution more than legislation.
A few of this summer's free-agent enforcers (Shawn Thornton, John Scott) found work with other clubs, but most remain unsigned. For the 10 players on this list, the changing role of an NHL enforcer, previous performance, age, injuries and suspension history could affect their efforts to remain employed.
10. Paul Bissonnette
2013-14 statistics: 39 games played, 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, 53 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.475 million.
Thanks to his popular Twitter account, Paul Bissonnette ranks among the NHL's better-known enforcers. The Hockey News' game log indicates “BizNasty” spent much of last season as a healthy scratch. During last year's preseason he received a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to join an on-ice altercation, which was subsequently reduced upon appeal to three games.
Despite his reputation as an enforcer, Bissonnette engaged in only three fights last season. That's because, as The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reported last April, the 29-year-old winger wants to expand his role and prove he's more than just an enforcer.
The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt reports Bissonnette's agent claimed the Capitals were among five or six teams interested in his client. It remains to be seen if Bissonnette, who averaged only 4:44 minutes per game of ice time last season, can convince a club he's more than a one-dimensional brawler.
9. Dan Carcillo
2013-14 statistics: 57 games played, 4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points, 100 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.65 million.
In recent years Dan Carcillo has become more shift-disturber than enforcer. Last season he garnered more penalty minutes for roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct and misconducts (54 minutes) than fighting majors (six fights, 30 penalty minutes). That's well down from his career high of 22 fighting majors (110 penalty minutes) in 2008-09.
TSN.ca's bio of Carcillo reveals he has a lengthy suspension history. During the 2014 playoffs with the New York Rangers he was suspended 10 games (reduced to six) for deliberately applying force to an official.
Carcillo's played for five teams over the past eight seasons. CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley suggested Carcillo as an option for the Capitals checking lines. It remains to be seen, however, if the Capitals (or another NHL club) will take a chance on him.
8. Jordin Tootoo
2013-14 statistics: 11 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, 5 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Three years, $5.7 million.
Signed by the Red Wings two years ago, Jordin Tootoo spent much of his time with their AHL affiliate. MLive.com's Ansar Khan reported the Red Wings brought in Tootoo to add some toughness and an abrasive element, but they ultimately bought out the remaining year of his contract.
Earlier this summer the Winnipeg Free Press' Ed Tait wondered if the Jets might be interested in Tootoo, who was born in Churchill, Manitoba. Jets management, however, has given no indication they're pursuing the 31-year-old winger. Tootoo's inability to stick with the Red Wings may have hurt his free-agent value.
7. Shane O'Brien
2013-14 statistics: 45 games played, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, 58 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Three years, $6 million.
Shane O'Brien engaged in only two fights last season, a considerable drop from his career-high of 14 back in 2006-07. After being a healthy scratch in seven games last season, the Flames demoted him in early February to their AHL affiliate.
At the time of O'Brien's demotion, the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank reported the Flames would try to trade the 6'3”, 230-pounder. When no deal materialized they used a compliance buyout to shed the remaining year of the 31-year-old's contract.
After playing for six NHL teams in eight seasons, O'Brien may have reached the end of his usefulness as an agitating NHL defenseman.
6. Kevin Westgarth
2013-14 statistics: 48 games played, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, 68 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.45 million.
Kevin Westgarth began last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. The 30-year-old winger missed 10 games in November to an upper-body injury, followed by a two-game suspension for boarding Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki in late November. At the end of December the Hurricanes dealt Westgarth to the Calgary Flames.
In March The Score.com's Katie Flynn reported Westgarth was knocked out in a fight with Edmonton Oilers tough guy Luke Gazdic. He was sidelined with a concussion for five games. The Flames' addition this summer of physical defenseman Deryk Engelland put Westgarth out of a job. Despite his size (6'4”, 234 pounds), Westgarth's limited skills could hurt his chances of signing with another NHL club.
5. Krys Barch
2013-14 statistics: 55 games played, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points, 99 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.5 million.
HockeyFights.com indicates Krys Barch's 13 fighting majors were among last season's league leaders. Though uninjured through 2013-14, The Hockey News' game log indicates the 34-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for 27 games.
In January Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov reported then-Florida Panthers coach Peter Horachek praised Barch's leadership and on-ice intimidation. However, Panthers management didn't re-sign him, opting instead for former Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton. Barch's limited hockey skills could keep potential NHL suitors away.
4. Mike Rupp
2013-14 NHL statistics: 13 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, 23 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Three years, $4.5 million.
Mike Rupp began last season sidelined 24 games with a knee injury. The Hockey News' game log indicates he was also a healthy scratch for most of the season. In April Rupp received a four-game suspension for an illegal hit on St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie. Despite having 67 postseason games under his belt, the 34-year-old winger never dressed for any of the Wild's 2014 playoff games.
After 11 NHL seasons, Rupp's best days appear behind him. Though a big forward (6'5”, 235 pounds), Rupp saw limited playing time last season, averaging only 6:12 minutes of ice time. Years of wear and tear could be catching up with him, further limiting his effectiveness as a regular fourth-line forward.
3. Matt Kassian
2013-14 statistics: 33 games played, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 63 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.150 million.
A prototypical enforcer, the 6'4”, 240-pound Matt Kassian didn't miss any games last season to injury. However, The Hockey News' game log reveals he spent most of last season as a healthy scratch. He received nine fighting majors and averaged only 4:26 minutes of ice time.
The 28-year-old Kassian has only four NHL seasons under his belt. Given how the role of enforcer is changing, it could be difficult for Kassian for find further NHL employment.
2. Zenon Konopka
2013-14 statistics: 59 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 88 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.85 million.
Zenon Konopka split last season between the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres. Despite his reputation as an enforcer, he's proven to be an effective fourth-line center. The 33-year-old won over 60 percent of his draws last season while averaging 7.54 minutes of ice time per game.
Last season, however, wasn't among Konopka's better ones. The Hockey News' game log indicates he was a healthy scratch in 11 games and sidelined for 13 others, including 10 games lost to a back injury. Despite these issues, HockeyFights.com lists Konopka's 12 fight majors as among last season's league leaders.
In May 2014 Konopka received a 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA performance-enhancing substances policy. The suspension takes effect at the start of any new NHL contract. Despite issuing an apology via the NHLPA, this suspension could be a major detriment to Konopka's chances of securing a new NHL contract.
1. George Parros
2013-14 statistics: 22 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, one point, 85 penalty minutes.
Previous contract: Two years, $1.875 million.
George Parros suffered two concussions in just over two months during the first half of last season, missing 22 games. Though he engaged in nine fights last season, The Hockey News' game log indicates Parros saw limited playing over the remainder of the regular season and didn't dress for any of the Canadiens' playoff games.
Given the changing role of an enforcer in today's NHL, Parros' age (34), concussion history and limited skills, securing another contract will be an uphill climb for Parros. He could be facing the end of his NHL playing career.