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.