The NHL has changed greatly over the years. Back in the '70s and '80s, hockey was more of a grind it out game and much more physical. Over the years, though, it has changed, and today it is more of a speed game.
The change has been brought upon by the new players to the game. Recently, many new players are coming over from Europe; these players bring much more skill to the game and less of the physical play, which in my opinion was a better thing for the NHL today.
With this change brings the question, is there still room in today's NHL for "goons"? A goon is usually defined as a player who has little skill and plays on the fourth line. He is out there to protect the star player for his team and get under the skin of the opposing players and get them off their games.
Looking back, there was once a time when these types of players were needed. In the '70s you had a huge amount of so-called goons. The Big Bad Bruins and Broad Street Bullies are names that come to mind. These two teams also had great players, not to take anything away from them, but they did have their fair share of players who could duke it out every game.
They were needed during those times because of the way the game was played back then. The referees called less penalties and let much more go compared to the game today.
Since the lockout, though, the league has tried to cut down on this type of play, hoping to open the game more so there would be more scoring and a faster pace.
With this change there is less need for an enforcer. All he will end up doing is most likely hurting the team more then helping it. We have definitely seen a decrease in the amount of goons in the NHL today, since teams have come to the realization that it is now more of a speed game and if they want to keep up they have to dump some of the dead weight.
Other teams still employ some of these types of players. The Montreal Canadiens have Georges Laraque, who by every definition is a goon. Watching some of the Canadiens games, he looks lost out on the ice at times and is clearly hurting them more than he is helping the Habs.
Pretty much what I'm getting at here is that the game has changed dramatically and has left some of the old types of hockey players in the middle of nowhere. They either have to be able to change the way they play the game along with everyone else, or will just have to call it quits.