NHL Power Rankings: Top 10 Enforcers Currently in the NHL
When the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Steve MacIntyre earlier this offseason, General Manager Ray Shero knew he was claiming ownership to one of the NHL's most capable bodyguards for one of the league's most elite teams.
MacIntyre sent a chilling message to the NHL in the first game of the 2010-2011 season by knocking out Raitis Ivanans.
Ivanans has not played since.
MacIntyre's presence on the ice is a deterrent force that will help protect players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The new signing will help fill the void left by the departure of Eric Godard to the Dallas Stars. As evidenced by a game against Trevor Gillies and the New York Islanders on February 11 of this past season, enforcers are a necessity in the NHL.
Not to be confused with a ranking of the NHL's top fighters, this countdown examines the players possessing the most useful enforcing abilities.
No. 10: Darcy Hordichuk (Edmonton Oilers)
The exact job of an enforcer is rather simple; make sure nobody hurts his teammates.
Lessard appeared to go a bit high on the hit. Florida's Darcy Hordichuk went right after Lessard, but was blocked by referees. Lessard was thrown out of the game, leaving no chance for immediate retribution.
Hordichuk found Lessard during his first shift in the next game.
No. 9: Chris Neil (Ottawa Senators)
During a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 20 of this season, Claude Giroux of the Flyers checked Jesse Winchester. Neil did not like the hit and went after Giroux.
In this video, Ben Holmstrom made elbow to head contact on one of Neil's teammates. Neil immediately dealt with the situation.
What is shown here is an excellent display of why the NHL's two minute minor for instigating a fight should not be a part of the rulebook.
If commissioner Gary Bettman desires to find an effective method to lower the amount of head injuries, removing the instigator rule is his best option.
Any elbow to the head play like this (intentional or not) would be immediately punished if it weren't for the instigator rule, which penalizes a player for forcing an opponent to fight or being the obvious aggressor at the beginning of an altercation.
Would a player like Matt Cooke keep playing dirty if he knew a guy like Neil was free to pound him at any given moment?
No. 8: Shawn Thornton (Boston Bruins)
What makes Shawn Thornton a quality enforcer is not only his ability to respond to hits like he did in this video, but his playing skill as well.
Thornton is by far the toughest 20 point scorer in the NHL.
No. 7: John Scott (Chicago Blackhawks)
John Scott is one of the biggest men in the NHL at 6' 8" 260 pounds.
Though the natural fear that a giant exudes is obvious, Scott has shown that he will not hesitate to utilize his abilities when necessary.
After Brad Staubitz of the Minnesota Wild delivered a late hit after the whistle on an icing play, Scott immediately dealt with Staubitz.
No. 6: Jody Shelley (Philadelphia Flyers)
After Chris Neil went after Claude Giroux in the previously mentioned game, Jody Shelley addressed the situation.
Regardless of whether or not Neil had good cause to tackle and punch Giroux, he went after the Flyers' leading scorer.
As Philadelphia's enforcer, Shelley was not going to let that pass.
No. 5: Matt Carkner (Ottawa Senators)
Also involved in the previously mentioned January 20th game was Ottawa's Matt Carkner.
When Carkner saw Shelley squaring off with Neil, he skated right at Shelley before being intercepted by Philadelphia's Sean O'Donnell.
Though Neil is a capable fighter and has taken on those at or above Shelley's ability, Carkner is Ottawa's heavyweight, and he attempted to do his job by going after the Flyers' heavyweight.
Carkner would not even let "The Boogeyman" Derek Boogaard take a run at one of his teammates, as Carkner challenged the NHL's best fighter at the time.
No. 4: Eric Godard (Dallas Stars)
After leaving the Flames, Godard signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in order to protect young stars such as Crosby and Malkin.
During a game against the Islanders on February 11th of this season, there was a brawl in which New York's Micheal Haley skated toward Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson in order to fight.
Godard was not going to allow that to happen, and jumped off the bench to join the altercation, earning him an automatic 10 game suspension.
The video in this slide shows that Godard knows exactly how to do his job; after Toronto's Jay Rosehill took multiple runs at Crosby, Godard gave him a beating.
No. 3: Colton Orr (Toronto Maple Leafs)
In a game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers on February 17, 2007 Todd Fedoruk not only ran around hitting several Rangers, but also punched Jed Ortmeyer in the face and took a hard run at captain Jaromir Jagr.
Just 20 seconds into the next game between the two teams, Colton Orr (then a member of the Rangers) challenged Fedoruk to a fight and knocked him out.
Orr is a complete enforcer. Not only does he supply the protective support that enforcers are hired for, he is an aggressive player who uses his abilities to intimidate the opposition.
Last season, in a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers on March 7th, 2010, Orr not only ran into Michael Leighton, but also went after Mike Richards, and made the Flyers' best fighter at the time--Dan Carcillo--look like a grade school student being bullied for lunch money.
No. 2: Steve MacIntyre (Pittsburgh Penguins)
MacIntyre's knockout of Ivanans established him as one of the NHL's top fighters along with Derek Boogaard and Matt Carkner.
MacIntyre can end careers with his right hand.
The level of intimidation the 6' 5" 250-pounder brings to the ice is unmatched by anyone in the NHL today.
In a game against the Wild on April 8, 2011 Minnesota's Brad Staubitz delivered a dangerous-looking hit to Magnus Paajarvi.
It was a bad idea.
No. 1: Trevor Gillies (New York Islanders)
Viewed as a criminal by casual hockey fans with little insight to the physical aspect of the game, Trevor Gillies is really just a dedicated enforcer.
His demeanor on the ice suggests a simple message; do not hurt my team, or you will be hurt.
What sets him apart from the rest of the NHL's enforcers is the fact that Gillies will let absolutely nothing stand in his way if he needs to take care of business.
Examples of Gillies' dedication to his team exist in a multitude unmatched by any other player in the NHL. During an interview after this past season Gillies said of the Islanders, "We're willing to bleed for each other."
Later in the season, Jared Boll took a run at John Tavares in a game between the Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets on November 24th.
Gillies handled business again.
In a game against Minnesota on March 2, 2011 Gillies was on the ice when Wild player Cal Clutterbuck hit Justin DiBenedetto from behind and into the boards. Immediately after the hit, Gillies responded by shoving Clutterbuck into the boards.
This was in Gillies' first game back after receiving a nine game suspension for the act featured in this slide's video.
After two questionable hits from Pittsburgh's Max Talbot in a game between these teams on February 2nd, Gillies seeked retribution.
In the game on February 11, Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi delivered a hit to MacDonald, causing him to slam against the boards and fall to the ice.
That's all it took for Gillies to lose it and deliver a powerful statement to the Penguins and the NHL that he would not allow his teammates to be pushed around or intimidated.