Fighting From The Blueline
Make no mistake about it, Deryk Engelland made a name for himself last night, and like it or not, it had nothing to do with his defensive play.
The 28-year-old rookie defenseman found himself in a fight with veteran enforcer Colton Orr early in the second period, and to the surprise of, well, everyone, skated away with a TKO win.
Orr did not return to the game, though he did take the ice with the Maple Leafs this morning.
For those of you who just crawled out from under a rock, below is a video of the fight courtesy of HockeyFights.com:
It was an impressive showing that led Phoenix Coyotes enforcer Paul Bissonnette to say the following on Twitter: “Played with Engelland in Wilkes-Barre for three seasons. He is undercover top-10 toughest guys in the NHL. I would watch him pump guys in the AHL. Scary man that Derek.”
No doubt, the opposition will think twice before dropping the gloves with Engelland in the future.
And, now, there’s even talk that Engelland, who stands 6’2 and weighs all of 202 pounds, could render heavyweight enforcer Eric Godard useless.
To that, I shake my head in amazement.
Whether you consider an enforcer to be a necessity or not, the notion of a defenseman patrolling the ice as the primary fighter is dangerous, to say the least.
Take last night, for instance. The Penguins were playing with their top two defensemen on the shelf, which meant the team’s seventh and eighth defensemen were taking regular shifts.
What if Engelland had broken his hand while throwing a punch?
Then the Penguins would be forced to rely on the ninth defenseman on the depth chart to fill in until one of the injured defenders returned.
Conversely, had Godard fought and broken his hand, the Penguins, who also are without two forwards, simply could re-insert Mike Comrie into the lineup and not miss a beat.
Of course, this is a harsh example, so let’s look at it in more realistic and likely terms.
When a player fights, he’s automatically given a five-minute major penalty, which often is accompanied by an additional two-minute minor, 10 minute misconduct, and/or game misconduct.
When a forward finds himself in the sin bin, he has 11 others to compensate for his loss. And, since enforcers often have less than five minutes of icetime in a game, such a loss is actually not really a loss, but part of the game plan.
On the other hand, when a defenseman is taken out of the game, he has just five teammates to take his shifts. And with an odd number of defenders, pairings get thrown out of whack, making it difficult for anyone to get into a rhythm.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was out of my seat when I saw Engelland connect with Orr’s chin. But for as much excitement as there was with the knockout, there was an equal amount of cringing during the fight, hoping Engelland wouldn’t be the one leaving the game with an injury or misconduct.
So, for as much hype is Engelland is getting, it’s my opinion that he should be getting an equal amount of scolding.
It’s one thing for one of 12 forwards to stop a game to take center stage in an old fashioned bare-knuckle brawl. It’s quite another for one of six defensemen to do the same.
To me, the risk of Engelland’s fight was significantly higher than its reward.
In the future, I certainly hope the primary use of his hands is to hold a hockey stick, not throw punches.