It’s “BACK TO SCHOOL” time, and classes are back in session at PunchFace University! And no one could be any more excited about it than I am.
It is so grand to be back in business after a long offseason. When I say “long offseason”, I mean it . . . with the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the whole Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team that included the likes of Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev looming heavy, the very thought of hockey looming was too much to keep away from. But now, we’re back!
The St. Louis Blues finished 2010-2011 having “earned” the most major fighting penalties in the National Hockey League with a whopping 78 of them, earning 33 victories, suffering 23 defeats and working 22 draws, according to Fried Chicken’s Hockey Fights. I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble, but I anticipate that the Blues may fight a bit less this year than years’ past. With Cam Janssen now in New Jersey and with BJ Crombeen expected to be out an extended period of time, not to mention the influx of talent that is expected to be on the ice nightly, the role of the enforcer is slowly diminishing from this franchise. Not only that, the new emphasis on suspending players for stupid plays such as head shots and boarding may cause a trend downward league-wide away from fighting. But as with everything, we will see how it all plays out.
Our beloved Blues begin the season with Central Division rivals (but for how much longer?), the Nashville Predators. Out of six games contested between the Blues and Preds last season, there was only one fight, and neither contestant will be on the ice tonight – Shane O’Brien, now of the Colorado Avalanche, squared off against Crombeen, now on injured reserve with a broken shoulder blade, in an October 14th fight in Nashville that Crombeen won relatively easily. In fact, the Predators finished second-to-last in the NHL with 18 fights during the 2010-2011 season. On a positive note for them, their fight record wasn’t horrible – 7-7-4.
Among those currently on the Preds roster, former Oilers enforcer Zack Stortini (6’4”, 215lbs, 1-5-2) leads the way with eight fights contested before he was sent to the minors. Jordin Tootoo (5’9”, 199lbs, 3-0-1) leads the team among players returning to the team from last year’s playoff run with four fights. Francis Bouillon (5’8”, 198lbs, 1-1-1, on IR with Post-Concussion Syndrome) contested in three fights, while Kevin Klein (6’1”, 200lbs, 0-1-1) participated in two scraps. One fight each were contested by Mike Fisher (6’1”, 208lbs, Win), Blake Geoffrion (6’1”, 190lbs, Win), Islanders import Jack Hillen (5’10”, 190lbs, Loss) and Colin Wilson (6’1”, 210lbs, Loss).
The best opportunity we will see for a fight on Opening Night would be if both Stortini and Ryan Reaves play. Reaves has a slight weight advantage but Stortini has the height and reach advantage, but nonetheless this would be a battle of two heavyweights, and it would be a GREAT fight to see.
The battle has only begun. It is that time, once more.
LET’S GO BLUES!!!!!
Information obtained via the incomparable Fried Chicken’s Hockey Fights