To Enforce, Or Not to Enforce

It’s the Chicago Blackhawks question seemingly older than the NHL itself: ‘Do the Hawks need an enforcer?’ More recently, giving the giving the age-old inquiry a more relevant twist, many have asked, ‘Do these Hawks, led by young and slight super stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, need an enforcer?’

The answer for the past 13+ months has been simple – at least to the Feather: no. With big boys Matt Walker skating among the top-six defensemen on a nightly basis and willing – thought not necessarily able in each instance – combatants Ben Eager, Adam Burish and Craig Adams mucking and grinding on the fourth line, it seemed to many that a typical goon just wasn’t necessary. ‘It’s enforcer by committee,’ many would say. Sure, problems arose from time to time, but the group was just large enough to keep competitors honest.

But with the aforementioned Walker, Eager, Burish and Adams all either gone or missing in action due to long-term injuries, it seems only natural to ask, ‘With the “committee” gone, what now? Who’s responsible for filling the role this time around?’

This time around, the story’s a bit different. Big guys Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker and Troy Brouwer all play big, important minutes – and none is particularly adept with the fists – and the fourth line, where most enforcers lurk in today’s game, is home to a group of forwards I’d trust to babysit your children. (Would you let Derek Boogaard or Marty McSorley take your kid to Chuck E Cheese? ‘Sure,’ you’d say, ‘but only if Tie Domi chaperones.’)

Sure, Colin Fraser works hard; he’s mostly responsible; and, hell, he scored 17 goals in the AHL during 2007-2008, but he’s no more an enforcer than the man he was acquired for: Alex Zhamnov. Remember when Fraser was called up a few years ago? As is typical for youngsters, Fraser fought to open up the eyes of Hawks’ management; his fight opponent responded by opening up a gash above his.

Andrew Ebbett is cheap and offensively capable, but you’d be hard pressed to tell him and Patrick Kane apart from the neck down, ignoring any crabs. Needless to say, not only is Ebbett out of place on the fourth line, he’s about as scary as Hannah Montana with a fly swatter.

Finally, there’s Tomas Kopecky. All you have to remember about Kopecky is how Patrick Sharp went toe-to-toe with him last season. He’s also played punching bag to a few, more established bounders during his day.

It all leads to my point: especially without the dearly departed Jack Skille, the fourth line has taken a huge dip in all areas when compared to last year’s groups. This year’s trio is smaller, slower, less physical – and much less capable of keeping other teams honest using the fisticuffs.

So, with the trio falling well short of allowing Coach Q to roll four lines and, in so doing, failing to fill any role typically assigned to an NHL fourth line, why not think about bringing in a big goof to fill at least one of those roles?

I promise you one thing: he’ll come cheap.

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25 Responses to To Enforce, Or Not to Enforce

  1. Lou says:

    I think we need to get tougher but maybe we do it via the blueline and a trade. Brouwer dropped the gloves with Iginla so he isn’t afraid to do so.

    I think we need to sit Fraser, Mov Ebbett to center and bring one of the kids up for the 4th line wing. Maybe it is Skille again maybe it is Bickell or Klikenhammer…We are only a few weeks from Hossa being back so the game will change pretty quickly there.

    I really think Bowman ought to be working the phones to get the d-man and ship Barker.

    How long is Eager really going to be out? What has been heard there?

  2. Dave Morris says:

    I suppose one could ask the question, why did the Hawkey Flock pick up Andy Ebbett instead of bringing up Der Klinkhammer, or Bruiser Bickell to get ’em outta their toughness pickle?

    One could ask.

    And one could wait for an answer.

    And wait.

    And wait.

    And hey, those Preds have learned to score again in bunches, thanks to the generosiity of the Les Senateurs d’Ottawa. Aren’t those dudes in town tomorrow night?

    Hm, wonder how Captain Jonny’s feeling today.

  3. John says:

    They definitely need to beef up the 4th line. There’s no question about that. Whether it matters if the guy can respectably drop the gloves or not is another. I’d much prefer they find someone who can forecheck like hell and at least occassionally create some o-ffense rather than plug some goof in there who can’t play more than 3 minutes a night.

  4. Patrick says:

    Ideally, you don’t want your meathead to be a D-Man because it puts too much pressure on the remaining five when he’s in the box. A fourth-line winger is ideal, and even better if he can play like Eager and Burish can (and both should be back this season). But the Hawks don’t need to make that move – the kids will be fine…

  5. Lou says:

    @Patrick. If we went goon that is the only way to go. IMHO I don’t think we need to go that way.

    We need a D-man with some presence and some muscle. Not a meathead. Not looking for Behn Wilson of days gone by but rather a guy like Daneyko who knew and played his role. Not Chelios either but some one who can put a hit on, clear the crease, clear the puck, and on occassion beat someone’s ass

  6. John says:

    Yup, a hybrid would probably be the best way to go. Luckily, this is the Hawks we’re talking about, so finding a fourth liner or a sixth defenseman should be fairly easy. They used to carry a team of players like that just a few years ago.

    I’m becoming more and more nervous we’ll see Burish back before Eager.

  7. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> StanBow put a call in to Daneyko, but they couldn’t to terms on how much free deep dish pizza Kenny would be allowed to consume if he switched loyalties from Joisey to Chi-town.

    Anybody remember why The Brain Trust re-signed Aaron Johnson only ot trade him for Mr. Greentree?

    And why, in retrospect, they let Mighty Matt Walker walk in favor of The Richard Petiot Experiment?

    One could ask those questions.

    And one could wait for answers.

    Oh well, I hear Cheli’s in tip top shape.

    And Andy Ebbett is poised to fill in for Jonny if JT’s still nursin’ his noggin.

    Jeez…almost forgot to ask if it’s The Nemmi Guy or Country Cristo goin’ against the Predicators.

  8. Dave Morris says:

    …and guys, ya gotta get an ‘edit’ feature. PuhLEEZE.

  9. John says:

    Please no pining for the Great Matt Walker. As for editing comments, take it up with WordPress. Only so much we can fix on this thing.

  10. Patrick says:

    Is there any kind of an ETA on Eager? Did his eggs get that scrambled? Also, Burish is due back before the playoffs if everything goes right, no?It’s crazy that we’re focusing on a couple of fourth-liners (albeit good ones) as the key to this team…

  11. John says:

    Quenneville said the other day that Eager has not been responding to the treatments he’s received. He has a history of concussions so it’s probably safer the Hawks proceed with caution.

    Burish is due back in March.

    They’re not necessarily keys to the team but having a solid fourth line is a huge advantage especially when they play the upper-echelon teams.

  12. Lou says:

    Heard that Cristo is starting on the Radio and that Toews and Seabrook are questionable.

    I agree no Matt Walker. We didn’t sign him b/c we werent gonna over pay ofr him. Happy he got a nice contract but not what we need.

  13. Dave Morris says:

    According to Sassone at The Daily Herald, if Toews can’t go…

    Sharp – Ebbett – Brouwer
    Byfuglien – Madden – Kane
    Ladd – Bolland – Versteeg
    ??? – Fraser – Kopecky

    The Hawks would need to recall a forward from Rockford if Toews can’t play.

    Cristobal Huet starts in goal against the Predators looking to bounce back from two poor performances on home ice.
    “It’s a good opportunity for him to get back in the net and a good opportunity for him to play at home,” Quenneville said. “He’s played well against Nashville and practiced well today. He’s a competitive guy, he wants the net, so let’s go.”

    @John> moi, pining for Matt Walker? Pining for Megan Fox, maybe, after she stood me up.

    And I have notified WordPress that they need to provide you all with a Special Hawkey Version of the editing software so your posters look like intelligent, masterful users of the English language.

    So far, all I got back was a digital raspberry.

  14. Lee says:

    I am in Atlanta at a trade show and just read that maybe you are getting close to agreeing with my thoughts that the Hawks have to get an enforcer. No question that last year Walker was less than a great player but he was always willing to come to the defense of his teamates. We desparetly need an enforcer and if we dont get one soon more than Toews and Seabrook will be sitting out with injury. Almost every team in and out of the division have one and even Detroit who the argument was always that they did not need one has signed Brad May and maybe he is not a heavyweight but he adds somethong they never had before divisison

  15. Lou says:

    @Lee you made great points in the debate we had before on this topic and you came to the realization that we need more than an enforcer. Did you glue that record back together? Please leave that debate dead and buried.

    Tougher, more physical presence yes but a single dimensional enforcer is not going to win the cup for us. Nor is he going to stop a clean, open ice hit from taking place. After the play he can come on the ice take a run at someone and put us short-handed for a penalty or a fight or a misconduct? For what? The way we have had some breakdowns this year with turnovers and inconsistent goaltending that may only hurt us more.

    Tell me what an enforcer is going to do to stop Mitchell from catching Toews like that?

    Tell us what he can do in a checking situation differently that any other Hawk (excluding Kane) couldn’t do with good hard checks? Do enforcers checks hurt more?

    Answer: not a damn thing and it was a clean hit. Enforcers deter the petty shit, not the checking aspect of the game. Versteeg jumped in and defended his teammate. Asskicked or not, he stood up for his teammate. An enforcer on our bench is not going to stop Mitchell from making that hit. He did his job and our guys better do the exact same thing and clean as well.

    Who you gonna get? Where they gonna play? Who you going to sit?

    Read all of the comments, the sentiment is to get tougher not necessarily add a single dimensional goon. It doesn’t make sense if they want to roll four lines which was our bread and butter last year. So we sign a guy to play one out of every 3-4 games and only a couple minutes in those games. How does that help our stamina in a tight schedule and Olympic year? How is the great enforcer Dan Carcillo doing this year? Answer he ain’t doin’ shit. We are already cap challenged. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  16. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> the problem is that no one seems to be able to agree on the definition of ‘enforcer’.

    The word ‘enforcer’ may be an imprecise term in today’s NHL.

    Since the days of the Reggie Flemings, John Fergusons, Lou Fontinatos and Dave Schultzes–and long before that–teams have had players who were there as a deterrent.

    Hockey is intrisically violent.

    Hawks stars from Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull to Troy Murray and Jeremy Roenick have played with more than just an edge in their game.

    With Adam Burish, Ben Eager and Matt Walker in the lineup during the playoffs last year, there was no quesition rough justice could be meted out when necessary. Their presence also enabled others to play a more physical game; and in the case of finesse players like Kane, opened the ice up for them.

    Those three players being absent, the Hawks’ overall physical toughness has been diminished significantly.

    It appears their mental toughness has been affected consequently.

    Do they need players like Burish, Eager and Walker? No question.

    Are these players the defintion of ‘enforcer’? Again, the term may simply be obsolete; but their purpose is part of the game.

    Consider this: if Burish, Eager and Kopecky were the Hawks’ 4th line right now, instead of Ebbett, Fraser and Kopecky, you’d see a different Hawks team.

    If you’ve got a Matt Walker instead of Jordan Hendry as a 7th defenseman, likewise.

    You don’t need ‘goons’. But you do need guys who lay down the law.

    Call ’em whatever you want.

  17. Lou says:

    @ Dave, you’re right on the money. I couldn’t agree more.

    This issue was debated recently and determined that enforcer meant goon and put that to bed thorugh good healthy dialogue where it needs to stay. Hence why I intejected on why are we starting that again. JOhn put a great topic for hearty debate. I think as the comments evolve, he too is saying the same thing we all are. No doubt we need more toughness and our tougher guys are hurt right now.

    But getting a George Parros is a waste of a roster spot for us.

  18. John says:

    Lee, you’ve changed your definition of enforcer so many times it’s hard to keep track. They need beef on the 4th line as well as someone who can play at least 10 minutes a night. No Question about that. I would say a hybrid is the best way to go, someone like Eager. Unfortunately, he may be lying in a coma at Cook County Hospital for all we know.

  19. John says:

    Dave, I think you pretty much hit on everything Bobby said in his post but in your own colorful way. Keep the heat on WordPress, they’ll crack eventually.

  20. Seth says:

    The Hawks could use more toughness, but they don’t need to waste a roster spot and money on someone who gets 2 shifts per game.

    Look at Detroit. They’ve never really had an enforcer the last 10 years, and they’ve done alright.

  21. Dave Morris says:

    @John> Bobby just winds up and shoots…I dangle. 😉

    Folks, let’s not forget at the same time last year the Hawks were 3-3-3.

    Add up the injuries, and it gives a different perspective on the situation. Plus…both Bolland and perhaps Byfuglien (who was injured in the preseason) are playing with pain.

    Right now, it may just be about surviving in the Central through December. The Blackhawks are on top for a change, so beating the Preds tonight and the Minnies on Monday would be a huge boost to Da Boyz’ battered bods and wrinkled self-esteem.

  22. Lee says:

    In my mind an enforcer means that Mitchell maybe thinks twice before making a hit on guys like Toews or Kane not one that cannot play at all such as a Koci but one with at least a little talent which Walker had. Eager and Burish filled that bill but they are not around now or for at least awhile

  23. Lou says:

    Lee, enforcer/tough guy/whatever present or not Mitchell should make that hit. It is an impact sport. Checks and open ice checks are part of the game. He has to make that hit. He had better make it clean like he did but he has to make it. He deosn’t he gives the opposition a rush.

    Do you think when he is coming out of the box and sees a chance to lay a big check in a game and he thinks “ohh wait, I better not check Toews, or Crosby or Datysuk they have a a tough guy on their bench.” Anyone who does please share your cool-aid. No, he has a split second to make the decision. You worry about the consequences and who comes after you after the hit. Big hits are part of the game. Cheap hits are different. Frankly, if he doesn’t make the hit his team and his coach may question his cajones when he returns to the bench. Our guys should make the same hit too.

    An enforcer or tough guy or guy that will drop the gloves will deter the petty extra-curricular cheap turtle-like shit Samulesson did to Kane. Not a check in the course of the game on any player.

  24. lee says:

    Loe; I guess we can agree to disagree but at the minimum we need a Eager,Burish, or Brad May type and tat we do not have

  25. Lou says:

    Sure we can agree to disagree

    Our guys our hurt which is frustrating all of us. Other guys have to step up and the jury is out on that. No matter who steps up the Toews hit will happen b/c it is part of the game.

    If we make a trade it has to be a player who contriubtes like Eager and Bursh does or he has to upgrade the D and provide the physicality and stability we need. I’ll be bold and say we will not go get a guy that can only contribute PIMs and fights.

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