While we're watching Jay Rosehill and Zack Stortini battle for the job as enforcer with the Flyers here in training camp, it's time for a friendly reminder:
Fighting in hockey does not, in any way, deter violence against your team's players.
That's the old argument: that you have enforcers on your team to protect your best players. This idea is pervasive among hockey fans young and old, even if there's a ton of false logic around the idea that Jay Rosehill can protect Claude Giroux even though the two are never on the ice together.
Things like this old fight between Zac Rinaldo and B.J. Crombeen of the Lightning speak to the mentality -- that guys fight other guys in hockey to police the game and keep opponents in check.
"If someone goes out there and they know I'm on the other bench, I think they're going to think twice about running around that game," Scott told the media following the scrimmage. "Whether it's a clean hit or a dirty hit, I don't think those guys are going to be as brave or running around as much. It's always going to be important I think to have guys patrol the ice. I know no one likes to hear that, but we have skilled guys. Other [teams] have skilled guys. I don't like when teams take liberties and take runs."
It's wrong. It does not actually work that way.
Let's think about this out loud: if fighting deterred violence against your team, there would be a pretty strong link between the number of fights your team participates in and the number of violent penalties taken against your team, right? We're talking things like boarding, spearing, slashing, cross-checking, roughing, kneeing, etc. We're not including obstruction penalties like hooking, holding and interference.
Fighting would lead to fewer of those violent penalties against your team. That would make sense.
As it turns out, there's zero link between those things. The number of fights your team gets in has no bearing on the amount of violent penalties taken against your team. Pension Plan Puppets ran this data for the whole league across a six year span and found no link. You can see that whole story here.
Here's the chart via that story:
As you can see, the Flyers are actually on the extreme high end of the spectrum in both fighting majors taken and violent penalties against them. The bad side of it.
If there were a trend here that made sense -- one that aligned with the age-old argument of those in favor of the enforcer role in hockey, including guys like John Scott -- there would be a downward trend from the top left corner of this chart to the bottom right. It doesn't exist.
If that doesn't convince you, there's more evidence too:
- There's no link between fighting and fewer injuries against your team.
- There's evidence that having an enforcer or a pest in uniform actually endangers your teammates.
- And if we want to bring it back to John Scott, the former Buffalo Sabres enforcer, why didn't he deter this cheap shot from Zac Rinaldo back in April? He was on the bench and played 10 minutes that night. Where was the deterrent?
Fighting does not deter other violence in the NHL, period.
For the record, I'm not in favor of banning all fighting in the game. I'm cool with Wayne Simmonds or somebody who can also actually play the game dropping the gloves once in a while, when warranted. Because sometimes it is warranted.
But the enforcer role is outdated and a true waste of a roster spot in a league where all 12 forwards on the game night roster matter and all 23 roster spots on the team matter. The Flyers should cut both Zack Stortini and Jay Rosehill.