We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.
That's how our teams play.
People seem to mock the 'truculence' aspect of hockey as some poor reflection on Brian Burke, and hint at it being a source of failure for his young regime.
Sandpaper is important. So is having the physical nature ready to back it up.
Let me explain why:
- As a quick spark for a team, 4th liners are important because they can force momentum to go the other way. When the top two lines forget what hockey is supposed to be about, the aggressive kind of 4th liner will go out and hit everything, forecheck like mad, drive to and through the crease, and jumpstart the tempo of the game. The formerly flat top lines can then come out and build on the energy created from the bottom one.
- The threat of nastiness or retribution is a silent ward against damage for your skilled players. Instead of Kessel or Kadri getting run at every time they take a shift, the other players are wary because one of the heavy blokes might want a word with them.
- It opens up space for guys like Grabovski, Versteeg, MacArthur to be a little more reckless in the corners or going to the net, because they have that aura of protection if someone tries to lower the boom.
- This 'free pass' effect reduces the wear that your skilled players have to endure all season. When you get to the playoffs, your skilled players will be less injured and more vigourous relative to the rest of the field, who are fatigued from the grind of the season. Having a squad at 70% going against a team at 65% might be the factor that shifts the series in your favour.
- Brian Burke's biggest concern upon his arrival was the frequency with which Maple Leafs were getting injured by other players, and their teammates seemingly doing nothing to respond.
This has come to an end in Toronto.
- It builds strong ties within the team. When players are in a brawl together, or one teammate starts a fight to protect another, it forges strong bonds among the players.
Firefighters, police officers, armed forces personnel - they all have such strong feelings towards the group or the team because they have often been through shared dangers and difficult experiences. Camaraderie builds faster when you are put in a situation where you must depend on another to get out of it, and that person is there to protect you exactly in the manner the code of the group demands.
If we want this team to play for each other, these are exactly the kind of strong bonds that need to be formed on the ice.
- Fighting is a way to get your team energized, once they already care. If the team is indifferent, then they just watch the scrap and politely tap their sticks when it's done. When they care, then they think "Yeah, Colton just beat the shit out of that guy! He is my friend and my teammate and he just did his job, so next time I step on the ice I better do mine."
- It gives you a different game style option. If you are playing a team that is too high above you, you can drag the game into the gutters. This can throw the other team off of their play style, and crack open that window that allows your skilled players to squeeze a win that the team otherwise might not have had. It is also a defence against the above, because only teams with sand can play in the mud - the teams that are all crystal & baby powder can get overwhelmed.
- It gives you a sacrificial body to rattle an opposing star. If you can have Mike Brown goad a skilled player into a fight, that is free time you get without facing that player. Going from a skilled TOI comparison, getting a 5-minute imbalance in your favour is nothing to scoff at. If you can get this to happen just once per playoff series, then that's equal to an entire period of playoff hockey that you have avoided a star player.
- This guy is awesome:
You can post why you disagree with any of these, but you will be wrong.
Go Leafs Go.