That's the question I've wanted to answer for the longest time. Identifying a goon is like watching porn, you know it when you see it. The goon of which I speak is known for two things; fighting and fighting often. Colton Orr? Goon. George Parros? Goon. Cam Janssen? Oh he's definitely goon. This we can all agree on, but perhaps that's just our confirmation bias at work because we watch Orr ragdoll Matt Carkner on a nightly basis; because Cam Janssen is the scum of the Earth; because George Parros' mustache once beat up Sonny Liston. So what I aim to do is to create a quantitative measure of gooniness in the NHL.
Why do I want to quantitatively measure gooniness? Because I'm of the belief that the goon no longer has a part to play in today's NHL hockey. As Tyler Dellow points out, gone are the days of guys like Bob Probert and Wendel Clark who could both fight and play hockey. Today's "enforcer", in my opinion, just doesn't bring anything of value to his team where it matters; the scoreboard. Further, it's of my belief that the often heard excuse for the need of enforcers in hockey "they protect your best players" is a fallacy. Goons only fight other goons who are only ever on the ice with other goons. Do you think a coach would put someone like Colton Orr, Trevor Gillies, or David Koci on the tice at the same time as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or the Sedins? Of course not, they'd get torched every time. I aim to prove these beliefs to be true.
Thanks to the good folks over at ESPN, who actually track fighting majors per player unlike NHL.com, I was able to get fighting stats for every player in the league. To narrow down the study for work load purposes, I set the cutoff for gooniness at 5 fighting majors over the course of the season, (granted this leaves out known scumbags like Francis Lessard, but 5 is a nice round number to use) and got 82 players who love to drop the gloves. I then assembled TOI and scoring data for those players and came up with the stat I'm going to use to rank my goons; Average TOI per Fighting Major (ATOI/FM). Without further ado, here are your Top 15 NHL goons:
More goon analysis after the jump.
So let's look at those Top 15 players a little more closely. They average 1.07 goals and 1.27 assists, or about 0.07 points per game. Even better? They average 4 fights for every 1 point they score. Real big contributers in the areas that matter. If you expand the list to include all 82 players, it paints a slightly better picture for what a goon is; a 0.20 ppg player. But that's buoyed a bit on the back end by guys like Milan Lucic, Ryane Clowe, Scott Hartnell, and Nathan Horton; the only regular fighters to score more than 40 points.
Today's "enforcer", in my opinion, just doesn't bring anything of value to his team where it matters; the scoreboard.
Going back to our "Top 15", let us examine who these guys are dropping their gloves with. If you flip over to the "Who Do They Fight" tab of the linked spreadsheet, you'll see the fighting partners for the 161 fights fought by our Top 15 goons. Look at that, more goons. The only names on these fight cards to not appear on my list of the 82 top goons are; Douglas Murray, Kevin Bieksa, Francis Lessard, Jim Vandermeer, Raitis Ivanans, Frazer McLaren, Nicklas Grossman, Mike Weber, Wade Belak, Brandon Mashinter, Tom Sesito, Tim Gleason, Tyson Strachan, and Paul Mara. But even on that list we see known fighters like Lessard, Belak, Bieksa, and Vandermeer. I don't think a single name on these fight cards, aside from Brewer, Lucic, Gaustad, Murray, and Bieksa, can be labled anything more than 3rd/4th line pluggers or bottom pairing defensemen.
Further, it's of my belief that the often heard excuse for the need of enforcers in hockey "they protect your best players" is a fallacy. Goons only fight other goons who are only ever on the ice with other goons.
Call them what you want; enforcer, fighter, scrapper, or goon; the modern day NHL pugilist is a farce upon the game we all so dearly love. They are a sideshow during games that serve only to distract us from what we really came to see; people playing hockey. Revisiting my original statement: Goons are known for three things; fighting, fighting often, and lessening the game of hockey. The staged fights they engage in bring nothing of value to hockey beyond the enjoyment some fans get from watching two guys punch each other in the face for twenty seconds. The staged fights need to go; the goons need to go. What do you think?
*All stats used came from ESPN.com, hockeyfights.com, and hockey-reference.com