One of the big reasons for enforcers in the league is the idea that "Goons Fight So Skill Players Don't Have To." But after Phil Kessel sent Brian Flynn into some sort of "Call of Kth'essel"-esque zone of eternal undying (pictured above), I asked myself: isn't this someone else's job?
WIth the help of SkinnyFish, who lovingly assembled the data, we wanted to see if acquiring a goon meant that skill players would end up spending less time in the box (or being concussed). To weed out any actualy players who just like to fight, we designated goons as players with a minimum of 3 fighting majors in a season and under 100 minutes TOI between fights.
A table of fights, as represented by "goon" and "non-goon" players, through three seasons, 2011-2013. You can play with the data here, including criticism of who made the cut by our criteria (go to "file" and "download as..." or "make a copy.").
I think the results are unsurprising. Picking up Jared Boll, for example, doesn't necessarily mean you're sparing any non-goon player; you're just adding Boll's fights to your team total. (For the math-y types, the r^2 of goon fights to non-goon fights is 0.0312.)
It's worth noting that examining "goon fights" vs. "points in the standings" would be almost useless - Boston, sits near the top, Detroit sits near the bottom, both have been very successful clubs in the past. This doesn't mean that goons don't hurt your team, but it does demonstrate that you can build a successful club and still carry goons.
Breaking out Randy Carlyle teams (although these are "whole year," so it includes Boudreau/Wilson):
|TEAM||FM TOT||GOON||GOON%||NONGOON||NONGOON %|
The Leafs definitely haven't picked up a Boston- or San Jose-esque culture of fighting up and down the roster; however, they have spent a lot of time fighting for what seems like no good reason (especially last year, when they more than doubled the next closest team in goon-fights). I guess Colton Orr will be useful next time we play the Sabres, but it should be remembered that the whole saga started because of enforcer-to-be Jamie Devane.
When you're not going to build an all-skill roster like Detroit, it's the up-and-down roster toughness - especially when combined with speed - that should be acquired and applauded. Find guys who can hit hard and win foot races, because without NHL-level skating you're just chasing after Phil Kessel, getting your legs slashed and failing to land a swing.