Matt Cooke, Todd Bertuzzi and all of those tough guys with bad reputations are turning a new leaf; they have to or face public outcry and discipline. New NHL disciplinarian and ex-Red Wing Brendan Shanahan will make it so. If an illegal hit surmounts to a suspension, the league will release a video of the play, then break it down to formulate a proper decision.
Pittsburgh Penguins pesky winger has been the target of resentment from fans everywhere for his hit on Boston Bruins Marc Savard, who is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Bertuzzi has toned down his sock’em robot imitation after the Steve Moore incident, and touted his skills in Detroit significantly scoring last season.
Cooke has been a consistent 30 points scoring for the past few seasons with the Pens, but his reputation needed some TLC. Last season his penalty minutes climbed as his suspensions and poor public profile contributed to his need to reiterate that he was not a nasty guy rather a caring family man. As Sidney Crosby’s health has been disruptive to the Pens and its fans, Cooke still may drop the gloves or take a hit but his role as enforcer must tame for the success of the team. Giving up penalties won’t help Pittsburgh, particularly if Crosby sits out most of the upcoming season. Don’t shy away from Cooke, but give it time for his new face to form.
For Detroit Red Wings fans, the signing of Bertuzzi was a surprise and caused some grumbling. Bertuzzi put up a solid 40-plus point and often scored the game changer. As a fantasy league option, the winger was a hot pick mid-season. His numbers are expected to be fair for the 2011-12 season, yet the 36-year old may be running low.
Bertuzzi and Cooke will meet as the Red Wings travel to Pittsburgh Sept. 21 for a preseason game.
The unfortunate passing of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien has brought a lot of attention to enforcer forefront. Though fighting and hits were not the cause of death for either player, it is a reminder to all hockey followers that these tough guys have a purpose and a place on the team. As the New York Rangers rebuild from the tragedy and acquire a tenacious team, both Sean Avery and Brandon Prust are ones to keep an eye on.
Avery has always been the Rangers bad boy. From his “sloppy seconds” comment creating a surge of bad PR, Avery has rebounded to support same-sex marriage publicly and was recently redeemed from an interaction in Hollywood. Having a tough guy reputation attracts more trouble than these guys stir up. As a scorer, Avery had a great start to the 2010-11 season. His charisma boosts the Rangers to turn up the heat.
Brandon Prust excelled last year. Prust was Boogaard’s roommate on the road, so this season his play will be dedicated to the loss. Prust sat on my roster and produced with 29 pts., 160 PIMS, and 161 hits. If you play in a league that doesn’t reward for hits or penalty minutes, find a new league.
In Philly, your best bet is Scott Hartnell, who also snapped to it early in the season. New Flyers to take a look at include Max Talbot with 66 PIMS and 154 hits; Wayne Simmonds with 75 PIMS and 125 hits; and don’t forget your Chris Pronger who is capable of some enforcement.
In New Jersey, the Devil you may look at is David Clarkson. Though Clarkson tamed his temper last season, he still acquired 116 PIMS and 170 hits.
If you are still on the New York Islanders float, consider Travis Hamonic with 103 PIMs and 118 hits. Hamonic was a late addition to my team and he made the difference in those categories.
If you hold grudges and cannot get over Matt Cooke’s issues, then take Kris Letang as you Penguins pick. The defenseman posted 101 PIMS and 167 hits last season.
Defenders can supply your team with assists and goals, so don’t forget to support your local enforcers.