Enforcers in the NHL use to be critical role on every team. The NHL as the years went on has more “talent” based and teams turned to speed and skills instead of grind and wear and tear down teams. Enforcers went from being the good guy to becoming the guys no body wants. Look around the NHL, most of the typical “enforcers” are either scratched players or in the AHL. Since they don’t score and produce as much they are given very limited playing time.
There are many positives to enforcers and them playing in the NHL. Think about it, no enforcer is going to want more than two million dollars for a contract and in this day in age, with the salary cap, that is close to nothing. But sadly, teams aren’t willing to give them that contract due to the fact they don’t produce. They’ll give you anywhere from 5-15 points in a season.
Enforcers have always been that locker room guy that teams need. Enforcers are usually a team-first oriented player who puts his boys first before him. Players like having a guy they can trust will have their back. Players back in the day loved playing with Bob Probert or Tie Domi because if they were a superstar player and a guy cheap-shotted them, either right there or later in the game one of those guys would be beating the crap out of that guy. They don’t mind taking the hits if it means no one will hurt there brother.
Enforcers today are looked at as meaningless space on a team. No one except real hockey fans understands how truly important they are. The problem to why people don’t think so is due to concussions and fighting. Believe me, as a player I hate concussions and hate seeing my teammates get them and the whole CTE issue is bad, but fighting has been around the NHL since its existence and taking it out because of concussions and potential injury is like taking out alley-oops out of basketball. It energizes the stadium and teams and while it doesn’t happen all the time, it is still awesome when it does and you hope to see it when you go to a game.
Okay, so while I believe the enforcer has in a sense “died”, a few teams do in fact have a guy to turn to to bring that enforcer element to there team. Ryan Reaves of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jared Boll of the Anaheim Ducks are guys who play 50-70 games a season and sometimes more and while they produce a little more than the average guy, teams like to have them in to protect there star players. There should be more of these guys in the league because while executives of the NHL might not like them, the players do and thats the important thing.