Below is a list of the most dynamic duos that play a physical, gritty game and are willing to drop the gloves, but can still produce offensively/defensively and log more ice time than a fourth line enforcer. These players play a crucial role on their team, and their coaches trust them on the ice to get their job done. They affect the outcome of the game, and contribute to the teams scoring or special teams. These are also players who may be underrated and not an obvious choice or a big name player.
1. Ryane Clowe (6.02, 225 Lbs.) & Douglas Murray (6.04, 240 Lbs.) SJS – This massive duo plays a crucial role on the San Jose Sharks. With both Clowe and Murray being two of the top hitters on the team while adding grit and physicality to the line-up, these players also contribute effectively to the team’s offense and special teams. Neither player is afraid to drop the gloves as Douglas Murray is always good for the odd buckets-off tilt, while Ryane Clowe was second in fight majors for the Sharks last season with 11. This season, Clowe has been on fire as he sits second behind Dany Heatley in team scoring with 9 goals, 20 assists and a +9 rating, Clowe has also added 42PIM (tied with Jamal Mayers with six fighting majors). Murray is known as more of a defensive rock for the Sharks as he lays some of the biggest hits in the NHL with his 240 pound frame. However, Murray has recently added some offensive spark from the blue line as he picked up his first goal of the season against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 9, while adding 4 assists and a +1 rating with 21PIM. With 34 points combined, the pair deserves the No. 1 spot for most effective Bash Brothers, as the two players are never a liability on the ice, and are surely the most feared Sharks.
2. Shawn Thornton (6.02, 217 Lbs.) & Milan Lucic (6.04, 220 Lbs.) BOS – This pair comes with no surprise as Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic could be one of the most feared pairs in the NHL right now. With Thornton leading the team with 7 fight majors so far this season, Lucic adds two fights while also leading the team in points with 16 goals and 11 assists. For being known as an enforcer, Thornton has always been able to pick up a bit more ice time than the average goon, allowing him to showcase his offensive skills as he already has 5 goals and 1 assists for Boston – a total that most enforcers usually reach after playing an entire season. It’s no doubt that this pair plays an important role in the Bruins success game after game. Players like this prove to all anti-fighting buffs that there is a place for the fight in hockey, and although they drop the gloves, they can still play the game and earn the trust of their coach.
3. Brandon Prust (6.02, 192 Lbs.) & Sean Avery (5.10, 195 Lbs.) NYR – One half of this pair may be the most controversial pest in hockey, but whether you like him or not, when Sean Avery shows up to play, he is a very effective piece to the Rangers offense. Avery gets much more than a normal enforcers ice time, and has added 1 goal and 14 assists while collecting 121 penalty minutes (7 fighting majors) so far this season. Brandon Prust could very well be one of the most underrated tough-guys in the game today, as the 26-year-old winger leads the team with 10 fighting majors (and while only weighing 192, will fight guys in the heavyweight category), and also logs a consistent amount of ice time allowing him to notch 5 goals and 8 assists while maintaining a +6 rating. Combined, Avery and Prust make it hard for any team to play the Rangers, and while they are skating around the ice wreaking havoc, when given the chance they both known how to make a great play or put the puck in the net to add some third and fourth line scoring for the Rangers.
4. Steve Ott (6.0, 192 Lbs.) & Jamie Benn (6.02, 208 Lbs.) DAL – The two Dallas Stars have really meshed and effectively produced since Jamie Benn joined the team as a rookie last season. Benn has added size, grit, and his excellent scoring touch while also never hesitating to drop the gloves when challenged. Steve Ott as been a huge role-player for the Stars for the past few seasons, and now that he wears the “A” for Dallas, he brings his tenacity to the table all that much more. While the two each have 7 goals with a combined points total of 30, they also have three fighting majors each and together give opposing teams a tough time.
5. Tyler Kennedy (5.11, 183) & Matt Cooke (5.11, 205 Lbs.) PIT – With the exact same stats of 5 goals and 8 assists each, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke are two of the many gritty players on the Pens that accent the skill and finesse of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company. Both players also get a regular slot of ice time for Pittsburgh, playing in all types of situations. While Tyler Kennedy is a useful lightweight to answer the bell with the smaller opponents around the league, Matt Cooke is a proven middleweight who has a pesky attitude and a fair amount of offensive skill. The two add secondary scoring to the explosive first-hand offense, and in players like this we see what it takes to have a championship team.
6. Wayne Simmonds (6.02, 183 Lbs.) & Kyle Clifford (6.02, 207 Lbs.) LAK – While Wayne Simmonds has been proving himself for the past few seasons, 19-year-old rookie Kyle Clifford made the Kings this season after an impressive rookie camp, and has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he belongs in the NHL. Clifford leads the Kings with 6 fight majors, while also adding 1 goal and 3 assists. Although he isn’t putting up as many points as some of the other rookies around the league, Clifford has found his role on the Kings and his gutsy play and fearlessness should be recognized around the league. Simmonds plays a similar style to Clifford, and has been a secondary contributor for the Kings since his rookie season, while also dropping the gloves when called upon. This young pair of bash brothers only accents the young talent that make up the Kings nucleus.
7. Mike Brown (5.11, 205 Lbs.) & Colton Orr (6.03, 222 Lbs.) TOR – Colton Orr has been a fan favourite in Toronto since he came to the Leafs from the New York Rangers. As one of the
most feared enforcers in the league, Orr always seems to contribute offensively in the most clutch times, but also does not pose as a defensive liability for the Leafs. Orr is a classic enforcer that is not always just thrown on the ice to fight. Accenting Orr’s toughness comes another gritty forward in Mike Brown. Although Brown is in a different weight class then Orr, he will drop the gloves against almost anyone, and makes for a great player to throw on the penalty kill as his willingness to sacrifice the body and block shots is never-ending. The pair gives the Leafs the grit and sandpaper every team needs, and bodes well with Brian Burke’s style of hockey.
8. Arron Asham (5.11, 205 Lbs.) & Mike Rupp (6.05, 230 Lbs.) PIT – More Penguins players that serve a crucial role on the team. With so many big name superstars, a team needs enforcers to keep them safe. While many teams designate a spot on the fourth line for a tough-guy who can step onto the ice when it’s necessary to fight, the Penguins make sure their enforcers can not only answer the bell, but play the game of hockey confidently. Asham has 4 goals and 4 assists, while Rupp has 3 goals and 4 assists, and the pair has a total of 10 fighting majors combined. While watching the Pens play, you will see these two players on the ice for many shifts throughout the game, and although they may be overshadowed by Crosby and such, these two beauties give the physical edge and toughness the team needs to be successful year after year.
9. Jordin Tootoo (5.09, 197 Lbs.) & Shane O’Brien (6.03, 230 Lbs.) NAS – This pair is another that may be overshadowed by many in the league. Because they are on a team that is not as often talked about as many others around the league, their importance to the Predators success may not be equivalently praises. Jordin Tootoo is a middleweight who has never been afraid to throw bone-crushing hits or drop the gloves with anyone who is willing. Tootoo is pound for pound one of the toughest fighters in the under 200 Lbs. class, and has proven when given more ice time, he can put the puck in the net and help create offensive plays for the blue-collar Nashville squad. Recent addition to the Preds, Shane O’Brien, adds some of Tootoo’s grit to the back-end, and unlike the Preds other enforcer Wade Belak, O’Brien can play a solid two-way game and appears to be a great personality in the media and off the ice. This selection could come as a surprise to many, but these players have always been a favourite of mine when it comes to hard-working players earning a spot.
10. Zenon Konopka (6.0, 209 Lbs.) & Trevor Gillies (6.03, 227 Lbs.) NYI – Although this pair has the least amount of combined points out of the aforementioned bunch, they play a massive role on the struggling New York Islanders team. After coming to New York from the Tampa Bay Lightning where Konopka played his first full NHL season and led the league in fight majors and penalty minutes, Konopka and moved into a more contributive role with the Islanders as he logs almost double his average ice time then last season, and plays the penalty kill effectively. Konopka still drops the gloves with the best of them and has some of the longest tilts in the league, allowing him to be an effective piece to the team. Along with Konopka, Trevor Gillies is another enforcer on the Island who doesn’t see as much ice time, but still serves as a physical threat and worthy opponent for the league’s most notorious enforcers. Together, the two make teams think twice before going after one of the Islanders young stars.
Honourable Mention: Zack Stortini & Jean-Francois Jacques EDM – Stortini is a regular on the Oilers roster that will fight anyone and still chip in the odd time offensively. Jacques is one of the most interesting up and coming enforcers to watch, but splits his season between Edmonton and the minors.
Leafs/Bruins Photo courtesy SlidingSideways http://www.flickr.com/photos/88235679@N00/4417942161/