WHAT DO YOU THINK? ARE THE TOUGHER OILERS GOING THE WRONG DIRECTION? | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours


Yesterday on Oilers Now, host Bob Stauffer posted an interesting question. Is fighting going to be a part of junior hockey moving forward? When it's gone, will it affect and carry over to the NHL?

Photo By Dan4th Nicholas

The reason Stauffer posed the question was in response to the recent rule changes by Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that will begin to penalize players with two-game suspensions after three fights in a season, with repeated suspensions for every fight thereafter. Basically, the OHL is penalizing players so aggressively, they are all but getting rid of fighting.

In a way, eliminating fighting from junior hockey has its advantages. In a league where 16-year-old players will play against 20-year-old players, a fight between two players of that age discrepancy can be downright dangerous. It used to be that players were suspended after 10 fights. Bringing it down to three is a clear message that the intention is to remove all signs of staged, instigated and/or most traditional fights in the game at that level. This too could be dangerous, but for entirely different reasons. Will the OHL rule change eventually carry over to the NHL?

Fighting in The NHL

Fighting in the pros is already way down. It happens, just not nearly as often and the one-dimensional tough-guy role that used to exist has been pretty much eliminated. The days of players like Steve MacIntyre, Georges Laraque and enforcers who could fight, but not really contribute are gone. If you can't play hockey, you likely won't keep a job in the professional ranks.

The instigator rule was altered in 1992, giving a player who was assessed with the instigator tag a game-misconduct. As a result, players were no longer able to police themselves. Tough guys couldn't stand up for their talented superstars who were challenged and there was no payback for cheap-shots or chicken-s&^t plays that injured players for extended periods of time. It created one of the biggest changes in the NHL over the last 30 years.

The Oilers

With fighting way down are the Oilers heading in the wrong direction? Last season, Edmonton's toughest player was arguably Matt Hendricks. This summer, Edmonton added players like Milan Lucic and focused more on team toughness, creating and saving key spots for players like Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse, Patrick Maroon and others who can not only play the game of hockey but are willing to drop the gloves at a moments notice. Hendricks is now the fifth or sixth toughest player on the roster.

Where the Oilers are making the right decision, is in their emphasis on recognizing the ability to play the game. While being tougher, Kassian, Nurse, Lucic, and Maroon all have skill and talent that doesn't hold the team back or slow the game down. As much as they can fight, they can also score and out produce their opponent. It's a combination that will serve them well in a bigger Pacific Division. 

There is a risk however of overdoing it. If the Oilers continue to get a little tougher, but also a little slower each season, and if the game continues to become a skill-game with more stick-work and fewer instances of fisticuffs, a tough-guy roster, much like the one Chiarelli built in Boston, may not have the same impact in today's NHL. 

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Is Edmonton's getting tougher a good thing? Are they getting too tough and less skilled? Will the need for players to fight be all but gone in the next few seasons? I like the new look of the Oilers, but I also hope they tread carefully. The NHL is all about speed and if Edmonton starts to sacrifice speed and skill for toughness, it may hurt them down the line.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.


  1. The oilers have been in the wrong direction for the past 10 years! This new direction creating a tougher team to play against will only help the oilers win games. Building a team around small skilled forwards does not work!

    1. For the most part, I agree. A roster of only small skilled forwards isn't enough. But, the way the game is going, it's more a skill game than a physical game. I think the change is good and it was necessary. I think right now the Oilers have just the right amount of team toughness. I don't think they'll need any additional "tough guys".

  2. Right now, I think their mix is good. With JP being big, but not noted for fighting, the Oil have gotten bigger with skill. I like that at least now, they can stand their ground and push back. I expect and anticipate good things from this group, let's just say, peer pressure could increase their level of play. What happened in New York last season in that afternoon game is hopefully a thing of the past (also partially why, I think, Hall was traded. To much of a good time the night before).

    1. I think bigger with skill is key here

  3. The Oilers were so far away from the Tough end of the scale, that even with the moves they've made, they're barely to the middle. So no, i don't think they're going in the wrong direction. Seems like a great mix right now between Skill and Toughness.

    1. I don't know if I'd say they aren't half way there or in the middle of the pack. Every line has a tough guy who can drop the mitts. Also on defense you have Nurse. I wouldn't be opposed to them bringing back Eric Gryba as a six/seven option. He's stable and dependable with toughness as well.

  4. This is definitely a needed change in the organization. The Oilers were easy to play against. Almost nice to the other team. Now they have the guys that will take it to the other team and hopefully tip the ice the other way. Now, if they add someone like Burns next year then they are continuing to add tough actual players but if they follow the plan of the old guard by adding players like Gadzic or even a guy like Hendricks (both whom I have great respect for) then we are in trouble. I don't see the new administration doing that. I think they have their main guys for toughness. Just need Yak or Pulj to step up offensively. The kids have their vetrans for leadership and protection now. Good things are coming. They have to be. For the love of God please.