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Frozen Fantasy: Enforcer Extinction?

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Fighting is still a part of the fabric of hockey. But the face of hockey has changed.

Where have all the enforcers gone?

Fewer and fewer teams employ a dedicated pugilist - they don't really fit today's speedy, skilled game, in large part because they just can't keep up.

There will never be another Joey Kocur. Or Stu Grimson, Tie Domi or George Laraque. Or even Derek Boogaard.

Rest in peace...

Lots of teams - Detroit, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Nashville to name just a few - don't employ an enforcer, period. Their enforcers have been replaced by speedy shift disturbers who can agitate and play a 200-foot game.

It's time to look at dumping PIMs as a fantasy category.

We used to be able to drop in a dough-headed, fourth-line winger to fulfill most of our sin-bin needs. Shallow position, easy fit. Not any more.

Heading into play Thursday night, there were only two players - Zac Rinaldo and Zenon Konopka - with more than 80 PIMs. But they only have three and four points, respectively and both are centers, a position far too deep to roll a meathead with just single-category value.

At least Rinaldo has LW eligibility...

Fighting majors have trended down in the last couple seasons and they're down ever so slightly - year-over-year - this season, too. Rinaldo and Konopka have 17 majors (combined) heading into Thursday. But 24 of the top-30 penalty minute earners - again heading into Thursday's games - had more minor penalties than major ones.

Sticks and stones...

I just don't think lazy little two-minute penalties for things like interference, boarding or spearing should be exalted. Or dictate the outcome of a league. I find it really hard to justify using a valuable roster spot on a guy who “might” lose his mind and pick up double-digit PIMs in a game.

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week

Artem Anisimov, C, NY Rangers (5 percent owned) - I looked up the definition of brain fart and I found Anisimov's duck-shooting goal celebration from Thursday night. But stupidity aside, the guy is on fire right now. He's on a three-game goal streak and four-game point streak. He has many gifts - size, soft hands, defensive awareness and hockey smarts (duck shooting aside) - and they've put him on a mid-50s point pace. Need help down the middle?

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, LW/RW, Minnesota (8 percent owned) - Yes, he's injury prone. But he's a sublime playmaker when he's healthy and knock on wood, that's what he's been of late. His three-game point streak (two goals, two assists) was snapped Thursday night. But he's on a near 50-point pace. That qualifies him for spot duty at minimum. And maybe a bit more.

Blake Comeau, LW, Calgary (4 percent owned) - Maybe Comeau is a Battlestar Gallactica fan. He has clearly hopped aboard the resurrection ship and somehow turned his career around. Then again, I'm not really sure he'd lost his career - the Isles have a track record of unusual evaluations of talent. I still don't know how he ended up on waivers but that's their loss. He's coming off 24 goals last season and you and I both know how desperate the Flames are for scoring. His four points in his first eight games aren't spectacular but they're enough for me to put him on my watch list.

Nick Foligno, LW, Ottawa (6 percent owned) - The garbage man is on fire right now. He picked up yet another goal from in close Thursday night to stretch his goal streak to three games and point streak to six games. He's been skating between sniper Milan Michalek and the sage Daniel Alfredsson, and they've clearly found some chemistry. Get him before he's gone. No rain checks on this guy.

Matt Hackett, G, Minnesota (3 percent owned) - Hackett is a future stud. He's athletic, aggressive and quick with good size and solid rebound control. And his star has been on the rise since he turned pro. Today, that star is glittering in the NHL after bricking up the Wild net with a shutout performance in relief of the injured Josh Harding on Tuesday night. Then there was the 42-save performance against the Kings on Thursday. He probably won't say in the NHL long. But he will deliver short-term value with both Niklas Backstrom and Harding hurting.

Jannik Hansen, RW, Vancouver (3 percent owned) - It didn't take Hansen long to find new love after being dumped by those Swedish twins. He just didn't fit on the top line but he's found some sharp chemistry on the Orca's third line. And that has resulted in a four-game, five-point streak. He's hot and cold, though, so he's the kind of guy who needs to be day traded the moment you see him slow down. Otherwise, he'll only cause you pain.

Cody Hodgson, RW/C, Vancouver (4 percent owned) - Hodgson is such a smart player - he always knows where the puck will be and that's exactly where you'll find him. You just can't teach that. And slowly but surely, he's turning up the offensive heat. He has four points in his last four games and even notched the shootout winner Thursday in Montreal. Deep leaguers should take a look.

Maxim Lapierre, RW/C, Vancouver (3 percent owned) - This cocky potty-mouth lost his mind this week. Not only did his eyes bug out and the saliva spew but he also dropped the gloves to the whopping tune of 27 PIMs in just two games. And he has 20 hits in his last four games. I don't have to like the guy to know he can help, particularly in specialty categories.

Nikita Nikitin, D, Columbus (2 percent owned) - Go the player list and get this guy. NOW. He got his get-out-of-jail-free card in the trade to Columbus (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron but surprisingly, it isn't). He has four points in his last four games and 10 points in 13 since fleeing St. Louis. Yes, you read that right. He's smart, a crisp passer and good in all three zones. And his strong shot is seriously underrated. Snap him up - the Jackets are slowly improving and he's part of the reason.

Slava Voynov, D, Los Angeles (2 percent owned) - I've talked about him before but he got sent down before many of you could take full advantage. Don't miss out now. He has delivered seven points in 16 games heading into Thursday's late tilt. That's just one point less than the exalted Drew Doughty (96 percent owned) and just five fewer than cocky Jack Johnson (83 percent owned). And he has a gritty side that he just hasn't shown so far. He's worth a wire grab.

Back to penalty minutes.

Sadly, there's no magic pill available to boost your sin bin. The true points-and-PIMs players - guys like Chris Stewart (65 percent owned), Zdeno Chara (99 percent owned), Ryane Clowe (89 percent owned), Brad Marchand (73 percent owned), Dustin Byfuglien (99 percent owned) and Brenden Morrow (64 percent owned) - are all seriously over-valued.

I learned that the hard way in trade last week.

But even these guys are mostly sticks-and-stones boys, not true fighters. If only I could punt PIMs the way I can punt saves in baseball …

Until next week.