Fighting is down in the NHL, that’s a fact. The percentage of games with one or more fights dropped from 41.38% in the 2008-09 season to 22.19% at this point in the 2015-16 season — a decline that would have been unthinkable in decades past.
For a long time, supporters of fighting in the NHL have stated that if fighting were removed from the game, it would be more dangerous for the skill players and result in reckless stick work — the end of the game as we’ve known it for the last 100-plus years. To hear the supporters talk, a fight-less NHL seems like anarchy on the ice.
Well, that hasn’t happened. The only change so far: Many over-the-top fighters have been run out of the league, replaced by players with skill, who can handle things with their hands if they need to. These days, teams rarely carry a player on the roster whose sole job is fighting. It won’t be a surprise to see the fighting percentage drop even more in the next few years.
However, will fighting ever be eradicated in the NHL? Not likely. The game is too physical, emotions run too high, and frontier justice still needs to be meted out when referees miss something. As the fighting numbers plummet, the following teams are bucking the trend to keep the fists flying during the 2015-16 season.
1. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks are slowly climbing the ranks of teams with the most fighting majors. In 2012-13, the Ducks had a mere 23 fighting majors, and last season that number climbed to 35, ranking them second in the league. Right now, the Ducks have a league-leading 12 fighting majors, and if the team keeps up that pace, they will finish the season with more than 40 fighting majors.
Only one team had more than 40 fights last season: the Columbus Blue Jackets with 44. The Ducks’ leading fighter this season is Clayton Stoner with three fights. He had eight fights last season, which was a team tie with Patrick Maroon and Tim Jackman. Maroon has two fights this year, while Jackman has only played two games for the Ducks this season.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
During the past three seasons, the Blue Jackets have been near the top of the NHL fighting totals. If the early part of the 2015-16 season is any indication, the Blue Jackets will finish the season in the same spot they finished last season: first in the league in fighting majors. Gregory Campbell leads the team with four fights so far this season. This is Campbell’s first year with the Blue Jackets; he played for the Boston Bruins last year, where he led the team with five fights. If Campbell maintains his fighting pace, he will top his career high of 11, a number he reached during the 2010-11 season while playing with the Bruins.
3. Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators finished in the top 10 in fighting majors in each of the past three seasons. During that span, the lowest they finished was eighth, when they totaled 39 fights — which coincidentally was their highest total in the last three seasons. If the team maintains this pace, they will finish the season in that 39-fight range. Mark Borowiecki is the Senators’ fight leader this season, with four bouts. He was also the leader last season, when he totaled 13 fights, on pace to finish in the same range for 2015-16.
4. Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are the surprise on this list. Last season they finished with 25 total fights, ranking them 18th in the NHL. That number is in line with the number of fights they had in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Right now the Kings have 10 fights this season, putting them on pace for 37 fights in 2015-16. Only three Kings players have fought this season. Andy Andreoff has five fights, Kyle Clifford has four, and Jordan Nolan has the other fight for the team. Clifford led the team with nine fights last season, but Andreoff has already surpassed his fight total from last year, when he only had two.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers have always had a reputation as a fighting team, so it’s not surprising to find them on this list. Like the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, they have 10 fights this season. In both 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Flyers finished third in fighting majors; last year they slipped to 12th. It looks like the team will be back near the top of the leaders once again this season.
Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Flyers spread their fighting around. Six players have one fight each, while Ryan White and Wayne Simmonds lead the team with two fights each. Last season’s team leader was Zac Rinaldo with five fights, but he plays for the Boston Bruins now — and he’s not fought at all. Simmonds was second on the Flyers last year with four fights.
6. Vancouver Canucks
Over the past three seasons, the Vancouver Canucks have been one of the fightingest teams in the Western Conference. Their No. 8 ranking last season was their lowest ranking of the last three seasons. They should come in higher than that at the end of the 2015-16 season. Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust each have four of the Canucks’ 10 fights this season. Last season the team had 31 fights total, and more than 50% of those fights involved Dorsett, who totaled 17 scraps. That number ranked him second in the league, behind only Cody McLeod of the Colorado Avalanche, who had 19 fights.
All stats via hockeyfights.com.