Do the Kings need an enforcer?

I can argue it both ways. If Murray is right and Westgarth is on his way to becoming a productive forward, not just a liability plus fists, then it's not really an issue, because he's not really (just) an enforcer. But if he never warrants more than five minutes a game, are the Kings better served by icing a 4th unit that is actually useful? Or is the whole "debate" moot, since Murray frequently reconfigures the 4th unit with a pair of forwards not named Westgarth (say, Clifford and Lewis) and a top-nine forward double-shifting in Westgarth's place?

I'm pretty sure I subscribe to the idea that, if you have a couple of good middleweights and you've addressed team toughness in general, you don't need a guy who comes off the bench a couple of times a game to fight the other team's guy. I allow that I am not 100% convinced, but pretty close. 

We've frequently seen Murray leave Westgarth in the press box because the other team doesn't dress an enforcer. And we've also seen that Westgarth (like Raitis Ivanans before him) frequently has trouble finding a dance partner. The flaw in the reasoning behind dressing an enforcer seems pretty obviously flawed: if enforcers only fight enforcers, the best way to neutralize the other team's enforcer is not to dress one. 

Remember a couple of seasons ago when someone took a run at Doughty and the next shift Ivanans skated around aimlessly looking for a date? How is that a deterrent? It's not. The deterrent is the potential of a team response, a response from Clifford, Simmonds, Brown, Mitchell, Greene, Johnson, Doughty even. And it might not be a fight. It might be a check. Or, god-forbid, a power-play goal.

A excellent power play is the best deterrent of all. Take a run at our best player, we score and you lose. 

NHL enforcer's role shrinking - Connecticut Post

Derek Boogaard was a member of a vanishing breed. Once commonplace, the hockey enforcer has become more and more of a spare part that some teams no longer consider crucial. [...] There are fewer true enforcers than just five or 10 years ago, with the specialization of fighting within the game and the institution of the instigator rule [...]. And with fewer opportunities to find jobs at the highest level of the game -- and even to find willing fight partners -- enforcers such as Boogaard, with limited hockey skills, have only a few minutes of ice time a night to make an impact the only way they know how. [...] 

[In 1989-90], the Caps had three players with more than 200 penalty minutes: super pest Dale Hunter (233), Neil Sheehy (291) and Alan May (339). This past season, in the entire league, only Konopka and the Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil (210) had more than 200 penalty minutes.

[Nick] Kypreos, who had an eight-year NHL career that included the Stanley Cup with the 1993-94 Rangers, now covers the NHL as an analyst for Rogers SportsNet in Canada. So in just the last 20 years, he has seen the enforcer's role become more specialized -- and more removed from the usual flow of the game. "When I came up, you could look down almost any roster and find four or five guys who might fill that tough-guy role," he said. "The era before mine, in the 1970s and 1980s, you might have half the roster who would do that. Now maybe a team has two guys, but usually it's one. Or none."

The Kings had 49 fighting majors last season. Only three playoff teams (BOS, PIT, NYR) had more. Kyle Clifford (18), Kevin Westgarth (15) and Wayne Simmonds (6) led the way, followed by Brad Richardson (3), Matt Greene (2), Willie MitchellMarco Sturm, Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams and Davis Drewiske (all with 1). However:

  • Greene is not a deterrent as a fighter. And when was it that he injured himself in a fight and missed a bunch of games? Last year or the year before. Anyway, since he's important to the defense, that's a reverse-deterrent, if you ask me. 
  • Willie Mitchell is not someone I want to get punched in the head.
  • Justin Williams is not someone I want smashing his fists on people. They might be subject to the injury curse.
  • Smyth, Sturm, Richardson, Drewiske: they've got guts. But they're not scaring anybody. 
  • Of Westgarth's 15 fights (against 13 different fighters), only one opponent scored more than ten goals (Paul Gaustad, 12), two scored between 5 and 10 (Jared Boll, 7; Chris Neil, 6). The average goal output for the 13 skaters is 3.06. 
  • Clifford's average is 3.11, i.e. not appreciably better.
  • If you look at the sixteen fights by everyone else, the average goals/season for their opponents is 9.25. 
  • Even if you take out Simmonds' fight against Corey Perry and Richardson's against Teemu Selanne, the average for the rest of the fights is 4.78. 
  • And that number would have been higher, except that James Neal (normally a 20 goal scorer) scored but 1 goal over 20 games. 
  • There are actual hockey players on the list of opponents fought by not-Clifford-Simmonds-or-Westgarth: Perry (50), Selanne (31), Dan Boyle (9), Steve Ott (12), Neal (1), Steve Downie (10), John-Michael Liles (6)... These are at least players who can have a significant impact on a game. So, you know, fighting them actually means something. 
Here's a chart of last year's fights. Kings player, opponent, goals scored by opponent this season.

G
Simmonds Corey Perry 50
Richardson Teemu Selanne 31
Westgarth Paul Gaustad 12
Drewiske Steve Ott 12
Clifford Shawn Thornton 10
Mitchell Steve Downie 10
Clifford Tim Jackman 10
Richardson Dan Boyle* 9
Greene Cody McCormick 8
Sturm Tim Brent 8
Westgarth Jared Boll 7
Westgarth Chris Neil 6
Williams John-Michael Liles 6
Clifford Brandon Segal 5
Westgarth Matt Martin 5
Clifford Brad Staubitz 4
Clifford Daniel Carcillo 4
Clifford Derek Dorsett 4
Simmonds Eric Nystrom 4
Richardson Scott Nichol 4
Westgarth Deryk Engelland 3
Clifford George Parros 3
Westgarth George Parros 3
Westgarth George Parros 3
Clifford Jamal Mayers 3
Clifford Roman Polack 3
Clifford Theo Peckham 3
Clifford Brian Sutherby 2
Westgarth Jody Shelley 2
Simmonds Mark Fistric 2
Clifford Ryan Reaves 2
Clifford Zenon Konopka 2
Westgarth Zenon Konopka 2
Simmonds Andrew Alberts 1
Westgarth Cam Janssen 1
Smyth Chris Campoli 1
Westgarth David Koci 1
Clifford Douglas Murray 1
Simmonds Francis Boullion 1
Greene James Neal 1
Westgarth Paul Bissonnette 1
Clifford Aaron Voros 0
Westgarth D.J. King 0
Westgarth John Scott 0
Westgarth John Scott 0
Clifford Kyle Chipchura 0
Simmonds Ryan Craig 0
Clifford Sheldon Brookbank 0
Clifford Tyson Strachan 0


And here are the tallies for Kings player, showing fights against players who scored more than 5 goals (">5"), and 0-5. 

 

>5

0-5

TOT

Clifford

2

16

18

Westgarth

3

12

15

Simmonds

1

5

6

Richardson

2

1

3

Greene

1

1

2

Sturm

1

0

1

Mitchell

1

0

1

Drewiske

1

0

1

Williams

1

0

1

Smyth

0

1

1

 

13

36

49


To me, this argues against carrying a 0-3 goals/season knucklehead on your roster, and in favor of dressing 2-to-4 middleweights and a handful of other players who will drop the gloves if they need to. Jake Muzzin, Nicolas Deslauriers, Tyler Toffoli and Brayden Schenn have all been known to drop the gloves in juniors, and, while I wouldn't expect that to carry over to the NHL, the attitude does. Are Clifford, Simmonds, Brown, Greene, Johnson, Doughty and Mitchell enough to carry the toughness burden? 

There were only 13 fights all year against players who scored more than 5 goals. Of those, 3 involved Westgarth. Is that worth a roster spot? 
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