It’s been nearly a week since the AHL dropped the new alignment and rule changes for the 2016-17 season. My general round-up from reader comments seems divided on the changes to fighting, unanimous on the hilarity of teams that still will run a lesser schedule than the rest of the league, and some confusion in the uniform swap that will occur after the league’s Christmas break. In other words it was a mixed bag. But, fighting was the big one that most kept flip flopping on. That being the case I figured I would throw down my two cents.
~Fighting the Fighting~
Fighting being further restricted or punishable by the league doesn’t bother me all that much. Whenever I see fights off of a face-off it’s amusing but it’s also groan inducing. If there is a pretext to the cause for that fight needing to be done? I get it – but it also probably should have been addressed and policed before that point.
Speaking of policing the game, guess what, players ability to police the game still exists. Fights are still going to happen and they’ll now manifest mostly out of post-whistle activity or during the middle of the action. It’s with that where I feel this wrinkle added towards fighting majors wasn’t aimed so much at lessening fighting as an act within the game as much as it was enhancing the speed of the game. Puck drops take long enough now-a-days as it is. If a fight was needed due to an earlier action by a team or a player it should have been taken into account as it happened on the ice. If you’re looking to start a fight off the draw to “gain momentum” or “get the crowd into it” you should probably put your brain power in a place better suited to winning the game by playing it rather than having a fight for the sake of a fight. As much as I enjoy a good hockey fight, as much as I’ve fallen in love with the sport of MMA, or grew up with boxing… nothing is more out of place in a hockey game than a fight off the draw that has no true context. Let the game carry on, deal with personal flare ups as they happen if needed, and get the crowd “into it” by having the team perhaps being into it.
For fight hungry fans upset with the AHL’s slant against fighting majors, as well as suspensions, note that in the Dean Evason Era of the Milwaukee Admirals the team has had: 44 fights (2012-13 season), 62 fights (2013-14 season), 66 fights (2014-15 season), and 53 fights (2015-16 season. In the grand scheme of things how many of those fights were really started off the draw? It has to be a single digit percentile out of all the fights you would have seen in per season and per the recent Evason Era of the Admirals.
Now, about that suspension ruling. The AHL will now be suspending players who record up to ten fighting majors in a season automatically for one-game for all subsequent fights up until they record their thirteenth fighting major. When they hit that one-game suspension threshold of thirteen fighting majors the AHL imposes an automatic two-game suspension once players record their fourteenth fighting major and they stay at a two-game suspension for every fighting major earned from there on out.
Who accumulated ten fights or more in a season that would have fallen into the new automatic suspension rule during this recent time scope of the Evason Era? Here’s the short list:
2012-13 season: 1 player, Michael Latta (16 fights) with the next closest being Mike Liambas (8 fights).
2013-14 season: 2 players, Liambas (25 fights) and Mathieu Tousignant (14 fights) with the next closest being Anthony Bitetto and Scott Ford (5 fights).
2014-15 season: 2 players, Rich Clune (17 fights) and Liambas (16 fights) with the next closest being Jonathan Diaby (8 fights).
2015-16 season: 3 players, Cody Bass (14 fights), Jamie Devane (10 fights), and Adam Payerl (10 fights) with the next closest being Jimmy Oligny (6 fights).
I suppose that should mean keeping an eye out for Liambas this season, yeah? If he takes up any sort of go-to enforcer role with the team, as was a similar case in that 2013-14 season, he’ll be pushing towards suspension time. That season in particular would have meant being suspended for 25 games due to fighting 25 times in a season… probably something that couldn’t have happened due to the latter portion of the hefty suspensions shoving past the playing season… but you get the point.
What will become interesting in regards to this new rule by the AHL that might become a point of contention is the act of targeting. Remember the regular season finale in Rockford when a very clever Liambas noticed Oligny during a post-whistle scrum and grappled with him until it stirred into a fighting major? Liambas did that knowing Oligny already had a fighting major to his name and the second one in-game meant an ejection against Oligny to leave a very young practically debuting pair of defensemen in Jack Dougherty and Aaron Irving exposed for the rest of the night. Who is to say, knowing how divisional rivalries work, that teams shouldn’t just have lesser fighting major inflicted talents go out and to be match-up or targeting players on the opposite line nearing the suspension threshold?
This will be the one area of this fighting rule change that will become highly interesting just past the midway point in the season when players are starting to edge towards that suspension boundary. Is there going to be a certain review panel from the AHL that will look into altercations where it was more tactically setup to sucker a player into a fighting major or, at the end of the day, is it just gamesmanship because it still takes a second dance partner to have a fight? One thing that’s for certain, given he was exemplified on the last two paragraphs for two separate circumstances, having Liambas back with the Admirals this season just became all the more interesting.
Having read this do you have any new takeaways in regards to the AHL’s stance towards fighting that will take place during the 2016-17 season? Is this a good move or an unnecessary change? How much will the loss of certain players due to suspensions gained by the new fighting major rules impact teams?
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2 thoughts on “Ramblings, Vol. 45”
Years ago I used to enjoy the fighting, then enjoyed it less as more information came to light about CTE and the eventual fate of so many enforcers. After reading the Derek Boogaard book, I don’t think I’ll ever look at it the same way again.
I still enjoy a little post-whistle scrum etc, but my days of being anything but horrified watching two guys punch each other in the head are over. I’m fine with the staged fights at puck drop going away.
(Last one of those I saw, incidentally, was Liambas, at a game down in Rockford vs LE.)
In general, there isn’t that much fighting in the AHL. Just certain players and certain teams seem to fight more than the rest of the league. Cough, cough, Ted Dent, your team!