Toughness Preview 2005-06

hockeyfights.com content team
Oct 7, 2005

NHL hockey has returned. After an entire season wiped out due to the lockout, fans are returning to the teams they love. Those teams are loaded with new faces and those new faces are prepared to take on new opponents. Forget taking a guess at rankings for the moment, it's time to settle in and just see who is playing where. Transaction lists for two summers can be a blur, so here's your hockeyfights.com toughness preview, summarizing where your favorite gritty players are playing now and what to expect from your favorite team.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

Todd Fedoruk gets the chance to step up and be a number one after being traded from Philadelphia. Forever in the shadow of Donald Brashear with the Flyers, Fedoruk should relish the opportunity afforded him in California and will have more ice time as he attempts to cement a place in the top 10. Fedoruk will receive support from Kip Brennan, although the former LA winger will likely be in and out of the line-up. Trevor Gillies has also landed in Anaheim but it is unlikely he'll see much, if any, NHL ice. Another more then adequate addition to the lineup is Travis Moen as the Ducks have added muscle to support a good crop of young players.
Additions: Trevor Gillies, Kip Brennan, Todd Fedoruk, Travis Moen
Subtractions: Garrett Burnett

Atlanta Thrashers

The 2005-06 season is the dawn of a new era for the Atlanta Thrashers with Dany Heatley shipped to Ottawa and star forward Ilya Kovalchuk still unsigned. But toughness really shouldn't be an issue for the Thrashers this term with enforcers Francis Lessard and Eric Boulton both making the roster. Whether both dress consistently remains to be seen. Kip Brennan was moved to Anaheim but Garnet Exelby will lend valuable support from the blueline and Greg de Vries, Scott Mellanby, Shane Hnidy and Ron Petrovicky bring an element of feistiness. Bobby Holik and Andy Sutton add even more size to a big Atlanta team who will be exciting to watch. Rookie Braydon Coburn is no stranger to dropping the gloves either, although cracking the line-up will be his major objective.
Additions: Eric Boulton, Scott Mellanby, Shane Hnidy, Braydon Coburn
Subtractions: Kip Brennan

Boston Bruins

Colton Orr made a name for himself in Providence last year and used the pre-season to make an impact and win a place on the Bruins Roster. He will be expected to carry most of the Bruins load but he will have some decent support from a collection of guys who will drop the gloves every now and then without being regular fighters. Joe Thornton is the big-time offensive lynchpin for Boston but he will step up when a message needs to be sent and will stand up for himself when liberties are taken. Dave Scatchard, Jiri Slegr, Travis Green, Hal Gill and Brad Isbister all bring an element of physical play with them and will fight when needed. Nick Boynton remains unsigned and as well as being a top-pair defenceman is no slouch with his fists, so the Bruins faithful will hope a deal with him can be made sooner rather than later.
Additions: Colton Orr, Dave Scatchard, Brad Isbister
Subtractions: Doug Doull, Sean O'Donnell, Martin Lapointe

Buffalo Sabres

With the departure of Eric Boulton to the Atlanta Thrashers, the pugilistic burden weighs heavy on one man's shoulders -- Andrew Peters. After a stellar 2003-04 rookie campaign in which Peters amassed an amazing 23 fighting majors in 42 games played, Peters looks to regain that form, and again challenge for the league lead in fighting majors. Peters' job won't be easy, but to back him up the Sabres have a small, but effective crop of physical forwards. Adam Mair is one of those individuals, and is currently one of the top middleweights in the league. Mair is constantly in the opposing players' faces, and always willing for a quick scrap. Supplementing Peters and Mair is Paul Gaustad. With 192 penalty minutes in Rochester last season, he should add a level of nastiness to Buffalo's game that they sorely lack.
Additions: Paul Gaustad
Subtractions: Eric Boulton

Calgary Flames

The Flames look poised to build off their Stanley Cup run in 03-04 with a roster that is a model of skill and toughness. Calgary has anticipated the new-NHL by signing a host of rugged players and fighters that can skate and contribute to their team offensively. Chris Simon takes over for Krzysztof Oliwa as the team's heavyweight and looks to build off his surprising rebound year. Darren McCarty and Jason Wiemer round out an imposing set of forwards, led by none other than Jarome Iginla who showed new levels of aggressiveness in the 03-04 Stanley Cup drive. Defensively, Robyn Regehr, Andrew Ference, and Steve Montador are all capable of dropping the gloves as well. Calgary promises to be a fun team to watch this year in every aspect of the game
Additions: Darren McCarty, Jason Wiemer, Byron Ritchie, Dion Phaneuf
Subtractions: Krzysztof Oliwa, Mike Commodore, Chris Clark, Denis Gauthier

Carolina Hurricanes

Jesse Boulerice will once again bear the brunt of the pugilistic responsibility for the Canes. However, he will have little support and more pressure may be placed on Mike Commodore to step up to the plate which is not what Carolina wants one of their premier defensemen doing. But after that their really isn't much else in the toughness department just a couple of in-your-face players in Erik Cole and Cory Stillman, who will stand up occasionally if needed.
Additions: Mike Commodore
Subtractions: Craig Adams, Bob Boughner

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago is one of few teams who have much of their primary toughness on the blueline. Jim Vandermeer and the well-traveled Todd Simpson bring the bulk of toughness with the Blackhawks who seriously lack muscle up front with the exception of Matt Barnaby. Barnaby will throw down to entertain and liven his team up but is also going to be outmatched by the big boys. Martin Lapointe adds physical play up front, but the Blackhawks aren't going to strike any degree of fear into anyone. The physical element Chicago lost with the departure of Ryan VandenBussche and Travis Moen may well come back to haunt them. Shawn Thornton could have added some size and intimidation upfront for Chicago but was assigned to the AHL.
Additions: Matt Barnaby, Todd Simpson, Martin Lapointe
Subtractions: Ryan VandenBussche, Travis Moen, Scott Nichol, Jason Strudwick

Colorado Avalanche

The new economics of the NHL hit the Avalanche hard, dismantling a Stanley Cup caliber team. The rest of the NHL may also be hitting the Avalanche hard all year long without much reprisal, as the toughness of the team also has taken a hit. The team made a public relations blunder in signing hated enforcer Brad May, who should not be handling full-time heavyweight duties alone anymore. His supporting cast includes aging defensmen Bob Boughner, punching bag Dan Hinote, injury-prone Ian Laperriere, and inexperienced Cody McCormick. It seems like there is not enough fighting ability to scare many teams, let alone exact revenge on Vancouver for Bertuzzi's crippling hit on Steve Moore.
Additions: Brad May, Ian Laperriere
Subtractions: Peter Worrell, Jim Cummins, Matt Barnaby

Columbus Blue Jackets

Brandon Sugden appears to have lost the battle to be the resident big brother in Columbus. The top brass have decided to retain slugger Jody Shelley and consequently sent Sugden to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. Sugden no doubt will see some time with the big club but he will have to bide his time in the AHL. Luke Richardson and Adam Foote bring some muscle from the back and even though Richardson's best fighting days are behind him he won't hesitate in stepping up for a team-mate. Rugged Tyler Wright and Duvie Westcott bring some further grit to the Jackets. 2005 first-rounder Gilbert Brule has won a place on the roster and played a hard-nosed style in the WHL, though whether he takes that to the next level as a rookie is doubtful.
Additions: Adam Foote, Gilbert Brule
Subtractions: None

Dallas Stars

Garrett Burnett has been brought in by Dallas for one thing and it doesn't take a genius to work out what that is. The former Anaheim tough guy became surplus to requirements in California as the Ducks loaded up on tough guys. However, Burnett found a new home in Texas and, when in the lineup, will be expected to play big brother. John Erskine and Steve Ott remain to lend adequate support to Burnett when the shaky player is scratched from the lineup. Brenden Morrow and Bill Guerin also lends his feistiness to the Stars as the new NHL starts to show the toll its taking on the tough guys.
Additions: Garrett Burnett
Subtractions: Aaron Downey

Detroit Red Wings

Long time Wing Darren McCarty has left hockey town and, to the dismay of many Detroit fans, has not been replaced. The Wings missed out on the chance to recruit some muscle when St Louis heavy Reed Low was allowed to clear waivers and end up in Peoria. Veteran power forward Brendan Shanahan will be thrust into the fighting frontline more than he would like at this stage of his career but he has no support. Jiri Fischer will bring some help from the blueline but he is no fighter by any stretch of the imagination. In the minors, Darryl Bootland and Ryan Barnes are little more than middleweights and Wings fans are crying out for a legit tough guy, but the front office has failed to deliver.
Additions: None
Subtractions: Darren McCarty

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers are another team that did well for themselves in the free agent signing frenzy, though the team has several question marks. As far as toughness, the one-time heavyweight champion Georges Laraque begins his 7th season in Edmonton and faces a tough situation. He has been criticized for inactivity but is clearly being paid for more than fighting at over $1 million a year. After a disappointing 03-04 he also will try to re-establish himself as a possible heavyweight champion, off to a good start with a brutal beating of Brantt Myhres in pre-season. Elsewhere, the Oilers have no real fighters but several rough players such as Ethan Moreau, Todd Harvey, Jason Smith and Chris Pronger.
Additions: Todd Harvey, Chris Pronger
Subtractions: Scott Ferguson

Florida Panthers

The arrival of Eric Cairns in Florida will instantly make every Panther play bigger, safe in the knowledge they have one of the league's elite heavyweights looking out for them. Aside from Cairns, all the Panthers have is veteran winger Gary Roberts, who will step up for a team-mate should the need arise. Sean Hill has arrived from Carolina and will add a more physical presence on the blueline, but him dropping his gloves is a rarity. The brunt of the work will be left to Cairns especially with the loss of the willing Darcy Hordichuk.
Additions: Eric Cairns, Sean Hill
Subtractions: Darcy Hordichuk, Lyle Odelein, Byron Ritchie

Los Angeles Kings

The decision to assign Ryan Flinn to the AHL's Manchester Monarchs leaves veteran Ken Belanger as the Kings' primary muscle. He will be supported by Jeff Cowan and George Parros. Sean Avery will be his usual agitating self with the occasional fight thrown in and Jeremy Roenick is no stranger to the fight game.
Additions: George Parros
Subtractions: None

Minnesota Wild

The toughness department on this team was thrown into flux with Matt Johnson's announcement that he will miss 05-06 recovering from shoulder surgery and that he does not want to be an enforcer anymore. The Wild aimed to replace this top 5 fighter with journeyman Andrei Nazarov. Amazingly, the once oafish Derek Boogaard worked so tirelessly at his hockey game that the Wild were forced to give this 6'7" 270 pound AHL heavyweight a spot on the roster. The two will likely battle for playing time until one is chosen. Elsewhere, rookie Kyle Wanvig should provide some spark and some fights, while several tough defensemen will provide additional muscle. These include Willie Mitchell, Scott Ferguson, and heavyweight Alex Henry who will serve as captain for the month of October.
Additions: Derek Boogaard, Andrei Nazarov, Scott Ferguson
Subtractions: Matt Johnson, Jason Wiemer

Montreal Canadiens

Following the departure of Darren Langdon, Raitis Ivanans has been given the opportunity to stake his claim as the Canadiens' primary enforcer. The giant Latvian won the battle with veteran Peter Vandermeer for the role with the club and will have his work cut out with little support. The Canadiens' toughness cupboard is bare with Craig Rivet past his best but he will be expected to give Ivanans a helping hand in protection of a young Canadiens team. Rugged blueliners Sheldon Souray, Mike Komisarek and Francis Bouillon will go occasionally but there is little muscle in Quebec this year.
Additions: Raitis Ivanans
Subtractions: Darren Langdon, Stephane Quintal

Nashville Predators

Nashville fans are in for another good season in the fight game with the arrival of Darcy Hordichuk. Hordichuk has been drafted in to take up the slack left by the departure of veteran tough guy Jim McKenzie and Nashville fans won't be disappointed as Hordichuk is one of the most entertaining fighters in the game. The Preds are a very feisty team and won't be pushed around by anyone as Jamie Allison and Jeremy Stevenson lend support to Hordichuk. Agitator Jordin Tootoo will get under the opposition's skin on a regular basis and add a few fighting majors to boot. He will be supported in the role by Scott Nichol, Scott Walker and Scott Hartnell.
Additions: Darcy Hordichuk, Scott Nichol
Subtractions: Jim McKenzie

New Jersey Devils

The acquisitions of Krzysztof Oliwa and Darren Langdon makes New Jersey tougher than NHL fans are used to even though it is seems unlikely both will dress at the same time. The retirement of Scott Stevens and departure of Scott Niedermayer leaves a big gap on the blueline, where Colin White will be expected to step up. But outside of Oliwa and Langdon the Devils lack real toughness with only Sean Brown and rugged winger Grant Marshall likely to add to that. Cam Janssen had an active season with the AHL's Albany River Rats and will be waiting in the wings for any opportunity to show what he can do at a higher level.
Additions: Krzysztof Oliwa, Darren Langdon
Subtractions: Scott Stevens, Turner Stevenson

New York Islanders

The Islanders have re-tooled their team for the 2005-06 season, replacing grit with skill in an attempt to build a team around the "new" NHL. Former captain Michael Peca was shipped off to Edmonton for the speedy Michael York. Free agency saw Dave Scatchard and top heavyweight Eric Cairns leave the Island. With Cairns gone, Eric Godard will be expected to take on opponent's top tough guys. Arron Asham, one of the league's top middleweights, missed the entire preseason due to a rib injury. After Godard and Asham the current Isles roster is a bit thin in terms of toughness.
Additions: None
Subtractions: Eric Cairns, Dave Scatchard

New York Rangers

After failing miserably in slapping together a team full of high-priced veterans, GM Glen Sather has opted to rebuild the team with a posse of Czech players to satisfy star forward Jaromir Jagr and a selection of young players. In doing so, fighting ability and toughness in general have been largely left off the roster. The often suspended defensemen Dale Purinton may not return to the team, leaving newly acquired Jason Strudwick to be the sole fighter when he isn't scratched from the lineup. Rookie Ryan Hollweg will hit anything that moves when he gets in a few games, but will lose all of his fights. Though the toughness department looks very grim now, Peter Worrell is lurking in the minors and could very well be patrolling Garden ice after getting in shape in Hartford.
Additions: Jason Strudwick, Ryan Hollweg
Subtractions: Dan LaCouture, Garth Murray

Ottawa Senators

Brian McGrattan, arguably the top dog in the AHL last year, has been rewarded for an impression pugilistic pre-season campaign with a place on Ottawa's opening-day roster. McGrattan fought in every game as he battled to secure a place with the big club and will undoubtedly be Ottawa's go to guy to start the season. Chris Neil will back him up in a role he should be more comfortable in, as the club's #2 fighter. Zdeno Chara brings some toughness on the blueline but that is where it ends for Ottawa with Shane Hnidy and Todd Simpson moving on. That means McGrattan's elevation from the minors is even more crucial to protect a small, skillful team.
Additions: Brian McGrattan
Subtractions: Rob Ray, Shane Hnidy, Todd Simpson

Philadelphia Flyers

Even though the Flyers traded Todd Fedoruk away, they still have arguably the toughest guy in 'The Show' in Donald Brashear. Brashear may be heavily criticized for his style and at times lack of activity but his effectiveness cannot be brought into question. He has been at the top of the rankings for a number of years and it doesn't look that is ready to change yet after a dominating pre-season. Brashear gives extra space to all his team-mates on the ice and will be given support by Turner Stevenson, who arrived from New Jersey. Keith Primeau also brings an immense physical presence to the table while on the blueline Derian Hatcher will keep opposition forwards honest.
Additions: Derian Hatcher, Turner Stevenson
Subtractions: Todd Fedoruk

Phoenix Coyotes

Most interest on the Coyotes will centre on the NHL coaching debut of Wayne Gretzky but that is something that will only cloud over a severe lack of toughness for the desert dogs. Doug Doull, Chris McAllister and Brad Ference were all sent to San Antonio of the AHL, which leaves the pugilistic cupboard in Arizona incredibly bare. Cale Hulse and Sean O'Donnell will be expected to carry a large part of the load for what is a very weak Phoenix team.
Additions: Sean O'Donnell
Subtractions: Andrei Nazarov

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins had a busy off-season. They've gotten rid of one of the top middleweights in Matt Bradley, along with Dan Focht, and Steve McKenna. They've replaced these players with what is a more experienced and probably tougher group. Veteran Ryan Vandenbussche was signed before the lock-out and spent last season in the AHL, where he had one of the most memorable fights of the 04-05 season with Dennis Bonvie. The Penguins also picked up Andre Roy who has some skill to go along with his toughness. However its unknown if he can keep his temper under control, as he has already been suspended for the first 2 games of the NHL season. Veteran D-man Lyle Odelein was also added to the Pens. Odelein isn't as tough as he once was but he'll still drop the gloves and play a solid physical game on a Pens' blue line that isn't very physical. Expect Ryan Malone, Mark Recchi, and Brooks Orpik to have a few fighting majors, but it'll be up to Roy and Vandenbussche to carry the load for this team.
Additions: Ryan Vandenbussche, Andre Roy, Lyle Odelein
Subtractions: Matt Bradley, Steve McKenna

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks will be relying on "The Sheriff" Scott Parker to provide them with their protection. Parker came into the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche on the back of a huge reputation from the AHL but has yet to really live up to his potential. San Jose fans will be hoping this is the year he finally does. Parker possesses a huge right hand but lacks consistency. Brad Stuart and Rob Davison bring an element of toughness from the blueline while Ryane Clowe has kept his place with the big club and will look to make a name for himself while he has the chance. Should he fail, waiting in the wings in the minors will be Jonathan Tremblay, who will be eager for a chance to impress, though his lack of hockey skills will hold him back. Jim Fahey and Mark Smith will answer the bell if the need arises.
Additions: Ryane Clowe
Subtractions: None

St. Louis Blues

The Blues have made a big-time downgrade in the toughness stakes as Chris Pronger was traded and Reed Low sent to the AHL. Pronger's salary created a problem for St Louis and he was flipped to Edmonton for Eric Brewer, who brings size but not the same level of intimidation as Pronger. But even more of a surprise than that was the decision to send Low to Peoria. Low has been the Blues' primary enforcer for the last few years but lost his spot on the roster to Aaron Downey. The new rules brought into the NHL may have had an impact on that as Downey's primary role is as an agitator who will fight less frequently than Low. Barret Jackman carries the toughness from the back and will hope to pick up from where he left off when injured in his rookie season. Matt Walker and Bryce Salvador also add size and a presence to the Blues team.
Additions: Aaron Downey
Subtractions: Reed Low, Chris Pronger

Tampa Bay Lightning

With Andre Roy fleeing for pastures new with the task of protecting the phenom Sidney Crosby, the task of primary enforcer on the Lightning has fallen to Chris Dingman. And that does not bode well. Tampa Bay has a distinct lack of toughness and Dingman is not the sort of guy who strikes fear into opponents out there on the ice. Rob DiMaio is the best of a thin supporting cast that is supplemented only by Cory Sarich and, to a lesser extent, blueliners Darryl Sydor, Nolan Pratt and Pavel Kubina. Both may be expected to step up if things get ugly on such a weak team.
Additions: Rob DiMaio
Subtractions: Andre Roy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Coach Pat Quinn has placed his confidence in the defensive ability of utility enforcer Wade Belak. Wade will finally be a regular in the defense core of the Blue and White after beating out highly-touted prospects Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall. Tie Domi's services were a must and he was rewarded with a substantial contract. Domi, along with Chad Kilger, will be playing on a line with Eric Lindros and it will be their job to keep the Big E healthy. Darcy Tucker will be asked to use his hands for scoring more so than fighting but Tucker will still be counted on to stick up for his teammates. The Leafs also dipped into the free agent market and signed defenseman Brad Brown to a 2-way contract. Brown will start the year in the AHL but will see some time with the big club once the injury bug hits. After making a name for himself last season, Nathan Perrott will be used sparingly. He and Clarke Wilm lost roster spots to the Leafs youth movement but will be called in if the kids can't perform.
Additions: Brad Brown, Eric Lindros
Subtractions: Gary Roberts, Bryan Marchment, Owen Nolan

Vancouver Canucks

Having returned their core group of players, including the Bertuzzi-Morrison-Naslund line, the Canucks are ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. They will, however, first have to survive the rough and tumble Northwest division for 82 games. Brad May departed to the now arch-enemy Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman/Left Wing Wade Brookbank will take over as heavyweight, though his limited ability will keep him from being a regular. More may be needed on a team with super-pest Jarko Ruutu and Public Enemy #1 Todd Bertuzzi likely to draw plenty of attention. Also capable of dropping the mitts are defensemen Bryan Allen and Ed Jovanovski and rookie winger Tyler Bouck. Whether this is enough muscle for a marked team will remain to be seen.
Additions: Tyler Bouck
Subtractions: Brad May, Johnathan Aitken

Washington Capitals

Stephen Peat has yet another chance to resurrect his stuttering career as he is tasked with the role of primary enforcer on the Caps. Peat has blown hot and cold during his NHL career where he has bounced between the NHL and AHL. This is perhaps is final chance to make an impact in big league. He will have ample support from the underrated Brian Sutherby, who can impress when he remains in his weight class. Brendan Witt and Nolan Yonkman bring an imposing presence at the back for a Caps team who are expecting big things from Alexander Ovechkin.
Additions: Chris Clark, Nolan Yonkman
Subtractions: Jason Doig, Rick Berry, Darcy Verot

Contributers: Jamie Fitzgerald, Jason Lowery, Jon Porus, Jamie Ranney, David M Singer

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