If one were to have left a bread loaf out since the beginning of the Devils' season, the bread today would symbolize how stale the Devils have been all year. They lack creativity, aggressiveness, and most of all, physicality. Ever since the Devils sent down Leblond, it seems like they are allowing themselves to be punched in the mouth because no one steps up for fallen teammates. Though Clarkson leads the team with six fighting majors as of December 11 according to hockeyfights.com, Clarkson is not a true fighter. He has the ability to play on the Devils 2nd line and should not be getting beat up every night.
Currently, the Devils, in the 30 team NHL, have a total of 18 fights, good for a tie with Ottawa for 14th. Last year, the Devils finished 18th in the NHL in fighting majors. In 2008-2009, the Devils finished 8th. In 2007-2008, the Devils finished 15th.
One could argue that fighting doesn't matter to Devils teams in the past. The Devils have been successful in the past with fighting "moderately", and this is a valid point. However, rarely does anyone consider when fights occur in a game. This year, of the Devils fights, 7 of 18 have come in the 3rd period. In past years, though the Devils did not fight well above the norm compared to other teams in the NHL, they did fight earlier. For instance, of the Devils 45 fighting majors last year, the Devils were involved in only 7 fights in the 3rd period. The year before that, 2008-2009, the Devils fought 57 times and dropped the gloves only 11 times in the 3rd. The year before that, 2007-2008, the Devils were involved in 46 fights and 10 of these came in the final period of play.
Because the Devils have been "losing" games mostly in the first and second period, I think that the Devils should consider fighting earlier in games. Early, timely fights motivate teams to continue to battle and give much needed momentum boosts. We all remember the 5-0 Devils win against the Capitals this year. It seems like a fluke game, the Devils dominated the Caps in every aspect, but what is forgotten about that game is the fight that the Capitals Matt Hendricks instigated behind the play against Colin White. These two fought valiantly, and the Devils went on, after leading all ready, to continue their romping of the Caps.
THE DEVILS, IN THEIR NINE GAMES IN WHICH THEY HAVE FOUGHT IN THE FIRST PERIOD, HAVE 5 WINS COMPARED TO 4 LOSSES IN 2010. THIS COMPARES TO 3 WINS AND 15 LOSSES THEY HAVE WHEN THEY DO NOT DROP THE GLOVES IN THE FIRST. IN 2009-2010. THE DEVILS WERE 19-15 IN GAMES IN WHICH THEY FOUGHT ANY TIME, AND WON THE FIRST 12 OF 13 GAMES IN WHICH THEY FOUGHT. OF THESE FIRST 13 GAMES, THE DEVILS WERE 10-0 WHEN THEY FOUGHT IN THE FIRST!!! THE DEVILS WERE 15-6 WHEN THEY FOUGHT IN THE FIRST AND 4-9 WHEN THEY DID NOT FOR ALL OF LAST YEAR!!!
I read a book called The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL, which examines fighting in hockey from every aspect, and think that it is a good read for any hockey fan and enlightens one of the less glorified aspects of a vital part of our sport. Though the Broad Street Bullies nickname will never be topped, the Mulberry Street Bullies need to start showing up! The Devils obviously need to change up their gameplanning, whether it be through a coaching change, trade or different drills. However, before any of this happens, I truly believe that we should pull a "Flyers" and drop the gloves more, and earlier.