ILWT Audition 2012: A Case for the Goon

Earlier this month, I put out the call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eleven entries. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry.

Throughout the next two weeks, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform. To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.

This eleventh and final entry comes from Writer K RaaandyMcKay, who made their submission just under the wire on July 20. This submission is also about fighters. As you may or may not know. the New Jersey Devils re-signed Cam Janssen and signed Krys Barch in this offseason. Those two, like other players like them before, are known for their fists instead of their hands. Writer K RaaandyMcKay thinks there's value in having those kind of players on the team. Please read on after the jump to see Writer K RaaandyMcKay's explanation.

In the wake of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it seemed that Devils management had finally "seen the light" in regards to the fourth line. They quickly re-signed the post-season energy trio of Gionta / Carter / Bernier... and cut the team's enforcer squad in half. (The Devils re-signed Cam Janssen to a one-year, two-way contract and placed Eric Boulton on waivers, buying out the final year of his contract. He was picked up by the Islanders.)

Half the number of goons sounded like half a dream come true to a lot of Devils fans - especially with the team just coming off it's most successful post-season run in almost a decade, with exactly zero help from either enforcer. Edit: Eric Boulton tried to keep things loose in the locker room with his sense of humor.

Which I imagine went something like this:

Henrique laces up his skates in the locker room. Boulton and Janssen sit on either side of him, wearing suits.

Boulton: Hey, Adam.

Henrique: What's up, Bolt...

Boulton: You wanna hear a joke?

Henrique: ... sure.

Boulton: What do you call a goon dressed up like a ghost?

Henrique: A ghouln...

Boulton: How did you know?

Henrique: You told me on the plane last night.

Janssen butts in.

Janssen: Hey, what do you call a fat girl in a hockey jersey?

Henrique: I gotta go score a goal. I'll see you guys after the game.

Henrique leaves.

Boulton: Thanks a lot, Cam... I was just about to ask for his autograph.

A week or so later when the Devils signed enforcer Krys Barch to a two-year deal, the annoucement left most fans shaking their heads. I remember being filled with an uncomfortable mixture of surprise, confusion and disappointment; not the cocktail I needed one day after Zach Parise left NJ for $98 mill--- I mean, his family.

But the initial goon-hangover wore off as I thought about the move a bit more.

It's incredibly easy to say the Devils don't need any enforcers on their roster after watching two months of playoff hockey. Two months in which the Devils saw a total one fight - a chess move fight that lasted all of four seconds - in 24 games. During the 2011-2012 regular season, on the other hand, the Devils saw an average of 11.4 fights per 24 games. They fought 39 times in total over the 82 game season - which was just above average for the NHL last year.

Of those 39 fights, 18 of them came at the hands of Boulton and Janssen. The remaining 21 came from David Clarkson [7], Ryan Carter [5], Mark Fraser [2], Brad Mills [2], Adam Henrique [1], Alexander Urbom [1], Tim Sestito [1], Rod Pelley [1] and Ilya Kovalchuk [1]. The last of which was hands down my favorite of the season, for just about every reason.

I cannot defend Barch getting two years - as John pointed out in his post, it's very hard to imagine he was in a position to turn down a one-year deal. But I do see a good deal of sense in the signing. The backlash from Devils fans came mainly from the Barch signing - not from the Janssen re-signing. This makes no sense to me. People seem to ignore that Barch is actually a big step up from Janssen. They've both played just over 300 games in the NHL, so it's pretty easy to compare what they can bring to the table...

Janssen is a career minus-28. He's never ended a season plus or even. Barch is a career minus-7. He's ended two seasons plus, two even and two minus. An extra few extra goals against per season is never wanted. Janssen has a career 11 points, on 3 goals and 8 assists. Barch has a career 31 points, on12 goals, 19 assists. Barch has 3 career game-winning goals. Janssen has none. When it comes to basic statistics, Barch is three times more effective than Janssen. If you want to look at their advanced statistics, Barch beats Janssen in pretty much every one of those too.

Finally, I'll point out that Janssen, with two less regular season fights to date than Barch, has over 80 more penalty minutes - which means he takes more non-fighting penalties.

I'm not saying I love the Barch signing - I don't. I'm not saying I'm overjoyed Janssen is back - I'm not. But I am saying this: Lou thinks the team needs enforcers in the regular season. I haven't been convinced he's wrong. And I definitely sleep easier knowing we have an alternative to Janssen who isn't named Eric Boulton, when the men in suits decide the team needs an enforcer in the lineup on any given day. There's at least potential for Barch meshing with and maybe even being elevated by the "real" fourth line we all fell in love with this spring.

However you feel about fighting in hockey... enforcers in hockey... or violence in the sport in general... it's apart of the game. You might hate that, you might love that. But that doesn't really matter. Until new rules are made and the climate changes, you can only hurt your team by pretending it's not the case.

With no enforcers, who does Deboer put out when Tortorella starts a game with his goon line? Would you rather see David Clarkson, coming off his first 30-goal season, taking on more fights again? With the role of the enforcer shrinking in the league, is it possible for teams to be sucessful and protect their players without an enforcer on the roster? Are there any teams you think have it figured out best? Thanks for reading...

Editor's Note: Now that you read Writer K RaaandyMcKay's thoughts on Janssen, Barch, and the Devils, I want to know what you think about it. Do you agree with Writer K RaaandyMcKay that both players carry some value to the team? Do the Devils really needed these kind of players - regardless of who they are? What do you think of the argument Writer K RaaandyMcKay presented? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer K RaaandyMcKay for the submission and thank you for reading.

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