Whether some want to admit it or not, the role of the “enforcer” in the NHL has changed over the past few years and even the past decade. Back when some of you were toddlers most teams had a player on the roster that would play on average 5 minutes or less per game. Mostly because they weren’t trusted to do much else other than “fight”, or act as protection for a quick 30 second shift. Many of these “role” players were such a defensive liability that when games were close, never saw the ice for entire periods. The coaching staff just couldn’t risk putting a guy like Shane Churla on the ice with seven minutes left of a 3-2 game no matter how tired some players might have been.
Since the decade of 2000 began, and possibly a few years before, the role of this type of player has changed slightly. At least for some teams. While an enforcer type player is needed, many of these players actually have some talent, and can be given some extra ice time in order to show the other skills that they have. Not all of them have rocks for hands, and a few of them can actually play some defense, and score a goal or two. Krys Barch happens to be one of those players that can be trusted for more than just five quick 30 second shifts per game.
In the past for the Florida Panthers the role of tough guy has been filled by players like Paul Laus, Peter Worrell, Darcy Hordichuk, Steve MacIntyre, Nick Tarnasky,Darcy Hordichuck again, and finally last season Barch, who was acquired from the Dallas Stars in December. Barch game to the Florida Panthers from the Western Conference, which in my mind plays a tougher and a more physical game. He also has some skills that a guy like MacIntyre or Worrell didn’t have. The latter two were basically known for one of three things depending on the game, dumb penalties, fighting, and zero offensive skills. But if you like thuggery and feel you need a player that only does that, then there you go.
Some teams such as the Panthers can’t afford to have a roster spot taken up by a player whose only use is to drop the gloves or intimidate the opposition. I We just aren’t built that way, and while we do need a player that can stand up for his teammates, that player must also be able to take on fourth line shifts for at least seven to 10 minutes per night and be an effective player. It’s really in the teams best interest to have this type of player who can defend his mates, yet be able to forecheck effectively, create some energy and bag the occasional goal.
Last season Krys Barch appeared in 41 games for the Florida Panthers. He scored two goals and ahd three assists. He also had 91 penalty minutes, most of which game from five minute majors for fighting. While some of the fights were likely unncessary, I/you have to understand why he had them. He’s fighting (pardon the pun) for a spot on the roster. He wants his teammates to believe and trust in him that he’s the guy to “police” the situation if things get out of hand. He needed to make a statement to the opponents that the Florida Panthers won’t be run over any more. When he establishes this team toughness, especially in the early part of a game, the tone can be set, and the confidence level of the rest of the team can move up another notch.
Krys isn’t going to score 20 goals. Heck, he probably won’t score 10, but if he gets anywhere from five to seven, keeps the other team from bulldozzing over us, and allows players like Kris Versteeg, Flash and hopefully Jonathan Huberdeau the space to skate, he’ll be well worth keeping. We don’t need to search and look for another free agent to fill this role, and when you see some of what’s available you’d probably agree. Players like Cam Janssen, Andre Deveaux and Brad Staubitz bring little more to the table then their fists . Krys isn’t overly big, and isn’t necessarily slow, but he’s tough, snarly, and knows how to play the game. Here’s a great highlight video below that was put together by Norton Sports Management highlighting some of the “plays” of Barch last soeason with the Florida Panthers:
A player who fits this role and does it effectively with little or no risk, while being an asset to the team is extremely valuable on the fourth line. As much as I liked Stu Grimson when he was with the Blackhawks, you never were looking for him to do much other than be a policeman. Barch offers both protection, and some talent that the Panthers can use.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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