Not to bring up fighting twice in the same week, but I found Ray Ferarro's take as a former player (albeit non-fighter) pretty interesting.
I am not opposed to fighting's place in the league -- and beyond that, I don't know how it could ever be unwound from the league's culture even if they tried. But as I've said before, I prefer fights from players who can actually play at this level (Clark Gillies, come on down). You know, fights that naturally evolve from actual game situations, rather than fights by one-dimensional guys who are inserted into the lineup only to fight the other team's ... one-dimensional guy (admittedly, that's a grey area depending on the player's skills).
Or, as former Islander Ferarro puts it:
I'm not anti-fighting - and although I never really won a fight (Steve Thomas sure pummeled me one Saturday night) I don't love the fight that has very little purpose in the context of the game. When the heavyweights go at it, who else does it affect? You cheer for your guy, he's your teammate, you don't want him to get hurt and these guys are generally as good a person as you will run into. The fight ends and the game resumes. What's changed? More room on the bench? The heavyweight doesn't play a lot (generally under five minutes) and unless he is a good skater who can throw his weight around, he has minimal impact on the other team's skill players.
I was always way more concerned with someone who finished every check with a purpose - think Cal Clutterbuck or Brenden Morrow - than with someone who I was never on the ice against. The big boys are popular with the fans and their team, but I believe, in time, we will see more lineups that have a middleweight like Shawn Thornton or Jared Boll, than heavyweights who are more limited in their game.
Of course, fights between the "goons" (I know they hate that term, but...) are entertaining. You bet I'm standing and watching along with the rest of the crowd. But I'm always left wondering, "what's the point, exactly?" Or as Ferarro says: "The fight ends and the game resumes. What's changed? More room on the bench?"
The season-opening fight between Colton Orr and Georges Laraque was one such instance. Less than two minutes into the season's first game, exactly what "policing" need had been created? What purpose, other than "this is what we do" -- like some such job justification loop? (We're here because we fight. We're fighting because we're here.) Those fights always feel the most artificial -- though obviously they help sell tickets.
Now just as I say that, last night a fight between young Wild John Scott and veteran Duck heavyweight George Parros "swings the momentum" of a 3-0 game, where the Wild come back to win. And sure, maybe you'd rather a designated goon -- as artificial to the game as baseball's designated hitter -- take the five minute major and injury risk rather than someone you count on to score. But I don't know ... seems like any player willing to fight could "swing the momentum" with a big fight -- and the fights from guys I don't expect it from are often all the more entertaining.
But I sound like an old fart. And as with most things, the ideal is probably in the ambiguous grey area in between. I just can't help thinking that I watch this game for all of its dimensions -- the "complete player" ideal -- and having a single-purpose enforcer betrays that just as much as if you dressed a guy strictly for his shootout moves.
As always, you may shoot me in comments...