If you hadn't heard, this offseason Vityaz of the KHL proceeded to stock up on AHL goons. Among the players signed were former Bridgeport players Kip Brennan and Jeremy Yablonski. While both players are considered limited talent wise, Brennan was a former 4th round pick who played 60 games in stints with 4 different NHL teams. In the minors he has shown the occasional offensive ability and had 21 points in 31 games in the CHL last season.
Yablonski though is the type of player that people pretend Trevor Gillies is. His best ever AHL season saw him net 3 goals and 10 assists in 76 games. In his 8 seasons in the AHL he has 283 career games. Nearly half of those games came in a 2 year stint with Binghamton in which he played 76 and 64 games. Taking away those two seasons he averages 23 games a season, just a quarter of all AHL games. Outside of his 13 point season he only has 13 total points in all other AHL games.
When it's all said and done, Jeremy Yablonski is not a hockey player. He's a boxer on skates. His most recent jumping of a player came with the game out of reach for Vityaz and 44 seconds left in the game. He proceeds to ignore refs and appears to even try starting something with the other teams goalie. Finally the KHL has reacted and suspended Yablonski for the rest of the season. This is after he racked up 113 PIM in 8 games. For comparison's sake last season only saw 34 players over 113 PIM in the NHL, with Gillies having the least amount of games played at 39.
Without a job, it wouldn't be hard to believe that Yablonski might try heading back to North America. While Yablonski is popular and attracts a certain following, it's time for the AHL to put it's foot down. The AHL should join in with the KHL to suspend Yablonski for the remainder of the season and any possible playoff games. If the AHL is supposed to be the highest minor league, comparable to baseball's AAA, then it can't let Yablonski return. There's some differences between AAA and MLB, but you don't have guys starting fights and you don't have players who absolutely can't cut it in the majors.
It's not just about the reputation of the AHL. The AHL is supposed to be preparing players for the NHL. It's only a matter of time until Yablonski injuries a promising prospect, and then what? The guy is obviously among the loosest cannons around professional hockey. If he wants to make a living fighting, let him go do MMA or Box. If a team wants to pick him up because he's a popular fighter, let it be any of the lower leagues.
There's no reason to ban fighting from the NHL. If you take on fighting in the AHL, it will start to dry up in the NHL. If the AHL bans Yablonski for at least the season, it's taking a step in the right direction. If NHL teams can't stash their goons on AHL teams when they don't need them, or if they don't have goons on AHL teams to call up, it will help to stem their use.