Carcillo Discusses the Decline of Enforcers in NHL

When the Chicago Blackhawks brought back forward Daniel Carcillo before the season started, the reason for his return was pretty clear: Joel Quenneville felt that the team needed an added element of toughness to go along with all of the speed and skill that the team has, and Carcillo provided it cheaply.

Of course, a lot of fans and writers were irked by the decision to bring Carcillo back. The winger had been traded away after the team won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and ended up playing with both the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings last season before signing a tryout deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer. Whether it was his at-times reckless play or his penchant for making silly mistakes, Carcillo’s return was not welcomed by all.

In response to that criticism, Carcillo opened up to the Chicago Sun-Times about what he feels he brings to the game:

“I never, ever wanted to be a guy who’d just go out there and fight. But the guys that do our job make certain guys superstars. To remove us from the game…to have guys run around and hit and agitate…what you see now is a culture of guys doing that and not backing it up.

“That’s the scary thing – not only for [tough] guys like us being pushed out, but also for superstars. Guys are going to start taking shots, and then there are no consequences.”  

This notion that Carcillo was brought on to protect players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is certainly something that the front office and coaching staff buys into, but it’s not necessarily true in all instances. Star players still get hit in bad places, like Toews was when Brooks Orpik bulldozed him with a high hit last season, and even the presence of a guy like Brandon Bollig in the lineup didn’t change that.

What’s perhaps more telling than the fact that Orpik still took a run at Toews was how the Blackhawks responded. They didn’t come out and try to fight Orpik or pulverize Sidney Crosby. Instead, they amped up their puck possession game, fired a slew of shots on the Pittsburgh net, and tried their best to tie the game up instead of getting worried about playing the revenge game.

Granted, Carcillo does bring a lot to the table outside of just using his fists. He scored a goal in Saturday’s win over the Buffalo Sabres, and he also drew a penalty by using his speed rather than his agitiation abilities, but this notion that he’s a needed deterrent simply doesn’t hold water. The Blackhawks are a team that bases their game on speed and possession, and while having a guy like Carcillo fulfills people’s notions of toughness on a team, the “toughness” he adds to the game isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

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