The New Jersey Devils have sustained numerous injuries to their players already this season. The list of injured players includes newly acquired forward Ryane Clowe, who the Devils brought in to help replace some of the goal scoring being lost in the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk from the team.
However, very early in this season Clowe dropped his gloves and fought for his new teammates when he felt they were being picked on by the opposing team. It was at that point where it looked like Clowe could take on the enforcer type role on the team, which is an unusual role for a guy that is also being counted on to score goals, but the Devils are known for being a bit unorthodox.
Then, Clowe sustained a head injury, and has been on the injured reserve list since just after the game on October 13th against the Winnipeg Jets. Clowe has a history of concussions in his career, and as an aside, I do not like the implication that some Devils fans have made that he is a “soft player”.
A potential head injury or concussion is a very serious injury, which can have lasting effects as we have seen in hockey with Sidney Crosby, and in professional football with several current players and former players suffering from devastating concussion related health issues.
If Ryane Clowe has sustained another concussion, then he has to take all the necessary steps to work with the Devils medical staff and the NHL concussion protocols to be given clearance to resume playing. In the end, this is about the long term health of a player, and a head injury is a very serious injury.
An Enforcer Needed?
In a recent game against the Philadelphia Flyers there was a sequence where New Jersey defenseman Eric Gelinas was hit and went down to the ice, and as he was getting up one of the Philadelphia players hit him again. I saw that situation and some other situations in recent games, and I wondered if the opposition was doing that because the Devils do not have an enforcer? Do the Devils need a player in that enforcer role?
Now, for those who are reading this article and are unfamiliar with the term, an enforcer is a player that is kept on the roster that excels at intimidating the other team. The enforcer is not usually the best skater and is usually not a capable scorer, he is a typical tough guy who will defend his teammates from attacks and cheap shots by the opposing team. The enforcer will get into fights and will go after the opposing players who hit or try to injure a player on his team.
Having a player who is a typical enforcer can cause some opposing teams to think twice about going after the best players on the team they are playing against. In the case of the Flyers, they viewed the Devils as a team without an enforcer type player, so they went after New Jersey more readily than they would another opponent.
The enforcer type player could be a critical addition to the Devils because this season they need to be able to roll out four strong lines every night to compete in games. This total team effort necessitates their players staying as healthy as possible, and not losing a key player to injury through a hit by the enforcer on an opposing team.
Filling that Role
A cursory look at the Devils current roster, and you will not find a player that can adequately fill the role of enforcer. It is still early in the season and one might emerge from this current group of players, but the beat reporters and most of the fans doubt that will happen.
Who do you think could be an enforcer on the Devils roster? Should the Devils try to acquire a player to fit that role, or sign a player to fit that role to prevent the opposition from potentially targeting their best players?
I look forward to your feedback on what could be an important role for this New Jersey team to figure out as the season continues.