During the Flames season opener versus the Vancouver Canucks, Erik Gudbranson of the Canucks made a big hit on Flames rookie Dillion Dube. Shortly after Travis Hamonic went after Gudbranson and the pair dropped the mitts.
The fight wasn't going too bad for Hamonic until Gudbranson connected one huge shot at the end of the fight. Hamonic left the game but did return and played the rest of the game.
At the time I didn't think much of the fight, especially when Hamoic returned to the game. I was a bit shocked when I heard the news that Hamonic had a facial fracture and was placed on the IR. Right now Hamonic is considered week-to-week and it's unclear when he will be able to return to the ice.
The whole incident bring the role of the enforcer back into the spotlight for me. Hamonic feels like he needs to stand up for his team and his teammate and as a result could end up missing a month of hockey. So Hamonic's actions, whiled intended to help the team, end up hurting the team in the long run. The Flames don't have a tough guy on their roster this season and Hamonic ends up trying to fill that role and gets himself hurt.
The game has been moving away from tough guys, big hits and fighting. Fewer teams have an enforcer on their rosters as the game tries to crack down on dangerous plays and help protect the players. The league has modified the rules of the game to help protect players and while it seems like they are taking steps in the right direction, this season has already seen multiple incidences that make me question if the changes are being effective. Max Domi's sucker punch of Aaron Ekblad, Tom Wilson's brutal hit on Oskar Sundqvist and then Travis Hamonic breaking his face defending Dillon Dube.
I was always a guy who thought teams all needed a tough guy, I even own a Georges Laroque jersey. I always said they played a role to help enforce the unwritten rules of the game. I've since moved away from that position especially with the NHL taking steps to improve player safety. Teams quit paying guys to just kick the crap out of other players but the players still feel that retribution must be made for actions taken on the ice. Thus we end up with the situation on Wednesday where Hamonic starts a fight with Gudbranson because he took a cheapshot on Dube. End result, Hamonic is out, the Flames are worse without him and the hit on Dube still happened.
It's a tough situation, the league wants the game to be safer, dirty plays are still happening and players still feel the need to enforce the unwritten rules of hockey. The game is never going to be completely safe to play but more efforts still need to be made to clean up the game.