Postgame thoughts; Enforcers are pointless and the NHL needs to crack down on goons

Bobby Bevilacqua

This article was initially written for The Setonian, Seton Hall’s student newspaper. Please check out their website HERE and their sports section HERE.


Photo courtesy of Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers.

Last night in the New York Rangers’ preseason game against the Flyers, perpetual goon Radko Gudas was at it again, this time targeting 23 year old rookie Jimmy Vesey with a blatant and deliberate hit from behind, resulting in a brawl and a game misconduct for Gudas.

The hit was extremely dangerous, driving Vesey’s head into the boards while he was in a vulnerable position. And the six-foot, 204 pound Gudas never stopped skating, hitting Vesey right in the numbers and sending him temporarily to the locker room. While Vesey turned to the boards, he was trying to play the puck and Gudas had plenty of time to avoid making contact. But he didn’t. He even adjusted his own angle to make the hit. Here’s the hit;

After that hit, Dylan McIlrath came charging up the ice and dragged Gudas out of the pile of players to specifically give him some well-deserved punches to the face. And I do like when teammates stand up for each other, so good for him. But was it really necessary?

In the grand scheme of things, all McIlrath did was negate a power play for the Rangers. He was off the ice for 17 minutes and the Rangers were down a defenseman after that. It’s a harsh way to look at a situation where one teammate stood up for another, and I do understand and respect why McIlrath went after Gudas, and I applaud him for that, but it really didn’t do anything.

Enforcers are pointless and there’s no need to have a dedicated enforcer on a hockey team. I want McIlrath to make the Rangers because he’s improved as a hockey player and a defenseman, has a much better shot and can be physical in front of the net during play. I don’t want him to dress every night so he can be a dedicated enforcer and just hit people, that’s foolish.

Tanner Glass and Dylan McIlrath were both dressed for this game and one of them was on the ice at the time, but guess what; Gudas still played dirty and made a stupid and dangerous hit. Having enforcers doesn’t “deter” anything and it won’t prevent dangerous hits.

This is not meant to blame McIlrath, but just to make a point; he was on the ice for this hit against Vesey and Matt Beleskey’s hit that broke Derek Stepan’s ribs. McIlrath is physical but his presence doesn’t deter anything. Again, that’s obviously not his fault, just saying that he can’t deter dirty plays on the ice. Nobody can.

So for anyone that argues that we need Glass because he’s tough and will increase safety for the Rangers, you’re wrong.

On top of that, fighting Gudas did absolutely nothing except lose us a power play. That fight won’t prevent him from making dangerous hits in the future because it hasn’t done anything in the past. The league has to get better at punishing these players and making sure they don’t step back on the ice.

Dirty players will be dirty regardless of who is on the ice. So there’s no need for an “enforcer” or tough guy because they do nothing to prevent these plays and there’s no reason to fight Gudas after the penalty. Let the league and referees handle it.

This isn’t the first time that Gudas has made a dirty hit that either put someone in danger or resulted in an injury. Against the Rangers last season, Gudas concussed Viktor Stalberg with a hit to the head. He was suspended three games for a hit to the head of now-Ranger Mika Zibanejad in Dec. 2015. He also did it against Bobby Farnham of the Devils last Feb and was kicked out of that game.

If I listed all of his dirty hits and cheap shots, this article would be an essay length. Last year’s issues alone could take up a few pages. Out of all of his dirty and questionable hits last season (four in the winter alone), he only got suspended once. In fact, in his entire career, which began in 2013, that is his only suspension ever.

And therein lies the problem at hand; the NHL is not doing nearly enough to hold dangerous players like Radko Gudas accountable.

Realistically, Gudas shouldn’t be in the league at all. He was ejected three times last February, has a history of countless dangerous plays and has never learned to control his physical play or learn how to hit properly. He’s said in the past that he doesn’t plan on changing his style either.

“Setting the tone a little bit is part of my game; it’s who I am,” Gudas told Sam Carchidi of last year. “The Flyers got me here for a reason, so I want to make sure that everyone knows I’m on the ice and be the best for my team that I can.”

The reason he refuses to change is because of the way the league handles everything. Time after time, dangerous hits like the one against Vesey are unpunished further than an ejection. Last year, Gudas wasn’t even penalized after his hit on Stalberg that gave him a concussion. For some reason the Department of Player safety is hesitant to hand out suspension on these kind of plays, and when they do hand them out, they’re rarely more than a few games, if that.

If the NHL seriously cares about the safety of their payers and would like to avoid potential career ending head and other injuries, the disciplinary action needs to be improved and serious, lengthy suspensions must be handed out for these kinds of hits. For repeat offenders like Gudas, the discipline needs to be even harsher.

The NFL has taken a step in the right direction this season by instituting a new rule where players that receive two unsportsmanlike penalties for aggressive conduct in the same game are ejected. It’s an attempt to cut down on that kind of behavior and eliminate that from the game.

The NHL needs to follow suit. If a player makes a dangerous hit, automatic ejection followed by a suspension. Crack down on the so-called “goons” of the league and start protecting the players.

Also, let’s admit that the Flyers are just as much at fault for all of these situations with Gudas as he is. He continually makes these dangerous plays and dirty hits, and the Flyers continue to play him continually. It’s not like he contributes a lot to the game every night because he’s not a great defenseman, so why is he always playing?

It’s time for the league to finally take hits like this serious. They cause head injuries, they end careers, and they turn the beautiful game of hockey into something barbaric. There’s always going to be physicality and that’s an important part of the sport, but dangerous and dirty hits and players need to be punished and phased out of the league.

Posted on October 4, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When I saw the headline for this article, I assumed it was going to be about Gudas being unecessary in the Flyers lineup. Instead, I cannot believe Dylan was actually labeled an “enforcer” and on top of that, criticized for standing up for Vesey. Are you kidding me? What would you had written if NO ONE had done anything after the hit? Probably referenced the Dale Rolfe fight or Girardi just standing there when Gabby got pumelled. But last night, a Ranger finally stands up for his teammate – in a preseason game no less – and still gets chastized for it?! C’mon! In a situation like this, it’s way more about whatever penalties Dylan was given. It’s called big picture time. It’s called watching ur teammates back. It’s called team bonding and building when something like this happens. DMac could’ve been given a 10 game suspension and his teammates would’ve still been proud of him and lauded him. So don’t even go there.\

    As for questioning why Dylan was dressed to begin with, please! He’s not some 3 minute goon who has no business being out there and no skills other than with his fists. He is a solid, up and coming Dman, the only physical one this team has right now, and the only Dman who actually clears the front of the net – thank you Jeff Beukeboom – and that’s without using his knuckles. Calling him a goon makes him look like some waste of roster space, which he clearly is not.

    Maybe some day, the league WILL do something about actual goons. But clearly that hasn’t happened yet. And until it does, players – not enforcers, players – like Dylan McILrath are invaluable.


    • You didn’t read closely enough. I said that I understand why Dylan fought and I’m not mad at him for fighting in this situation. I also said that I want McIlrath to make the team because he’s a good defenseman with a good shot who gets physical at the right time. I never called him a goon and the goon part was never directed at a player like him.

      I was speaking generally in the fact that for the most part, these fights do nothing to prevent anything, present or future, and force us to lose a dman for a long portion of the game. Last night was a bit different given the fact that Gudas was the hitter and Vesey was the recipient.

      Sorry you took it the wrong way but I thought I made my points clearer in the article


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