The enforcer is a dying breed in the NHL, but an important one. This gritty player not only eats nails for breakfast, he spits them out at you and then proceeds to ruin your life. They protect their teammates and get under the other team’s skin. Then once they get under their skin, they bloody it. They drop the gloves as if it’s their job, because it is. They may not see eight assists a season or even two goals, but they’re expected to do the dirty work.
It may start as a hit or two, maybe a jab, maybe something is said about the opponent’s mother, but it eventually leads to a fight. The ability to follow through with the fight is unique to the enforcer. Any player, in any role, in any position can be annoying and antagonize, but it’s the enforcer who makes it his duty. This is all beneficial to the team when done right. This boil of emotion from the opponent makes them sloppy and distracted, giving the enforcer’s teammates a chance to make a play. Or, if the enforcer’s team is frustrated, he can choose to release all of that on some kid’s face.
Because of all the physicality, this isn’t a job for the faint of heart and injuries are inevitable. This is the major reason for the decline in the role. The enforcer is not as popular as it was, say, in the 70s. That doesn’t mean, however, they’re undervalued. Oh, They get paid. The enforcer can make big bucks because he can throw a solid punch, even now. In fact, Here are your 15 highest paid enforcers for the 2015-16 NHL season.
*Criteria: These players each fought at least 8 times during the 2014-15 season, as a means to only include relevant enforcers. All fight figures are taken from HockeyFights.com and all salary figures are taken from Spotrac.
15 Mark Borowiecki, Ottawa Senators - $1,100,000
Though he isn't incredibly well-known, Mark Borowiecki fought thirteen times for the Sens last year. He’s also only 26 and signed with the Senators throughout the 2017-18 season. Last season, he played the most NHL games in his career and produced a solid 11 points to go with the fights. For a defenceman, he definitely could take his career any number of ways and continue to be a solid enforcer if he so chooses. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next few years, as he could be a solid keep for the Senators or a steal for another team needing the spirit.
14 Ryan Reaves, St. Louis Blues - $1,125,000
Ryan Reaves is a right winger from Winnipeg. Reaching 6’1” and 224 lbs, he, according to HockeyFights.com, won six of the eight fights he had in the 2014-15 season, eight out of ten for 2013-14, and four of seven in 2012-13. This beast played 81 games for the Blues this past season and tallied 12 points from six goals and six assists. He’s tough on the ice, but off the ice, he’s even stronger. He went through tragic losses of three of his close friends early on in his career and has a tattoo to commemorate them on his forearm.
"They're really good friends and really close to the family. Guys who were lost too early. It's a tough situation, but it makes me stronger thinking about them." Reaves said in an interview for ESPN. I’d say watch out for him on ice.
13 Chris Thorburn, Winnipeg Jets - $1,200,000
Chris Thorburn was fighting for the Atlanta Thrashers to the bitter end and he’s now doing the same with the Jets. Never fighting less than seven fights per season, the 32 year old has posted 105 points for the Thrashers/Jets and has a very consistent career. When you think of a valuable veteran presence for the locker room, a player like Thorburn instantly comes to mind. His enforcer role combined with his loyalty are underrated, but very profitable traits that any team should lust over. His contract is up at the end of the 2016-17 season. There are a lot of teams that could use a guy like Thorburn and the Jets would be dumb to let this one walk away
12 Cody McLeod, Colorado Avalanche - $1,333,333
This left winger is the definition of a “Fiery Red Head”. This past season, he had the most fights in the NHL with 19. The season before that he had 12 and back in 2012-13, he only played 48 games for the Avs (lockout year), but still totaled seven fights. So, this guy is never afraid to drop the gloves and is probably a little impulsive. Even with all that face bashing, he still manages to round up anywhere between 11-20 points a season. He’s been with the Avalanche since 2007 and the reason’s obvious. He’s got their back- Every. Single. Time. This Assistant Captain will be on contract through the 2017-18 season and it’d be nice to see him defend Colorado until retirement.
11 Tanner Glass, New York Rangers - $1,450,000
Tanner Glass has been on plenty of different teams, but he’s also enforced for each of them. This past season, playing with the Rangers, he got into nine fights and produced six points. Those type of numbers are consistent for him, except for one season back in 2009-10. During that season, he fought 15 times, some of which were probably not necessary. He didn’t fight as much after that because his coach at the time, Alain Vigneault, coached his team to turn the other cheek, something that any smart hockey player needs to know how to do. Luckily, that skill is something he’s kept with him and used in this past postseason against Pittsburgh.
10 Kyle Clifford, Los Angeles Kings - $1,600,000
This guy fought nine times and put up 15 points for the Kings for 2014-15. He also won the Stanley Cup with them twice, even assisting on the Stanley Cup clinching goal in game 5 by Alec Martinez. His abilities kept him actively playing on the team for the past five years and got the Kings to extend him to another five this past February. Most Kings fans are happy, as they love his great work ethic and attitude. This is a winger that is great for depth and knocking out a few teeth.
9 Jared Boll, Columbus Blue Jackets - $1,700,000
From Charlotte, NC, we have Jared Boll, an enforcer for sure. He’s never posted more than 14 points, but in 2007-08 he had 27 NHL fights. In 2014-15, he toned it down to a quiet 15 fight season, but he won about nine of them (the rest were draws). He’s definitely got experience under his belt, and he’s fought and earned his current pay. His contract will be up at the end of the 2016-17 season though and hhe could be a great gritty pickup for a team needing backup *cough Pittsburgh cough*.
8 Steve Downie, Arizona Coyotes - $1,750,000
Just picked up by the Coyotes, Steve Downie gets to go to yet another team for yet another one-year deal. This enforcer fought eight times last season and even though he doesn’t fight as often as other enforcers, when he does, there is a reason. I’d like to think he’s a quality over quantity kind of player. Downie definitely knows how to get in people's faces and ruffle their feathers. Most seasons he barely reaches 20 points, but he can put a little bit more when required. Last year, he put up 28 with the Penguins and he once scored 46 points for the Lightning.
7 Matt Hendricks, Edmonton Oilers - $1,850,000
This older forward produced 16 points last season after struggling a bit the two years before and he also dropped his gloves eight times last season. The Oilers acquired him for Devan Dubnyk from the Predators in 2014 and his point scoring slump seemed to be just when he was being switched around to different teams, while his fighting record seemed to be consistent overall. At this point, he has achieved veteran status, which could, and should, be a great help for the Oilers development.
6 Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators - $1,900,000
Chris Neil is a 36 year old classic enforcer who only played 38 games last year, but still fought eight times. The year before that, he played 76 games and had 15 fights. He’s been doing it since 2001 for the Senators and he’s put his time in, and mastered his craft. The enforcer poster child has an intimidating looking face, teeth missing, and almost always a cut or bruise somewhere. Unless you are a Senators fan, you hate this guy and unless you are insane, you wouldn’t ever start any crap with him. Ever.
5 T4. Patrick Maroon, Anaheim Ducks - $2,000,000
Patrick Maroon fought eight times last season and 13 times the season before that, which was his first full season with the Ducks. He definitely brings more to the table than just grunt work, as he's scored 29 and 34 points in his first two seasons, which is very useful. Like other players, he’s in a position where he can go different ways with his career. He’s only 27 and he could really pick point production to focus on, which means he might not be on an updated version of this list in a few years. ,Or of course, he could embrace his current enforcer role and be a valuable player that adds insane depth to any team.
4 T4. Antoine Roussel - Dallas Stars - $2,000,000
Also getting paid two million dollars per year is Antoine Roussel. Roussel, however, fought 11 times last season and still managed to put up 25 points. The season before that, he fought 10 times and put up 29 points. He’s two years younger than Maroon, though, and has had more of a prominent history of fighting in the AHL and QMJHL. Of the two, Antoine is more like an enforcer and he will most likely continue to be one throughout his career. Oh and did I mention he’s French? Not like French-Canadian. He was born in Roubaix, France. I would tell a joke about him surrendering, but I don’t want to get beat up.
3 Brandon Prust, Vancouver Canucks - $2,500,000
Brandon Prust had 16 fights last season and one postseason fight for the Canadiens against Tampa Bay. Prust has never fought under 10 times a season and while he doesn’t bring amazing point production to the table, he has the heart of a great enforcer. He’s an emotional player and he knows it. It’s not rare for him to battle in the heat of the moment, on or off ice. Earlier this year, he ripped on a referee during an interview and threw his glove at the Lightning bench after losing a game in the postseason. Later on, he apologized and admitted, “I’m an emotional player. … I’m in the NHL basically because of my emotions. Usually I use it to the best of my advantage, but on Sunday, I didn’t.” Some teams can really utilize this type of passion and heart, like Vancouver. This offseason, the Canucks acquired him in exchange for Zack Kassian. He will now be joining the second highest paid enforcer...
2 Derek Dorsett, Vancouver Canucks - $2,650,000
...Derek Dorsett. I’m not entirely sure why the Canucks need two amazing enforcers, but they have them. Dorsett fought 17 times the past season and put up 25 points, a great combination. He also has the history of being an enforcer, not necessarily a point king. This guy is 28, so it’s hard to say how the rest of his career will go, but there is one thing for sure - he will fight. If the points keep flowing, this guy should probably be in our number one spot. It’s up to him to practice and take that spot he probably deserves even now...
1 Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks - $3,250,000
Mr. Clayton will be the highest paid enforcer in the league next year. He, like Borowiecki, is another defenseman, which is almost definitely the reason he gets paid as much as he does. This 30 year old fought eight times last season, won about three of them and only posted eight points. On paper, he doesn’t look like much, especially because his season ended in a -2 last year. He easily could be considered another overrated and overpaid player, but like everyone on this list, he’ll always rise to the occasion. When starting and finishing a tussle becomes necessary, he’s there and that’s what makes him, and any other enforcer, special.