Who's the best fighter in the league?
Craig Custance: The fact that this takes some time to figure out says a lot about today's NHL. The pure fighter has been just about eliminated from the game. Last year's All-Star MVP John Scott is a guy I would have put at the top of the list but he's now playing in a beer league in northern Michigan. How about the Nashville Predators' Cody McLeod? According to HockeyFights.com, he leads the league in fighting majors and the 6-foot-2 winger wins his share of them. His last voted loss on HockeyFights was back in December against the Toronto Maple Leafs' Matt Martin.
Joe McDonald: Fighting belongs in the game. I'm not a fan of the staged bouts, but good, clean, hard-nosed fisticuffs is part of the game's fabric. Yes, fighting is on the decline and that's also a good thing as far as preventing injuries, especially concussions. Players policing the game to protect themselves and their teammates is also important. Because the art of fighting is declining, fewer players want to engage, so this isn't a question of who's the best in the league, but more of who is willing to do it, do it right and also teach younger players the proper way to drop the gloves. The Florida Panthers' Shawn Thornton, 39, has done it for a long time and his career is near its end. He puts in the time to teach players the right way. You could also argue the Edmonton Oilers' Milan Lucic is the best in the game because he's protecting the future of the game in teammate Connor McDavid.
Pierre LeBrun: So I guess we all dropped into the Hot Tub Time Machine and went back to 1996 when this was still a relevant question. Back 20 years ago, every team still had a real tough guy or enforcer. The increasing speed of the game and emphasis on skill for all four forward lines has really chipped away dramatically at the role of the traditional enforcer. You have to be a good hockey player now to play in this league. Which is not to say there aren't guys who still don't scare the heck of out people when they drop 'em. The Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara is still feared mightily, for example, but he's also one of the great defensemen of his era.
Matthew Coller: Every year it seems we inch closer and closer to a time where fighting is extinct. That will be a day when the NHL also takes a step toward catching up with other major professional sports in North America in relevance. The more teams who play uptempo, exciting four-line hockey, the better for the overall entertainment quality of the product. Sports fans as a whole like Steph Curry and James Harden hitting 3s much more than they enjoyed Charles Oakley and Dale Davis throwing down every night. With all that said, very few players in the league would want to test the Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane. His father was a boxer and he uses boxing as a training method in the offseason. He doesn't throw down often, but when he does, he usually comes out on top. Also the fact that he's top 15 in the NHL in penalty minutes tells you a lot about where fighting has gone.
Corey Pronman: This is like asking who is the best pitcher at intentionally throwing at hitters or the best defensive linemen at taking cheap shots at quarterbacks. Fighting is against the rules of hockey and is one of the most heavily penalized offenses in the game. There should not be people who aspire to be good at it. Not to mention there is little evidence being good at it provides any value except tickling the funny bone of people who long for a time that has passed.
Scott Burnside: Asking who the best fighter is in today's NHL is like asking which disease is the best to contract or which bone is best to break. In thousands of conversations about the game over the past five or six years, I can recall none that debate this specific topic. The fact even anti-fighting rhetoric has slowed because of the high premium on skating, skill and hockey IQ is another illustration of how irrelevant fighting has become. Now what was the question again?