Chuck Fletcher wasn’t kidding when he said he expects to sign newly-acquired right wing and restricted free agent Brad Staubitz to a contract. Staubitz wasn’t kidding when he said he was excited to come to Minnesota. Less than 24 hours after the Wild sent a fifth round pick to San Jose in exchange for the rugged winger, the Wild signed him to a two-year deal.
A lot has been made of this signing, and some have speculated it means the end of Derek Boogaard’s reign in Minnesota as the most feared NHL enforcer. Fletcher went on record as saying this doesn’t preclude the Wild from signing the Boogeyman, but it seems likely that Fletcher will wait until after the free agency period begins on July 1 before making that decision.
A couple points, because Boogaard is indeed a fan favorite (and one of my favorites) due to his seeming invincibility in fights, and the intimidation factor he possesses.
Boogey has found less dance partners because A) Very few players want to challenge him, and B) very few heavyweights still exist in the NHL. To go a step further, look at the rosters of the playoff teams, and in particular, the conference finalists (Chicago, San Jose, Philadelphia and Montreal).
While all those teams had players that can fight, none would be termed an “enforcer” with the exception of San Jose’s Jody Shelley, who was later traded to the New York Rangers. The “tough guys” on those teams were players that can also contribute at both ends, and bring some energy and, to use Fletcher’s favorite word, “grit.” Look at Philly and a player like Daniel Carcillo, who popped in 12 goals and 10 assists to go along with 207 penalty minutes. Throw in guys like Ian Laperriere, Chris Pronger, Aaron Asham, Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell, and you have “team toughness.” I’m not suggesting that Staubitz is at Carcillo’s level…yet. But I am suggesting that he’s the same type of player, and he’s the kind of player Fletcher wants on this team. Apparently he’s seen enough of this guy to suggest he could become that type of player.
Some have suggested that an enforcer is needed in the NHL. Well, those four finalists got along okay without one, and it’s not like they didn’t have stars to protect. That’s where a guy like Staubitz fits in. While he’s not going to tangle with Wade Belak, he will stick up for his mates if someone runs Mikko Koivu from behind, or takes a jab at Niklas Backstrom after the whistle. A lot of times, these cheap shots come from a “middleweight” player (Matt Cooke, Jordin Tootoo or Carcillo). Those guys won’t face Boogaard, but they won’t be able to back away from Staubitz.
I’ve also seen some comments saying, “Why would the Wild do this? They need scoring!” Well, it’s safe to say Staubitz wasn’t brought in to shoulder the scoring load for this team. Let’s remember that the Draft is still three days away, and free agency is just over a week away. That’s plenty of time for Fletcher to swing more deals. I’ll eat my keyboard if this is the last deal that Fletcher makes.