I like Don Cherry a lot, but I don't see where he's got a leg to stand on in this argument. There's almost no fighting in the playoffs, so what does it have to do with winning the Cup? Fighting serves a purpose in hockey, but there are other ways of asserting yourself, and the Wings have been doing them for years.
Would I like a Kocur on the bench, doing 7-8 minutes with the fourth-line on some nights against the knucklehead teams? You bet I would. What I would hate, and we've had a couple of them in recent years, is a guy who can't play, is supposed to be an enforcer, and rarely fights...and then he loses more than he wins. Who needs that crap?
February 21, 2012 at 1:00 am
Don Cherry's Red Wings argument is the pits
Gregg Krupa 89Comments
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader didnt back down Sunday after his hip check instigated a fight with the Sharks Ryan Clowe. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)Detroit
For the third time in six weeks, Don Cherry was at it again.
Cherry spent about half his Coach's Corner segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" Saturday talking about the Red Wings' disinclination to fight. He directed his comments at those who say the Wings are good enough to not fight, and still win.
In late January, as the Wings played the Maple Leafs in Toronto, Cherry asserted that they would not win the Stanley Cup without more fighting.
More recently, he criticized "these newspaper guys" for making assertions to the contrary.
"I'm so sick and tired of hearing about Detroit," Cherry said Saturday, renewing the attack.
He mimicked those who believe in the Wings.
"'Detroit don't fight. Look how good they are. Kenny Holland and Babcock got another way.'
"Detroit doesn't fight at all!" he bellowed. "They're not tough!"
Apparently, Cherry believes the number of fighting penalties is the measure of toughness.
"You know the number one team in the league that fights? New York Rangers," Cherry said. "And where are they?"
The Rangers have the third-most points in the NHL, two slots behind the league-leading Red Wings.
He also mentioned the Bruins, sixth in the NHL, 12 points behind the Wings.
The Rangers lead the NHL with 46 fights. The Bruins are second with 42.
I agree with much of what Cherry says, generally.
What about performance?
If Donald S. Cherry were in charge of player safety, there would be fewer concussions and other injuries in the NHL. His "code" for playing with honor is something all players should learn. And there is more.
But I strongly disagree that fighting is the measure of toughness, and that all Canadian players are tougher than all Europeans.
After Cherry's earlier pronouncement, I reported that while the Wings fight less in the past few years than previously, it does not affect their performance. They were almost always last, or nearly last, in the NHL in fighting going back to the first of four Stanley Cups they won recently (1996-97).
At that point this season, Jan. 30, the Wings had seven fights.
They fought four times in the next three games, and twice since. With 13 fights, they are tied with the Canadiens for last in the NHL, one behind the Lightning and Hurricanes and three behind the Predators, Islanders and Coyotes.
Now, toughness surely is Justin Abdelkader not backing down from bigger, more experienced fighters, as he did again Sunday, against the Sharks.
But toughness also is Abdelkader delivering the heavy hip check that led to the fight.
Toughness is Danny Cleary playing for two months on a painful knee, before finally shutting down and then trying to play again, tonight.
It is Henrik Zetterberg playing against the Predators and Sharks while receiving treatment for an apparent bad back.
It is Jimmy Howard stuffing his fractured index finger into a wrap, brace and padding, so he can play again.
Toughness is Joey MacDonald finding a spot on the Red Wings' roster, at age 32, after years of riding the boards in the AHL, and kicking around the NHL.
Fighting to win?
Cherry compounds his error by handicapping the NHL playoffs on the basis of fighting.
"It's going to be the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins in the semifinals, Detroit and Vancouver in the semifinals," he said.
"And Vancouver, you think they're not tough now? They've got (Maxim) Lapierre. They've got (Dale) Weise. They've got (Aaron) Volpatti. They've got (Byron) Bitz now," Cherry said, of Canucks who, at times, fight.
"Anyhow, they got a tough team. Boston's not going to push them around anymore.
"And that's why I say when I hear this stuff about Detroit, that's their big thing, the Europeans and that," Cherry said.
"For sure, they scout skill," said Cherry's co-host, Ron MacLean. "In fact, they say they'll take a guy's skill and play puck possession, over the others."
"What I'm saying," Cherry boomed, nonetheless, "is the three other teams? They're packed. Their guys can play.
"If you have these guys (who fight), they can play. And New York, and Boston and Vancouver are right at the top in fighting.
"You have to be tough to play this game.
"Fighting is part of this game. It always will be."
And that is something on which I completely agree with Cherry: Fighting is part of the game, and it should be.
But the Red Wings fight. The comparatively fewer times they do it will not deprive them of a Stanley Cup this season.