In recent years, you’d expect Toronto’s first fight of the year to come from someone such as Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren, David Clarkson or even Dion Phaneuf. And you’d expect that first fight to come some time within the first few games.
But much of the discussion around this year’s Leafs has been about how different the approach is. Sure, the team still isn’t winning a ton, but it’s all about the process and controlling the play, which the Leafs have been doing more often than not. The “truculent” days of the Brian Burke era are long gone, though, and the Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game as the only NHL team without a fighting major so far this season.
Who do you think would snap that streak on this team? Phaneuf? Leo Komarov perhaps?
How about…Nazem Kadri?
As Don Cherry talked about on Coach’s Corner, star players are having to fight more often these days as the “old hockey” days of the pugilist are phased out. We’ve seen Jonathan Toews drop the gloves (twice), Evgeni Malkin and more. And while Kadri isn’t a star on the level of those two, he is a star player to the Leafs, and had to be one of the least likely Toronto players to snap the team’s 31-game fighting “drought.”
Don’t for a second think this drought was a coincidence either. As Sportsnet Stats notes, Mike Babcock-coached teams have been involved in each of the five longest streaks without being issued a fighting major since 1987. Toronto’s 31-game streak includes five games from the end of last season.
According to NHL.com, Nazem Kadri is listed at 6-feet, 180 pounds, while David Backes stands 6-foot-3, 221 pounds. For a guy three inches shorter and 41 pounds lighter, Kadri was able to stand up for himself pretty well.