The argument against enforcers

Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.

The 2014-15 season began without enforcers such as Jay Rosehill, George Parros, Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr and Kevin Westgarth on NHL rosters. Pundits such as Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and Mike Milbury of NBC Sports have recently argued in favor of finally removing this role from hockey.

On the other hand, a recent story by Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times featured a passionate defense of the continued use of enforcers by Daniel Carcillo of the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. Does it still make sense for NHL teams to have an enforcer in the lineup?

No, it does not. This is admittedly an old topic that has been debated for years, but hockey analytics can provide a fresh take. For example, a handful of statistical approaches can challenge three commonly held myths about enforcers:

1. Enforcers protect teammates from dirty hits and injuries.
2. Fighting can cause a positive swing in momentum.
3. Enforcers can create space for the superstars to score.

None of these are actually true.