Growing up watching hockey in Boston you understood early on what an NHL enforcer was. It wasn’t ‘when will the Bruins enforcer step up?’ It was, ‘which Bruins enforcer will step up?’
If you can play, the fact that you can fight shouldn’t take away from the fact that you can play. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Enforcer
Times have changed and “goon” hockey has tailed off. These days holding a roster spot for a one-dimensional enforcer doesn’t make sense for a competing club. In reality, the “Mike Tyson-on-skates” type players I watched as a kid would have a hard time finding full-time NHL jobs today.
Which is why today’s enforcer has to be more like Ryan Reaves, a hybrid of equal parts power forward and sheriff. Being tough isn’t good enough anymore. Teams expect “heavies” to forecheck, create traffic, add points, and knock opponents on their ass.
None of us really love it. We do it because we’re good at it. You work on the other part of the game, because that’s what will keep you around. You work twice, three times as hard on being a better hockey player every single day so you can contribute. -Thornton
I had a chance to catch up with longtime league enforcer Shawn Thornton after last week’s Florida Panthers and Golden Knights game. Thornton was one of the league’s most lethal weapons on the ice. He protected some of the league’s elite from Teemu Selanne, Patrice Bergeron, and Jaromir Jagr. In 14 NHL seasons, Thornton participated in 158 fights, including one with Reaves.
He’s arguably the toughest guy in the league, but the fact he can play the game and contribute that’s what makes him valuable. That’s where the game is nowadays. There were a lot of players that were pushed out, he was not one of them. Rightfully so. He can contribute to the game and not just for what we’re known for doing. -Thornton
Thornton stressed Reaves isn’t close to the same style of player that he was. In his playing days, a thumper wasn’t expected to be well-rounded. Today’s game requires all players to be multi-dimensional on the ice, like Reaves has been.
In my opinion, intimidation is a part of life. When you’re in an arena that’s two hundred by eighty-five with no out of bounds, it’s amplified. I think there will always be a space in hockey. Sometimes it’s a pressure cooker and a fight will be the thing that pops the top off… but there’s no more room in the league for a one-dimensional guy, and I’m actually very okay with that. -Thornton
Like Reaves, Thornton was able to get his team and fans up on their feet with one chirp, hit, or knockout. He’s beloved in Boston and is the epitome of a player that’ll never have to buy his own drink again. The retired Thornton does admit he would’ve preferred spending less time in the sin bin and more time on the box score. I bet Reaves would agree.
Doesn’t matter who you are, you’re more excited when you score a goal then you are punching someone in the head. -Thornton
After his goal in the Western Conference final, Reaves is already on Thornton’s path to free drinks for life. In fact, it will work out even better for the Golden Knight. Anytime someone asks Reaves “what are you drinking?” He’ll reply, “Training Day. 7Five Brewing.”
Reaves will be drinking for free and making money to boot. Now that is well-rounded.
For some real fun check out the Gerard Gallant vs Brad May fight on youtube!
Ken doesn’t seem to be very high on keeping Reaves around, particularly when discussing the cap. He is a fan favorite, does this help VGK win? Probably not. Has he done things at critical points in games that seems to energize the team? Yes. I didn’t like him much right after we acquired him last season, I thought he was too undisciplined and was more worried about laying hits period than hitting at the right time. This has changed. I like the way he plays. I like how he is able to chase his own soft dump ins and get possession back. He can score, he can screen goalies and win battles in the paint, he can hit at the right time to disrupt plays and cause turn overs. He can and will fight when we need him to, and sometimes it’s necessary. I like him even more if we are talking about having a more offensive third line with more ice time, I don’t care what the 4th line is doing in the offensive zone as long as the puck stays there the whole shift. I remember a shift against Dallas last week where he hit every white jersey below the goal line in one pass. The man scored the game and series winning goal in the WCF. He wants to play hockey in Vegas, let him stay!
Well said. Agree 100%
I just don’t like the cap hit. If it comes down to keeping William Karlsson long-term or moving Ryan Reaves, I don’t think it’s a terribly difficult decision.
Tom Wilson Is Better
Reaves is overrated, and his unhealthy obsession with the much better Tom Wilson is….well…unhealthy.
Let’s Go Caps!
Wilson is a better hockey player than Reaves – not even close… but he always ends up in the top ten list for dirtiest players…
What too often goes overlooked or unsaid is the fact that guys like Reaves and Carrier help soften up the opposing dmen. The opposing dmen are not as effective on shifts against other lines of the Knights after they have been worn down and bruised by the 4th line forechecking and board banging.
They are important to the team’s success. Reaves and Carrier have 16 goals, far more than Carpenter and Nosek, who have 11 combined. also, Reaves is plus 3, Nosek is minus 13
Reaves loves Vegas and fans love him. He is a disrupter and can score. He also makes others, like Wilson, think twice about putting hits on Marchessault n Karlsson.
He is VGK.
Reaves is absolute trash. He’s given more players CTE than he’s scored goals. He currently has a -8 differential and he has 850 PENALTY MINUTES but only THIRTY NINE CAREER GOALS. If you extrapolate his penalty minutes, the offensive team will have only needed a 9% power play effectiveness to make up for his goals. The average power play effectiveness is three times that. He leaves too much for his team behind to clean up.
You start your article by saying players need not to be Mike Tyson on skates but as a former boxer thats literally exactly what Reaves is. He’s not versatile and he’s going to get traded for the fourth time in five years.
As what was mentioned before, we are a better team having a Reaves/Carrier one two punch to soften up the other team. I hope they’re both around for at least a couple more years.