There’s one stat about the Nashville Predators that no one saw coming this year.
It’s not their number of wins, which as of Tuesday’s 1-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks, totals 42. It’s not Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene scoring nearly 40 goals apiece. It’s not Roman Josi’s near 100-point point season, nor is it Tanner Jeannot pushing to break the Preds’ rookie goals record.
It’s the number of fighting majors they take every night.
Mark Borowiecki’s fight in the first period against Jeffrey Viel last night was the Preds’ 55th fighting major this season. No other team has more than 34 fighting majors.
Nashville has twice as many fighting majors as 25 other teams in the NHL.
When asked if he thought the Preds would be leading in this category at the beginning of the year, John Hynes was clear in his response.
“No, not necessarily,” Hynes said. “I think it’s one of those things that has organically happened within the team. When you do have that many majors, I think you have guys on your team that that’s certainly part of their repertoire as a player. I think the way we’ve played throughout the year, sometimes that causes that. It is something that guys on our team, they feel comfortable doing, it’s part of who they are as a player.
Mark Borowiecki and Tanner Jeannot are the main contributors to this phenomenon; Jeannot leads the league with 13 fights, Borowiecki is right behind him with 11 fights. But there’s other players as well, guys like Yakov Trenin and Michael McCarron, that are holding up their end of the bargain.
And while fighting has been eschewed in the NHL in recent years, mostly for its recklessness and distracting nature from the game itself, John Hynes thinks fighting is important to structure of his team.
“I think it’s also a core fabric of our team,” Hynes added. “When guys do that, it’s probably one of the most selfless acts in the game. Probably that and blocking a shot. The way you are putting yourself in harms way for the good of the team or to change momentum. But we have a lot of guys like that that either get into physical confrontation or a lot of guys that are willing to block shots. That brings a group tight together. Good on those guys for being able to do that night in and night out.”
Look, fighting is not really a part of hockey anymore. The statistics show that most teams are not engaging in fights nearly as much as they used to. The number of fights in the NHL has been dropping steadily according to HockeyFights.com: since 2008-09, the number of fights per game has decreased from 0.60 to 0.19 year over year.
This year the Nashville Predators are trying to reverse that trend.
Preds change NHL’s fighting trend
The Preds’ total fighting majors this year already eclipses the totals of any team in the NHL in the last ten years. You have to go back to 2011-12, eleven seasons ago, to find similar fighting numbers. That year the Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, and Blue Jackets all finished with 55 or more fighting majors.
Since then, the league calmed down somewhat and the slow decline in fights continued.
But this year? The Predators are looking to change all that.
Here’s a chart that shows team fighting major totals by season since 2012-13. The Preds… uh, stand out among the group.
Simply put, no team in the last ten years has fought as much as the Nashville Predators this season. They are dropping the gloves in nearly every game. Sometimes multiple times per game, or even multiple times per period.
John Hynes seems to think this is all part of the fabric of the team and there’s something to that. When the team traded for Mark Borowiecki in 2020, they knew they were adding a physical force to their lineup. Same thing when they traded for Jeremy Lauzon a few weeks ago. For what it’s worth, I think Tanner Jeannot is the biggest surprise this season. He’s been an emergent, dominant force on the ice every single game. His skills with the puck speak for themselves and he’s been a source of aggravation for many opposing teams this season.
Here's a 37 second Tanner Jeannot thirst vid for the people: pic.twitter.com/Y4hI9YBJuw— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) April 10, 2022
By acquiring so many willing fighters, and employing them in that role so frequently, the Nashville Predators have built their team with certain elements. As Hynes said, when those elements are on the ice and trying to create a certain identity for the team, sometimes the result is fighting majors. The mere presence of those guys in the lineup creates an atmosphere on the ice, for opposing players and other Preds players.
Consider that while Borowiecki and Jeannot are leading the way in fist fights, Mikael Granlund had his first career fight last December. Ryan Johansen had his first fight in four years and the 9th of his career. Luke Kunin, who had a grand total of three fights in his NHL career prior to this season, has seven this year.
The core fabric argument from Hynes really starts to make sense when you consider that the physically intimidating nature of the team runs throughout the lineup, even among the team’s most unexpected players.
We have yet to see Juuse Saros chuck knuckles, but at this point, would anyone be surprised?
Debate rages on about whether this excess of fighting is a good thing. Or to put it another way, will this lead to any wins in the playoffs? Is it reckless to carry your team into the playoffs knowing you will certainly spend some time in the penalty box? Surely this will be their downfall… right?
I will say this: the fighting will most likely subside at least a bit in the playoffs. There’s too much at stake.
But with the amount of fighting going on with this Nashville Predators team thus far, that doesn’t mean it will disappear. Mark Borowiecki is probably going to drop the gloves with an opponent in a playoff game. Tanner Jeannot probably will too.
Will it make a difference in the final score?
I guess the opposing team will just have to f*** around and find out.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —