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The New York Rangers are No Longer a Fighting Team

The Rangers are no longer a bloody knuckles team that fills penalty boxes with fourth line players of suspect value... but they still have some work to do in regards to figuring what the right kind of toughness is.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Through 26 games the New York Rangers have received 7 fighting majors which ties them for 21st in the league alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers being in the bottom third in fighting majors is something that we might not have expected just a few seasons ago given the team's penchant for dropping the gloves. In fact, over the last few seasons the Rangers have steadily been going down the rankings in fighting majors compared with other NHL clubs.


Fighting Majors Through 26 Games

Team Rank at End of Season



6th in league



1st in league



t-22nd in league



t-25th in league



Currently t-21st in league

All data from

It's not surprising that the Rangers are taking less fighting majors, the entire league is taking fewer fighting majors. In addition to fights being less frequent across the board, the Rangers have been in the bottom third in the league in fighting majors the last two seasons and that is where they currently are as of today. The culture of hockey, as a whole, has been changing since the 2004-05 lockout, and with more concern than ever about the safety and health of players, fighting, especially orchestrated fighting, has been discouraged by the league. There will almost certainly always be spontaneous fights where players come to one another's aid after a dirty hit in an attempt to police the game in an imperfect way, but line brawls and goon showdowns on the ice have thankfully become much rarer than they were several years ago.

So why aren't the Rangers dropping the gloves as much as they were just a handful of seasons ago?

A big part of the Rangers straying away from the culture of being a fighting hockey club comes from their current style of play and their roster. Even with Tanner Glass, a well-known pugilist regularly on the roster, the Rangers simply don't fight very often. And really, that isn't all that surprising. The Rangers have a few guys who can and will drop the gloves in the right circumstances, but this past offseason the Blueshirts lost their two most prolific fighters over the last two seasons- Arron Asham and Derek Dorsett.



Most Recent Fight

Tanner Glass


(H) November 13th, vs. Cody McLeod

Kevin Klein


(H) November 23rd, vs. Brandon Prust

Chris Kreider


(A) October 11th, vs. Jack Skille

Mats Zuccarello


(A) October 9th, vs. T.J. Oshie

Dylan McIlrath


(H) November 3rd, vs. Ryan Reaves

All data from

The Rangers haven't had a player get in a fight since Kevin Klein took exception to Brandon Prust making contact with Henrik Lundqvist on November 23rd, which means that the Blueshirts haven't been involved in a fracas in 6 games despite twice playing the Flyers, playing the Penguins, and playing 3 stressful and intense games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Admittedly, the Rangers not getting into a fight in any of those games might have something to do with the time that Glass missed with the mumps and the fact that he sees very little ice time when he's healthy, but the fact remains that the Rangers just don't fight as much as most teams in the league do.

Last season Derek Dorsett had 10 fighting majors while he was with the Rangers, which was just 5 less fights than the rest of the roster had combined. The last time that a current Ranger reached double digits in dust ups was in the 2010-2011 season when Tanner Glass was wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey. Given the Rangers' roster and the number of five minute fighting majors that they've been credited with thus far, it is very unlikely that the Blueshirts will be leaving the bottom third of the league in tussles this season-- and that is a good thing.

I know that fighting's place and role in hockey is one of the most controversial and hotly debated topics among diehard fans, but I don't think anyone wants to see players getting hurt needlessly. No matter how you debate it, the vast majority of hockey fights are about as needless and unnecessary as it gets. Having players, no matter their cap hit or value to their team, engage in violent bare-knuckle boxing matches that feature exclusively repeated blows to the head while they stand on skates on an ice surface that has a concrete slab underneath it is a recipe for trouble. Add to that the fact that players often lose their helmets in the brief but furious assaults to each other's heads and you have a recipe for tragedy. The bottom line is that fighting doesn't win hockey games. There have been some studies that have tried to convince hockey fans otherwise, but none of them have been terribly convincing.

Which four teams currently lead the league in fighting majors? The Edmonton Oilers, the Buffalo Sabres, the San Jose Sharks, and the Anaheim Ducks. What do those teams have in common? Other than the fact that they are NHL franchises, not very much. Two of them are competitive hockey teams that are almost certainly playoff bound and the other two are already looking forward to getting their hands on Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft. To this day you'll hear players talk about a big fight changing the complexion of the game. They'll say how a fight rallied the troops or sent a message to the other team and after that everything was different. It's very difficult to quantify that and how it can change the ebb and flow of a hockey game, but we do know that we see similar results from things like big, clean hits, time outs, and game plan adjustments during intermission. Although any hit can injure someone, I'd take a game with a dozen big, clean hits over a game with a single wild bare knuckle boxing match if I had to choose which was safer for the players in the game.

For as long as I've been a Rangers fan I've been mystified and infuriated by Glen Sather's irrepressible need to sign tough guys to contracts that are in no way justifiable. Maddeningly, we saw it again last offseason with Tanner Glass just when we thought the Blueshirts might not have a scrapper after dealing Dorsett to the Canucks. The fact that fighting is slowly but surely becoming a vestigial part of the game makes a contract like Glass' all the more difficult to understand. It's not all that hard to use a late draft pick or find an undrafted free agent with a mean streak and groom them into filling the same role as Glass for a third of the price. In fact, it's not hard to make it by without having a Tanner Glass, or any other tough guy, on your roster. Because as we've seen time and again with the Rangers, those "character" guys that end up with triple digit penalty minutes at the end of the season don't do a whole lot to contribute to the team winning games because fighting doesn't win hockey games, putting pucks on net does.

I wouldn't have noticed that the Rangers have been fighting less if I didn't make a point to keep track of it. In the first two games of the season we saw both Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider get into boxing matches and, for a moment, I thought the world had gone mad, but it hadn't. We've seen enough games now to safely say that the Rangers are simply not a hockey club that will get into many fights this season. In fact, the Rangers as a whole are quite a disciplined group. The club's 258 PIMs are the 7th fewest in the league and their 9.9 PIM/G is the 13th lowest in the NHL. So how much are the Rangers fighting? I like to think that the answer to that question is, "Just enough... but perhaps still a bit too much." No matter what the reason is for the Rangers' lack of fighting, it's a trend that has become hard to ignore. It has reached the point where it is starting to become part of the team's identity that they don't fight as often as they did several seasons ago. For some of you that is awful news that makes the Rangers boring and soft, and for the rest of you that is music to your ears. To most of you it's great news not only for the Blueshirts but for the league in general.