Though the trends are suggesting the designated enforcer may be on its last legs in the NHL, that hasn't stopped teams from showing interest in forward and Twitter sensation Paul Bissonnette, better known as @BizNasty2point0. Unsigned by the Arizona Coyotes, Bissonnette is being pursued by the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild according to Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona. The Caps are considered to be the favorite among the suitors, Morgan also reported.
The 29-year-old forward has never played more than 48 games in a single season, averaging about 33 appearances a year over his six-year NHL career. He has amassed 340 penalty minutes over that span.
Oddly enough, Bissonnette is coming off a career year. He had eight points in 2013-14 in 39 contests despite averaging under five minutes per game. Also, despite a painfully small sample size, Bissonnette wasn't getting killed possession wise with a Corsi for percentage of 52.6. That's more of something of note than a statistic to actually lean on in an evaluation of Bissonnette. It's interesting nonetheless. Many of his peers don't fare that well.
So why, in this age when teams are going away from designated enforcers, would there be a multiple-team market for a player that averages a few minutes per night?
Well, for the Capitals in particular, there actually may be a need for someone like Bissonnette. There's actually a player Bissonnette can protect on the Caps, and I'm not talking about stars Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom. I'm thinking more about forward Tom Wilson.
Wilson, the Capitals' first-round selection at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, led the team with 151 penalty minutes as a 19-year-old. No one will argue against Wilson's toughness and the fact that he can handle himself, but he was the 16th overall selection. Surely, the Capitals expect him to do a heck of a lot more than fight having picked him that high.
According to hockeyfights.com, Wilson was involved in 14 fights last season. Only four players had more in the NHL in 2013-14. Again, this was the 19-year-old, 16th overall pick.
Should the team add Bissonnette and pick their spots with when he's inserted in the lineup, it takes a lot of pressure off of Wilson to do the team's dirty work.
Whether you think fighting should be in the game or not, it is part of the game right now. Players are going to fight. Regardless of your stance, however, it should be fairly easy to agree that a now 20-year-old whom the team utilized a highly-valuable first-round draft pick on should be focusing more on playing the game than dropping the mitts.
In his last year of junior, Wilson put up 58 points in 48 games. The potential for offense is there, but Wilson had just 10 points while playing in a minimal fourth-line role for Washington last season. Having averaged less than eight minutes per game last season, it seems more like a waste of a cheap entry-level contract year, and possibly a valuable year of development.
The rough-and-tumble nature of Wilson's game isn't something the Caps are going to want to go away completely. He was credited with 197 hits as well last season and there's still a lot of value in a physical game. There are going to be scraps that arise from that sort of play, but 14 fights is a big number for a player that could one day develop into a legitimate power-forward threat for the team.
Also, knowing the effects of blows to the head, 14 scraps a year for Wilson is putting a lot of miles on the body at a pretty young age. Anything the team can do to mitigate that is a good thing.
Though the enforcer is beginning to die out, the frequency with which Wilson fought last year is far too great a number to continue. Grabbing a guy like Bissonnette to have on the roster for Wilson to know that he doesn't have to be that guy anymore makes some amount of sense.
Of course, on the other side, the Caps could just save the money and put down an edict for Wilson to fight less next season, but any way Washington's staff thinks they can get Wilson to focus more on developing his hockey skills is a good route. He's too valuable a piece of their future to let what happened last year continue.