The Buffalo Sabres recently made some interesting trade and acquisition decisions that may have been motivated by a desire to toughen up and be more like their fellow Northeast Division competition, the Boston Bruins.
In getting John Scott from the New York Rangers, this desire seems obvious. Scott doesn’t play much–he played just 35 games this season, mostly for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played before New York–but in those 35 games, he had five fights and 53 penalty minutes. He also once challenged Shawn Thornton to fight with him, claiming that he would beat him outright, like the bombastic boast of a WWE wrestler before entering the ring. That didn’t happen this season (he was with Chicago at the time and Chicago met Boston just once), but now that he’s going to be on a team where he has six chances to see Thornton, this could change.
Picking up Steve Ott and Adam Pardy from the Dallas Stars, in exchange for Derek Roy, makes these intentions even clearer. Sure, Ott plays more often than Scott. He had 39 points in 74 games with the Stars this past season. However, he also amassed 156 penalty minutes in that time as well. Pardy has recorded 157 penalty minutes in 183 total career games, so he’s not as hard-charging as Scott or Ott.
Buffalo isn’t the only Northeast team bulking up, though. The Montreal Canadiens‘ acquisition of Brandon Prust, who tied with Thornton for the lead in fighting majors (20) last season, may not have been done solely to let Prust be nearer to his loved ones.
If these in-division teams are looking for a bit of physicality, though, the Bruins are happy to match them in kind.
Consider the tension between Gregory Campbell and Ott, which dates back to 2009, when Campbell was still with the Florida Panthers. Ott charged him and earned five minutes to sit and feel shame about it, as seen here–
The tension carried over after Campbell’s trade and to the early 2011 game that began with three different fights in a span of four seconds. Campbell and Ott’s bout, which led to Campbell bleeding quite a lot onto the ice, was the first of those three fights.
Milan Lucic tangoed with Prust during a game this past March, the second of three fights in one period.
They have history, too, dating back to October 2010:
Speaking of Lucic, his collision with Ryan Miller during a November 2011 matchup inspired, in part, this push for more of a physical presence. That is not the only reason that Buffalo decided to bulk up, but it did heighten the tensions between the two teams and Buffalo’s lackluster response to something that would have wholly outraged the Bruins, if the skates were on the other feet, may have been a sign that more physicality was needed.
Remember how easily Lucic dealt with Paul Gaustad in the two teams’ next meeting post-collision?
Montreal’s generally unremarkable season, in which they (like Buffalo) missed the playoffs altogether, could have led the Habs to some soul-searching of their own. After a 2010-11 season that included that big bout-filled February game with the Bruins, and taking Boston to the brink in the first round of the playoffs, their struggles this season felt uncharacteristic; something was amiss in the Northeast.
Again, if these teams–or, for that matter, the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs–bulked up in order to try to meet or match the Bruins, they could be in for a surprise. Fourteen different Bruins had at least one fight, for a team total of 61, last season. Sure, some fight more than others, but that means a good chunk of the lineup is willing to drop the gloves if they have to, so they surely welcome the challenge.