The New Jersey Devils and head coach Peter DeBoer drew frequent criticism for their fourth line of goons last season. The bottom line was comprised of players like Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton that essentially served no other purpose than to fight and set a physical tone. Krys Barch is that type of player for the New Jersey Devils this year.
When New Jersey went on their playoff run, they shed the dead weight that rounded out the roster in favor of more skill-driven, effort players. The fourth line could forecheck and occasionally contribute offensively, which allowed the New Jersey Devils to wear out their opponents. The resounding success of playing four skillful lines has made it difficult for a player like Krys Barch to fit with fans this year that remember the Devils as the finesse team that made the Stanley Cup Final.
Krys Barch is an enforcer to the fullest extent of the word. He doesn’t do much offensively and has just 12 goals in 320 career NHL games, but the 708 penalty minutes to his name do serve a purpose. He fights, although he doesn’t seem to fight particularly well, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates. David Clarkson says Krys Barch plays a key role in the success of the Devils, and in 16 games with the New Jersey Devils he’s already collected 39 penalty minutes.
Against the Buffalo Sabres this week, the New Jersey Devils were rattled by chippy, borderline-dirty play in one of the most poorly officiated games of the season. Clarkson dropped the gloves at the start of the game, but won his fight quickly when Steve Ott missed on a big punch, stumbled, and fell to the ice like a drunk teenager. The overtime was dominated by the Sabres as they spent two minutes on the power play when Marek Zidlicky got a penalty for getting hit and falling on top of the Sabres player that launched himself into him. After a rough game, Tyler Ennis delivered a forearm to Adam Henrique‘s jaw and the two received roughing penalties. It was an ugly game, but the Devils were caught off guard by the Sabres.
It may be a bit bold to say it, but if Krys Barch was in the lineup, perhaps the Buffalo Sabres are unable to take as many liberties as they did. Barch would be the first player to defend a guy like Adam Henrique when he takes a cheap shot at the end of the game. With the two teams meeting again later this week, Krys Barch might have to step in and set a tone that the New Jersey Devils will not be pushed around again.
I am not a fan of Krys Barch. I think he is a talentless goon that doesn’t really serve much of a purpose in terms of actual hockey play. In the playoffs this year, I hope New Jersey again rotates four talented lines of scorers just like last season. Still, I do believe that Krys Barch has a role with this New Jersey Devils team in the regular season. New Jersey can use enforcers like Barch to keep their more talented players out of harm’s way.
I had been calling for Krys Barch to stop seeing minutes on the fourth line in favor of players like Stefan Matteau or Jacob Josefson. After seeing how poorly the Devils responded to physicality in the first matchup, I hope Peter DeBoer is smart enough to let Krys Barch play against the Sabres later this week. I don’t want to see Barch fight Steve Ott – mostly because I think he’ll lose convincingly – but I would definitely like to see him go get a punk like Tyler Ennis who likes to take runs at people before a shootout without fear of repercussions.