Since Donald Brashear parted company with the team in 2009, we’ve been hearing that the Caps need an enforcer. Apparently to sate these voices, GMGM picked up Dwayne “D.J.” King during the offseason. Before Tuesday, all we really knew of the guy is that he does not provide a blockbuster interview. But during Tuesday’s game with the Bruins, we saw D.J.’s expertise in action. Without any clear provocation, King and Shawn Thornton sparred at center ice.
After his first fight in Washington, it’s hard to imagine many teams will want to take many liberties against the Capitals this season when King has dressed for a game.
This is the good-as-gospel rationale about enforcers we keep hearing: by virtue of having one on the roster, our guys won’t get smacked around quite so much. At the risk of echoing a lovely piece by Stephen Pepper on Japers’ Rink last year, I just don’t see it.
Think about it rationally. Much like Warren G and Nate Dogg, an enforcer must regulate. In order to regulate, however, there must be something- someone- to regulate. That means someone on the other team must be acting naughty- getting up in Sasha’s grill, snowing Varlamov, or calling Jeff Schultz unkind names. That’s when, with 16 in the clip and one in the hole, D.J. King hops over the boards and makes some bodies turn cold.
But that’s just a reaction. In this story, Ovechkin’s noggin has already merged with the dashers, and there’s already a Mike Green-shaped stain on the glass. King’s only job at that point is retribution. King having suited up didn’t stop that from happening, but at least he’s here to spill a pint of the other guy’s blood.
The argument of enforcer-as-deterrent is unfounded. Enforcers don’t dissuade the other team from thuggery, they perpetuate it. They escalate it. Because like Brashear before him, King’s paycheck is implicitly tied to the violence he can deliver. If the fight doesn’t come to him, he’ll go to it– sort of like he did with Thornton. Who’s the thug in that story?
D.J. King averaged just 5:29 on the ice during his time with the Blues. Compared with the 09-10 Caps, he’d rank at the very bottom of ice time. And in addition to his admittedly awesome fighting prowess, King doesn’t really have the hallmarks of a well rounded player. He’s not like my hero, Chris Simon. King isn’t going to lead the team in goals like Simon did in 99-00, he’s just going to lead the team in penalty minutes (like Simon also did 99-00).
Maybe I’m just being grumpy. Please tell me if I am. I just didn’t see the D.J. King-sized hole on the Caps roster. And maybe D.J. will do something terrific in the coming months that will put me as deep in the tank for him as I am for Matt Bradley†. But was the team’s chemistry really beckoning for a pugilist? And does having that pugilist now do anything substantive to improve the team’s chances?
Here’s how you answer those questions: name a game that Caps would have won last year if D.J. King was on the team then.
Couldn’t think of any? Me neither. Get off my lawn.
† Here’s our latest bet: Matt Bradley will have more GWGs than total goals this season. I took the affirmative, Ian took the negative. Winner owes loser an order of pub fries.