Archive

Penguins Predictions: How often will Jamie Oleksiak drop the gloves? | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins Predictions: How often will Jamie Oleksiak drop the gloves?

Jonathan Bombulie

Editor’s note: Beat writer Jonathan Bombulie will make a series of Penguins predictions leading up to the start of training camp Sept. 14.

THE QUESTION

How many fighting majors will Jamie Oleksiak record this season?

MULTIPLE CHOICE

A. Less than the seven he had last year

When the average number of fights per game in the NHL jumped from 0.28 in 2015-16 to 0.30 in 2016-17, it looked like the long downward trend in frequency of fisticuffs had finally reached rock bottom. Nope. Not so fast. The league hit a new low of 0.22 per game last season. Only three players – Florida’s Micheal Haley (22), Cody McLeod (13) of Nashville and the New York Rangers and Washington’s Tom Wilson (13) – had fight totals in double digits, and Oleksiak is nowhere near as pugnacious as that trio. It’s very possible Oleksiak will fight less because everyone is fighting less. Also, a player in Oleksiak’s shoes will probably fight more when he’s trying to impress a new team than when he’s grown more comfortable with his role.

B. Right around the seven he had last year

As long as the league doesn’t ban fighting entirely, hockey is a belligerent game, as coach Mike Sullivan likes to say. As long as teams continue to employ players like Wilson, incidents will occur every so often that make fights practically inevitable. If those events happen about once a month – not an unreasonable estimate – Oleksiak will come pretty close to reprising the seven fights he had last season.

C. More than the seven he had last year

First and foremost, Wilson is without a doubt owed a receipt for his hit on Zach Aston-Reese in last year’s playoffs. That’s one fighting major on the tote board before a single hit is thrown in anger this season. Beyond that, Oleksiak has shown, in his time with the Penguins, a well-developed sense for knowing when circumstances call for a fight. When a game with the Boston Bruins was starting to get out of control, Oleksiak engaged in a fight with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara even if he didn’t really want to. He challenged Wilson to a fight as soon as he could after the Aston-Reese hit. Oleksiak also seems to have a good sense of what the Flyers rivalry means. Two of his fights last season were against Philadelphia’s Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas. If Oleksiak errs on the side of dropping them here and there, seven fights could turn into 12 pretty easily.

THE PREDICTION

B. Right around the seven he had last year

On one hand, Oleksiak doesn’t have the showmanship gene that Ryan Reaves had. He’s not going to fight just for the spectacle of it or to prove he is a superior fighter to his opponent. On the other hand, Oleksiak is very aware of the fact that when push comes to shove, the 6-7 defenseman with 14 NHL fights to his credit is going to be the one who has to handle business. Average those two competing characteristics out and seven scraps sounds about right.

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.


104096webgtrpensmain206041318
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Penguins��� Jamie Oleksiak checks Flyers’ Michael Raffl during their second game of the Stanley Cup Playoff inside of PPG Paints Arena on April 13, 2018.The Penguins’ Jamie Oleksiak checks Flyers’ Michael Raffl during their second game of the Stanley Cup Playoff inside of PPG Paints Arena on April 13, 2018.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.