After feeling nostalgic about the past (and ultimately disappointing) season, I started browsing the Capitals league-low 20 Regular Season fights. After watching all 20 of them (which doesn't take that long at hockeyfights.com), I came to the conclusion that most commentators and fans have reached - fighting is not the Caps' forte. With the voters at "hockeyfights" attributing a meager 5 victories out of the Caps' 20 fights, I started thinking, "Do the Caps desperately need an enforcer?" and "How could GM George McPhee have been so blind to this oblivious fact?"
After all, Caps fans (including myself) have for the past season crowned Matt Bradley as the team's lovable tough-guy. However, Bradley's career-high 10 goals of this season seem too high for him to be a mindless goon like Tampa Bay's Zenon Konopka (265 PIM, 2 G) or Philly's zombie Ian Laperriere (162 PIM, 3 G) - to name the league's two leaders in fighting. With even a brief look at the two's respective pages, you can see that these guys are paid for one thing and one thing only. Even looking at Bradley's fights, you can tell that he's not up to par with the other goons, that he actually has the ability to score goals. On top of that, Bradley seems to have the unfortunate habit of bleeding - as seen in this fight against New York's Aaron Voros.
Although many fans may call Bradley out for bleeding or being sucker punched, it's important to remember his devotion to not only the club, but the Caps' franchise player and captain, Alex Ovechkin (seen in his desperate defense of the captain in Ovechkin's almost-fight with the talentless Steve Downie.)
Others may point to Capitals newbie Jason Chimera as a possible hope in filling the role of enforcer. While Chimera did tie for 3rd place in leading Caps in fights (he had 3, so did former captain Chris Clark), he also doesn't seem right to play the role as tough-guy - with his 15 Goals and 19 Assists.
To answer the question first posed, I believe the Capitals are walking on thin ice this upcoming season if George McPhee doesn't sign a guy who knows how to drop the gloves. This is not simply because I deeply love watching fighting in hockey games, but because I also deeply love watching Alex Ovechkin smoking a defender and scoring the game-winning goal. Ovechkin simply won't be able to do this if he has a concussion or another injury caused by a cheap shot. To use a completely ironic metaphor, the US would sometimes force the Soviet Union to back down by using deterrence. If the Capitals have an enforcer, he must and hopefully will deter the opposition from taking cheap shots at Ovi. And for those that argue that Ovi is a big boy and can defend himself - while that may be true, I don't want to see the day when he won't be able to. It is because of this that the Capitals must employ a bodyguard for Alex the Great... to keep him Great.