Love it or hate it, fighting is still an important part of the NHL, especially in the Atlantic Division.
Here's a look at each team and who on their roster is most likely to drop the gloves on a regular basis during the 2009-10 season.
New York Rangers
This summer the Rangers made it obvious that they do not intend to be pushed around by adding one of (if not the most) feared heavyweights in the NHL, Donald Brashear. During the past few seasons Colton Orr (who signed in Toronto this summer) has been the Rangers' enforcer. This year Orr will be replaced by 37-year old Donald Brashear who few will argue is one of the top fighters to ever step onto an NHL rink. Out of all of the enforcers in the Atlantic Division, Brashear is clearly the top dog.
Aaron Voros who spent the majority of last season in the press box once John Tortorella took over the team is trying to land a spot on the Rangers fourth line. So far he has had a solid camp and has looked good playing on a line with Brashear and Boyle. Voros' best asset is throwing his body around on the forecheck. He is always willing (which makes it hard not to like him), but he has made a habit of getting pummeled (think back to the Cam Janssen fight from last season). Needs to pick his spots better.
Not a heavyweight, but Sean Avery is a true agitator and sometimes that results in Avery backing up what he says. He has improved his all around game, so he fights less than he once did, but it's certainly still a part of Avery's game. He has developed a mini-rivalry with most of the league's other middleweights - but look for his battles to continue most notably with Philadelphia's Mike Richards and David Clarkson of the Devils.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils invited Andrew Peters to training camp on a try out basis. The invitation is most likely a result of seeing that the teams that they play six times a year were not getting any less physical. The Devils lost Mike Rupp this summer to Pittsburgh via free agency.
There are no guarantees that Peters will be offered a contract, but it's likely that Lou Lamoriello will sign the former Buffalo Sabres enforcer to a one year deal. Peters was drafted in 1998 and is certainly the size of a heavyweight (6'4, 250lbs). But, he's gotten lots of criticism in recent years for being too defensive and basically trying to just hug opponents when he fights.
Pierre-Luc Leblond will also be vying for a spot on the Devils fourth line. Leblond is known for dropping the gloves and has a history of fighting players such as Brashear and Riley Cote. If he impresses Lamoriello enough then it's possible that instead of Peters that he'll be Rupp's replacement. Although he is a decent fighter, it's questionable how successful he would be taking on Brashear, Godard and the rest of the heavyweights on a regular basis.
Another Devil known for dropping his gloves on a regular basis in the past is David Clarkson. However, in a recent interview Clarkson said that he was going to pick his spots more so than he has in the past. One can only assume that with the loss of goal scoring from last season (Gionta, Madden and an injured Elias) that the Devils will be asking Clarkson to increase his offensive output from last season (17 goals). In order to do that, he'll need to spend more time on the ice and less time in the penalty box. But, it's safe to say that anytime Sean Avery is in town that Clarkson will continue to pick that spot.
Perhaps a better question than who for the Flyers will be fighting on a regular basis is who won't fight on a regular basis? A look at the Flyers lineup is a reminder that this is the team known as the "Broad Street Bullies."
Riley Cote is the Flyers heavyweight and likes to fight, as evidenced by his 59 fights over the past two NHL seasons. Pound for pound he is probably one of the strongest and toughest players in the league, but he often ends up on the losing side in fights against the upper-echelon fighters (Orr, Brashear, Godard & Belak) of the NHL.
Aaron Asham, Dan Carcillo and Ian Laperriere are middleweights who are all known to fight frequently. Carcillo was acquired via a trade from Phoenix last season and Laperriere was signed as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Chances are if you are playing the Flyers and want to fight, you'll find a willing dance partner on pretty much any given shift.
Surprisingly this summer the Penguins went out and signed unrestricted free agent Mike Rupp. Last season, Eric Godard was their resident tough guy and he is still on the team. The only assumption that can be made is that the Penguins wanted someone who could not only fight but can also play a regular shift. There's no doubt that Mike Rupp is a better all around player than Eric Godard. In fact, there were rumors circulating this summer that the Penguins were shopping Eric Godard. But, that could possibly just be fans assuming that there wasn't room on the roster for both Godard and Rupp.
It is possible that Rupp will play regularly on the fourth line and Godard will only play in games against the more physical teams of the league - such as the Flyers, Leafs and Ducks.
New York Islanders
Going into the season the Islanders are still looking to see who is going to protect their young up and coming stars such as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Last season that job fell into the hands of Tim Jackman who certainly has size but not the hands of a top fighter. This summer there are other players such as Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz, Michael Haley and Jeremy Reich playing for a roster spot.
Honestly, with the Islanders having anointed "John Tavares" the next great thing in Long Island, it's quite surprising and disappointing that they haven't invested some money in a top heavyweight to protect their assets.