Calgary’s Brian McGrattan knew in the summer his Flames would be young and in need of protection. The veteran heavyweight went out and backed up the statement by sparring 11 times, his most since 2009-10. McGrattan also had new competition in Edmonton’s Luke Gazdic and Colorado’s Patrick Bordeleau. Here are THN’s picks for the best tilts of the year.
1. Brian McGrattan VS. Patrick Bordeleau
One criterion for this list was that the fights had to be even. One-sided bouts can’t truly be considered great. That limits McGrattan, one of the most proficient pugilists of his generation, but he did have a great fight against Bordeleau in November.
The Avs enforcer stood toe-to-toe with McGrattan, but in the end, the decision went to McGrattan, according to hockeyfights.com readers. It was also one of the highest-rated scraps of the season, garnering an average rating of 8.2. McGrattan has acknowledged Bordeleau as his top fighter in the NHL.
2. Luke Gazdic VS. Milan Lucic
The breakout heavyweight of the year was Edmonton’s Gazdic, who only got a shot due to an injury sustained by Steve MacIntyre. Gazdic made the most of his opportunity, taking on all the top names and usually winning (though McGrattan bested the Oilers tough guy).
In December, Gazdic had a tightly contested match with Boston’s Lucic, narrowly winning the hockeyfights.com readers poll. Nobody can match Lucic’s combination of skill and punching power in the NHL, and the spirited bout with Gazdic came in with an average rating of 7.7.
3. Antoine Roussel VS. Kevin Klein
Roussel, the Dallas agitator, has quickly become one of the greatest distractions in the NHL. Whatever he says to opponents works and when they come to unload on him, he is more than happy to throw a flurry of punches in return.
In late January, Klein took exception to the Stars sophomore while still playing for Nashville and the resulting donnybrook was a classic. In fact, it was the highest-rated fight of the year according to hockeyfights.com readers, with a score of 8.7. The action was so furious that Klein’s visor became unmoored at the end.
4. Jay Rosehill VS. Paul Bissonnette
Rosehill and Bissonnette are no strangers to the Devilish Dance and their enthusiasm in an early January tilt was unquestioned.
The pair nearly went before the puck was even dropped and once the festivities began, not even a spill by the Coyotes’ Bissonnette could stop the party. The two simply regrouped and continued throwing for another solid minute. Rosehill had a couple great bouts this season, but this one was the closest of the biggies, registering a win for the Flyers bruiser and a hockeyfights.com approval rating of 7.8.
5. Andrew Shaw VS. Antoine Roussel
What did I tell you about Roussel? He gets under his opponents’ skin. That was on perfect display in an early December run-in with Chicago’s Shaw, who quickly became a Blackhawks folk hero for his timely scoring and scrappy, underdog play.
In this tilt, Shaw was absolutely unhinged, continuing to throw punches even while Roussel had him jerseyed and after the officials had stepped in to break up the proceedings. Tons of bombs were thrown in this fight and fans of hockeyfights.com showed their appreciation by scoring it a 7.7.