It's a controversial issue in today's NHL. The extinction of the enforcer is growing closer in hockey, and many believe that fighting for the sake of fighting doesn't have a place in a game becoming more and more dependent on speed and skill.
Despite that growing trend, hockey is a physical sport at its core and will likely always be defined with that distinction. But the game is becoming more about picking the RIGHT time and place to be a physical presence instead of head hunting every time someone climb over the boards.
Cody Bass realizes the difference as he battles for a roster spot with the season opener just a week away. "There's a lot that goes into it. That's up to me to know what that fine line is," said Bass at Friday's practice.
Just like most things in life, fighting in the NHL is about timing. "Trying to feel out the game. Trying to judge score or momentum. Judge by the team and how they're feeling and coach's reaction," said Bass.
Down one goal with under five minutes left? Probably not the best time to drop the gloves. Backing up a teammate who took a cheap-shot? That makes a lot more sense.
"Being smart. That's it. Just using your head," said Bass.
No one is expecting the 29-year-old forward to be an offensive leader going into the season, but Bass gives the team a few attributes they let go over the summer. He looks to fill the physicality void left by players like Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, and Barret Jackman.
"Even when they were here I felt like that was my job. It's how I've gotten to this point. I definitely feel like I need to step up in that role," said Bass. And let's not forget that remarkable performance in the faceoff circle during the playoffs. A 57.1 win percentage for a guy that was in the lineup as a winger.
He's not a guy that's first of the tongue when talking about the Predators, but the NHL is a league full of parity. Every piece to the puzzle is important.
Nashville isn't exactly a physically imposing team in terms of height and weight metrics. Being "pushed around" by other powerhouse teams such as the Kings, Ducks, and Blues could become a slight concern.
Bass provides the ability to go toe-to-toe with the opposition, so the skill players the Predators will deploy can focus on the task at hand. Walking the line between being physical and avoiding bad penalties will likely determine the success of Bass in the upcoming season.