I'm just not a fan of most fights in the NHL. I like the "you hit my guy dirty, prepare to die." I like the sudden out of the blue, "we've been pounding each other so let's go" type of fights. I just hate the "I'm a rookie in the NHL, and need to build a resume, I'm going to go hit Brashear from behind" type of fights. The "there was something funny last game, so let's square off on the second faceoff of the game" type of fight. They're predictible, they're stupid, and they're what gives hockey a bad name. There are too many players in the league that are there simply too fight. If you're not sure who I am talking about, just ask yourself "if fighting was banned tomorrow, would player X still be in the league?" If the answer is 'no,' then I don't want him on my team. The only player on the Caps that comes close to this is Donald Brashear, and he very well might make the Caps on some nights, he's not that bad of a player. He's not that good, but he's not that bad.
This was just a lead in to my main point: team toughness. For my money, the Caps are one of the toughest teams in the league. When you look at the Buffalo game last Saturday, who were the three players that were in fights? Eminger, Muir and Ovechkin, all of them their first fight of the season. Team toughness isn't a team that has the most hits. Since hits are related to the other team having the puck, the crummier your team is, the easier it is to get a hit. Team toughness isn't related to having a couple of fighters on the ice. If you only have fighters, then the team will get run over the minute the fighters are out there. Or you're basically playing 5 on 4 when your goons are on the ice. Team toughness is a roster of guys, top to bottom, that aren't afraid to go. So let's look at the Caps, the folllowing guys are willing to go: Brashear, Erskine, Morrisonn, Eminger, Muir, Heward, Sutherby, Clark, Bradley, Clymer, Ovechkin, Pettinger. That's twelve guys willing to go any night. During the Jagr years, we'd have been lucky to have a list three people long, which just shows how this team is moving in the right direction.
Hanlon and McPhee have built a team of guys willing to stand up together. McPhee gets credit for finding the guys, and Hanlon has made them into a family. This is quite possibly the closest unit I've ever seen in team sports, except for maybe the Women's world cup team in 1999. Not bad for guys that have really only been together 15 months.