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Rick Rypien

Every once in a while, you see an obvious innovation in a game that makes you wonder why it wasn't obvious to every single player. Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks has brought one to NHL fighting: he actually protects his face while he's fighting. Most fighters in the NHL try to block head shots, but Rypien actually does a great job of it. The net result is that he dominates fighters who are way out of his weight class:

Date Opponent Ht Wt Dec
12/09/2009 Valabik 6-7 245 W Video
11/22/2009 Eager 6-3 227 L Video
11/14/2009 McLeod 6-2 210 W Video
11/12/2009 May 6-1 220 W Video
10/19/2009 Stortini 6-3 217 W Video
10/16/2009 Prust 5-11 191 W Video
10/7/2009 Gill 6-7 250 W Video
9/24/2009 Carter 6-1 205 W Video
9/14/2009 Reich 6-1 204 L Video
9/14/2009 Sutton 6-6 245 W Video
4/4/2009 Stortini 6-3 217 W Video
4/2/2009 Brookbank 6-2 200 W Video
10/11/2008 Prust 5-11 191 W Video
10/2/2008 Moore 6-1 200 W Video
9/28/2008 Sutherby 6-3 205 D Video
3/17/2008 Carcillo 5-11 202 W Video
3/4/2008 McLeod 6-2 210 W Video
2/29/2008 Tollefson 6-2 211 W Video
10/22/2007 Commodore 6-5 230 L Video
10/15/2007 Murray 6-3 240 L Video
12/2/2006 Laperriere 6-1 201 W Video
Average 6-2 215
Rypien 5-11 184

Once you start clicking on those videos, you are almost certainly to waste half an hour of your day watching Rypien pummeling guys who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. In the 21 fights with footage, Rypien gets abused precisely once: when Douglas Murray pulled Rypien's sweater over his head over two years ago. In the last two years, Rypien has not had an NHL fight where he lost convincingly.

Now, Rypien has not yet fought any of the top ten heavyweights (based on the ELO analysis I did of the data on, mostly because he hasn't even played a full season in the NHL yet. But it's only a matter of time before he fights someone who also mops the floor with Zach Stortini - it will certainly be an epic battle, and if Rypien prevails, it will validate technical fighting and secure his reputation as an innovator in the NHL. Right up there with Jacques Plante, Bill Chadwick and Frank Zamboni...