The sports writers paid to write about the Oilers absolutely love "tough" players. It seems that one of the eleven prominent Oilers' MSM media hacks write about team toughness or "functional toughness" each week. They celebrate signings of bad players and cheer for players who get punched in the face and nothing else. Steve Tambellini yammered about functional toughness more than once and spent considerable time and effort to bring in Mike Brown, Mark Fistric, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk to add the exalted attribute.
How did getting tougher work out for the Oilers? Travis Yost investigated:
Each team's twelve most-regularly deployed forwards are sorted by even-strength time on ice. Data was culled for each individual at even-strength using Corsi, a proxy for possession-time and scoring chance differential. The number was then adjusted for zone-starts, and then dropped into a weighted tier of most-commonly used forwards. It was then (a) compared to the team's even-strength zone-adjusted Corsi to identify potential outliers; and (b) compared to other team's similar tier.
The hardest minutes in hockey occur when a player isn't holding the puck -- chasing and defending exact a far greater toll compared to minutes spent possessing the puck and pushing the play. The difficulty of playing defense against world-class athletes underscores the importance of possession. No matter what the narrative might say, games aren't controlled, aren't won and lost, through intimidation or fear.
Nothing has changed.
Patrice Bergeron is tough to play against. Mikhail Grabovski is tough to play against. Jamie Benn is tough to play against. Oilers' fans should be reading about good players and how difficult it is to play against them. Instead, the sports writers in Edmonton delude fans by making them think that NHL players are afraid of men who can't take the puck away from them and can't do anything with it if they have it.