Dustin Brown led the league with 311 hits, which is all very cool. More important, however, was the fact that Brown led the league in hits while still being remarkably clean. I was bored so I took a look at the top 3 leaders in hits (Brown, Mike Komisarek and Brenden Morrow) to see how many "aggression penalties" (elbowing, roughing, charging, etc.) each guy got. The result? Brown's worth is enhanced by the fact that he gets his hits without taking additional penalties. As a bonus, he hardly ever takes himself out of the game through fighting and often goads the other fighter into additional penalties.
Dustin Brown only had 6 minutes of "aggression penalties," 2 roughs and 1 elbow. He had 3 fights:
-against Eric Brewer, who fought Brown because Brown clicked him with a high stick
-against Daymond Langkow, who received a 2-minute roughing penalty (and got his ass kicked)
-against Brent Seabrook, who got an instigator penalty for rightly fighting Brown after Dustin elbowed Jonathan Toews
Brown's other penalties were for hooks and trips and the like. That's pretty remarkable that he can get that many hits without getting many penalties. It says to me that Brown is looking for the play, not the hit. He could cut down on his other penalties, but that negative effect is likely outweighed by his excellent ability to draw penalties.
Mike Komisarek had 12 minutes in aggression penalties: 5 roughs and an instigation. He had 5 fights and didn't goad an additional penalty in any of them. In the playoffs, Komisarek had 10 aggression penalty minutes in 12 games. I guess he got a little excited. Overall, Komisarek is getting the job done with his hitting but he needs to reign it in a little bit to cause more impact. Plus, the dude could stand to stop taking so many penalties period. He is his team's best penalty killer but he's usually the one in the box.
Morrow had 18 aggression penalty minutes: 4 roughs, 2 elbows, 2 charges, and a knee. Eclectic. Morrow had 5 fights and took an additional penalty in one of them while goading an instigator in one. The problem with Morrow, at least to me, is who he fought: Steve Bernier, Aaron Voros, Nathan McIver, Adam Burish, Ryan Suter. Morrow is way too valuable to the Stars to be wasting his time in the penalty box with Aaron Voros.
(The guy really needs to calm down when he's playing the Ducks. He had 18 minutes in penalty in the 8 regular season games against them, a lot of them while battling Francois Beauchemin. That kind of makes me laugh. I mean, of all the people on the Ducks, you hate Beauchemin?)
Hits are like stolen bases in baseball. Sure, it's nice number, but you have to understand that there is risk associated with it. It's great if a guy steals 50 bases, but if he's getting thrown out a third of the time then it's kind of worthless. In the same way, Brenden Morrow's positive impact is likely countered by his penalties that take him off the ice completely. Aggression is great, but only if it's controlled and dedicated towards winning the game. Guys like Komisarek and Morrow are BJ Upton; Dustin Brown is Ichiro.
*I expected the difference in aggression penalties to be a little more extreme, to be honest. It looks like amount of aggression penalties you take is proportional to the amount of other penalties you get. That might invalidate this whole thing, I don't know, but I spent the time looking this up so I'm throwing it out there. It's possible that guys like Brenden Morrow don't care about the number of penalties they take because they think the stuff they get away with makes up for it. Maybe?