Max Domi learning painful lessons about NHL fighting

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 09: Max Domi #16 of the Arizona Coyotes gets ready during a faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes gets ready during a faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi was frustrated as he waited for his surgically repaired hand to heal earlier this season.

It was the first time in Domi’s career that he was forced to sit for a prolonged period (23 games total in this case) because of injury, and he truly realized how much he missed the game and being able to help his teammates. Also the process of working his way back to 100 percent was both new and challenging for the 21-year-old Domi.

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“I definitely have a whole new appreciation for guys who sit out of the lineup for that long and the work ethic you have to put in to get back,” he said. “It wasn’t easy by any means, but I’m happy to be back now.”

Domi’s injury, which occurred in a fight with Calgary Flames forward Garnet Hathaway in a game on Dec. 8, may prove an important moment for him in his career and how uses his feistiness in a game.

Though Domi’s aggressiveness and passion are major components of his style he understands that it’s more important for him to stay healthy over the long haul than potentially getting hurt in a fight to give his team a short-term boost.

“It’s not really what I probably should be doing overall but at the end of the day I’m a guy that’s a pretty emotional guy who just enjoys the game and plays hard, so if that happens, it happens,” Domi said. “The only thing I really took out of that was you have to pick your spots a little bit better and be a little bit smarter and stay calm, so if you do that and just play hockey and everything else is fun. I definitely learned from it – the experience. It sucked being out and watching the guys for that long but it’s over now, it’s behind us so just trying to move forward now.”

Last season as a rookie, Domi finished second in Coyotes scoring with 52 points in 81 games played. This season he ranks second amongst team regulars in points per-game at 0.64. Overall he has 21 points in 33 contests. Not having his speed and playmaking ability hurt the team’s chances to ice its best possible lineup night-in, night-out.

“He’s a competitive guy, but that’s a situation you don’t want players of that stature getting hurt fighting, that’s for sure,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

When Domi fights, it makes news. That’s because his father Tie was a legendary enforcer who played 1,020 games. While Tie Domi passed down his in-game passion to Max, the younger Domi is a much better offensive player, which is why he doesn’t need to be a pugilist when he doesn’t have to.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan is cut from a similar cloth as Max and figured out that he couldn’t let his emotions get the best of him if he wanted his team to win games. Doan averaged four fighting majors per-season his first five years in the league. Since then he has reached that total just once in a season, when he had five in 2005-06. From 2006-07 through 2012-13 he had a total of eight fighting majors. Domi had four last season and two so far this year, along with one in the preseason.

“I think for him I don’t think you ever take that away because it’s a huge asset and part of our game is making the other team uncomfortable. There’s no question about that. It’s a big hit, it’s the ability to fight, it’s the ability to play hard and you never want to take that out of his game, but at the same time you never want to lose him,” Doan said. “So I’m sure it’s going to be a fine balance that he’ll walk and as he gets older he’ll see it more and more. He’s a smart kid, he’s a smart guy and he’s going to figure it out and it’s exciting to see what he becomes.”

It’s not like all fights have gone poorly for Domi. He dropped Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler with an upper-cut to the jaw, which quickly went viral.

“I laugh because we talk about it all the time. He’s had two fights this year and everybody really liked one of them and they didn’t like the other, so there’s an upside and a downside to it,” Tippett said.

When healthy, Domi has shown noticeable progress for the Coyotes. His knowledge of the league has increased, which has boosted his abilities.

“There’s a confidence in his game, a real – he knows he’s a real good player in the league,” Tippett said. “He has the confidence to, you know he tries different things. A confidence and the experience of when to do things and when not and when to play the game the right way with the score or whether situational he’s smarter, but just more confident with the puck. It took him a few games to get up and going with the injury but now he has played very well lately.”

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Domi has cemented himself as one of the new faces of the franchise, which is another reason why he needs to stay in the lineup. Not only does he help the team win, fans come to games to watch Domi entertain them. This is important for the Coyotes as they continue to try to push their product and sell their future to their supporters in the desert.

“I think he’s got another level that he’s going to go to even more,” Doan said. “I think that’s exciting for us as an organization.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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