NHL

Goons gone from NHL: 4th liners now have more skill than ever with scoring a priority

  • Toronto Maple Leafs' T.J. Brennan, right, grabs Michael Grabner during a scrimmage at NHL hockey training camp at the BMO Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Toronto Maple Leafs' T.J. Brennan, right, grabs Michael Grabner during a scrimmage at NHL hockey training camp at the BMO Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT  (The Associated Press)

  • Boston Bruins right wing Jimmy Hayes, left, and New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson, right, collide during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Providence, R.I. The Bruins won 2-0. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Bruins right wing Jimmy Hayes, left, and New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson, right, collide during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Providence, R.I. The Bruins won 2-0. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)  (The Associated Press)

  • Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev, of Russia, left, exchanges jabs with New Jersey Devils defenseman Reece Scarlett, right, during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev, of Russia, left, exchanges jabs with New Jersey Devils defenseman Reece Scarlett, right, during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)  (The Associated Press)

Goons are pretty much gone in the NHL.

Teams in the league have been following a trend of rolling four lines of forwards who can skate and score. The days of having one-dimensional, seldom-used players on the fourth line just to throw punches or protect the stars are over.

Fights are down, and playing time is up for more players.

There were 0.63 fighting majors per game last season, the seventh straight year in which there was a decline, according to STATS. And, the number of forwards who play 10-plus minutes has been trending up for years.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league's competitive balance has forced teams to focus on having skilled players to keep up.