Upon further review...

Robin Brownlee
October 01 2008 06:08PM

Did I fall down the stairs and hit my head or has Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish done a philosophical flip-flop when it comes to the value of employing an enforcer?

That's a rhetorical question because everything I've seen and heard in the last three months tells me I haven't and he has. What I don't know is why, although I have a hunch that's probably not a revelation to those who've been paying attention since Daryl Katz took ownership of the team. More on that later.

Exhibit A in MacTavish's significant change of position skated, in a manner of speaking, with the Oilers for the first time this morning. That would be 6’6”, 265-lb Steve MacIntyre, who was plucked from the Florida Panthers via the waiver wire Tuesday.

MacIntyre, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer who has yet to play an NHL game in seven seasons as a pro, is a man with proven fists and minimal hockey skills. He's the dictionary definition of an enforcer, a hammer, a tough guy, a goon, a beat cop. Pick your term.

You talkin’ to me?

Just over 24 months after MacTavish let Georges Laraque walk as an unrestricted free agent by giving the thumbs-down to his request for a no-trade clause and declaring that "team toughness" would compensate for the loss of the reigning NHL heavyweight champ, in walks MacIntyre.

It's about time.

"We've got a smaller team. Our skill-level is quite small," MacTavish said after morning practice. "We have to be in the position to play the game without the opposition taking liberties."

Sounds reasonable to me. You'd have to be exceedingly dim not to have noticed that Ales Hemsky spends too much time getting mugged and not enough time tormenting goaltenders because shut-down specialists like Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell or meatheads like Derek Boogaard knock him senseless every chance they get. And they've had a lot of chances without fear of retaliation these past two seasons.

The other issue has been injuries—the Oilers have set team records in back-to-back seasons for man games lost to injury. A lot of those injuries had nothing to do with a lack of toughness, but some did—most notably, shoulder injuries to Ethan Moreau and Sheldon Souray. Better to have somebody like MacIntyre around to clean up the mess when Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano or Robert Nilsson get steamrolled.

The tougher the better

I said it and wrote it before and I'll say it and write it again—having a tough guy on the roster is a good investment, even if it's one that's used only 30–40 nights a season.

And don't bother with the "You can't waste a roster spot on a guy who can only play five minutes a night" argument. Yes, you can. Doing so is a lot more manageable than trying to fill a roster spot for 50 games because Hemsky or Gagner or Cogliano has been concussed courtesy of another Regehr hit from behind.

Likewise, if you're going to go down that road, go all the way—get the biggest, meanest, baddest hammer you can find, even if he doesn't have a clue what to do with his gloves on. In that regard, MacIntyre fills the bill.

"It's not rocket science. I'm not coming here to score goals," smiled MacIntyre, who skated on a line with Rob Schremp and Gilbert Brule in his first twirl with the Oilers.

"We've got a smaller team. I just have to go out and do my job and see what happens."

Big boss man

MacTavish might be stubborn, but he's not stupid. I don't have any doubt that in re-assessing his roster he came to the conclusion he had to re-think his position of two summers ago.

That said, I can't help but think that MacTavish may have had some help in taking a second look from the executive suite, namely Katz. Now, I don't know that Katz, ahem, suggested MacT think things through again, but I wouldn't bet a dime against it.

Had Katz had his way, Laraque would be back in Oilers silks today with a four-year contract worth $6 million in his pocket. What? You think it was MacTavish's idea to bring Georges back?

Whatever motivated MacTavish to take a second look matters little. The Oilers will roll into Calgary Friday with MacIntyre in the line-up. Ass will be kicked and it'll be a busy night for the big slugger from Saskatchewan.

The first of many.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Gord
October 01 2008, 07:02PM
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I fail to see how MacIntyre is going to make the team. Why hasn't he ever cut in in the NHL as a goon before now?? My prediction from the day he was plucked from waivers is the Oilers will let him take a spin in pre-season, beat Andre Roy into a pulp, and then possibly get a lifetime suspension for picking Regehr up in one hand, Phanuef up in the other, and continually bashing their heads together until his arms get too tired to carry on. If he doesn't do that, he will be put back on waivers where the Panthers will pick him back up. I just can't see how at 28 he will crack an NHL line up for the first time after playing stints in prestigious leagues such as the UHL, WHA2, QSPHL and CEHL over the past 7 years.

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#2 Mowzie
October 01 2008, 07:17PM
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He's a better skater than Schremp.

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#3 Kent
October 01 2008, 07:33PM
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This is how Regehr deals with goons.

MacIntyre would do little more than get scored on. I honestly hope he makes the Oilers.

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#4 Dennis
October 01 2008, 08:13PM
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There's no point in having the guy if you're not going to turn him loose and that was something the Oilers never did with Laraque.

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#5 jdrevenge
October 01 2008, 08:22PM
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Boggles my mind that Detroit has never needed someone to take out the trash. I mean they have some of the biggest talents in the game right now.

If the Oilers started scoring the pants off of other teams there would be no need for someone to be out there running around. The coach of the opposition would be too focused on keeping the puck out of the net to let some idiot skate around headhunting.

I can't wait for Boogard to retire and for somebody to beat the snot out of Regehr. Let's see what McIntyre can do. I'm sure it'll be fun to watch.

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#6 RobinB
October 01 2008, 09:17PM
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jdrevenge: You're stretching it a bit -- a lot -- when you say the Red Wings have never needed someone to take out the trash when they've had the likes of Bob Probert, Joey Kocur and Darren McCarty around, but your point is valid.

The problem is most teams don't have the talent to consistently make opponents pay for being stupid by lighting them up on the power play. The Red Wings have that option, so they've done very well without having a tough guy for a decade now.

If the Oilers can climb into the top five on the power play, turning the other cheek becomes an option, but when you're in the bottom 10 AND you don't have a tough guy to keep teams honest, you're screwed. You need one deterrent or the other.

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#7 B.C.B.
October 01 2008, 10:11PM
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Lefebvre got cut today because he didn't fight anyone last night . . . MacIntyre won't make the same mistake.

Thank you Robin: I am sick of everyone saying that Det. doesn't have a fighter why do we need on. Good points on the PP, and past fights on their roster. The only thing to add is that their top three lines are so good offensively and defensively that they need those fourth line spots to give their kids playing time (while ours are on the second line), plus unless I am mistaken McCarty played a little on the fourth line last year and should see 20ish games this year.

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#8 milli
October 02 2008, 07:41AM
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Robin, Do you think this guy is gonna stick with the team? And I agree, Kz has told them they need a tough guy, and he'll have a green light, FINALY. Although, I am still glad it ain't big george. I want a guy who will go out and destroy guys, anyone who even looks at our skill guys the wrong way. And I for one don't care if he only skates 3 minutes a game, I hate boogard, no skill, BUT he has changed things, and we need an answer to guys like that.

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#9 jdrevenge
October 02 2008, 08:00AM
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Embellishment helps to get the point across. I guess what I meant was in the last couple of years they've gotten by. Maybe it was old man Chelios' after the whistle crap and Kronwall's crushing open ice hits keeping people honest.

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#10 RobinB
October 02 2008, 08:10AM
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jdrevenge: "Embellishment helps to get the point across . . ." Thinking of becoming a sports writer?

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#11 Rick
October 02 2008, 09:00AM
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Robin; Have you gotten a vibe from the Oilers yet in terms of what they plan on doing about Deslauriers?

I like the idea of MacIntyre being on the roster but not as THE extra forward.

I guess it's safe to say that this kid is in the Dave Brown mold. Zero hockey ability, no more than 2 or 3 minutes a night, 30 or 40 games dressed.

...

As far as Katz goes, this appears to be a change in phylosophy that the fans have embraced but overall is this really a good thing?

It seems to me that when owners get involved in on ice decisions they tend to end up screwing things up more than anything else.

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#12 jdrevenge
October 02 2008, 10:14AM
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Robin,

Only in my wildest dreams. I'm thinking more along the lines of National Hockey League Enquirer.

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#13 Chris.
October 02 2008, 11:18AM
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With MacIntyre AND Stortini AND Strudwick AND Souray AND Moreau AND Cole AND Smid/Staios(?)... This Team may have FINALLY achieved a degree of "Team Toughness".

Good Luck Steve!

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#14 Bruce
October 02 2008, 01:23PM
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There’s no point in having the guy if you’re not going to turn him loose and that was something the Oilers never did with Laraque.

Dennis: Laraque never figured it out. I will never forget the time I was at a game where some opponent ran his linemate (Dowd? Devereaux? somebofy like that) from behind, head first into the boards, a vicious, dangerous and filthy hit. The kind that absolutely required the players "policing themselves", preferably Instantly. Laraque was on the ice, standing not five feet away from the incident, and did Bugger All about it, so Ethjan Moreau had to come all the way over from the other wing and take care of business. Later in the game Big Georges had one of his By Appointment Only tilts off a neutral zonen faceoff against the other teams' equally useless 12th forward that accomplished the same Bugger All.

As I said to my seat mate at the time: "Bus leaves for [Springfield] in the morning. Be under it."

A goon who doesn't respond to stuff that happens on the ice while he's out there is worse than useless.

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#15 RobinB
October 02 2008, 01:32PM
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Rick: As for as a "vibe" on Deslauriers, MacTavish has already said he'll defer to the veterans -- Garon and Roloson -- if there's little to choose between the stoppers in camp.

That, on the face of it, means JDD is ticketed to Springfield because he has not done enough to unseat the other two. The problem, of course, is the risk of losing him on waivers. It's a gamble.

One thing's certain, three goaltenders is the LAST thing MacTavish wants. Here's a direct quote from him from Millennium Place this morning.

"It's a pain in the ass," he said. "Do we want three goalies? No. Do we do anything about it at this point? Probably not. "We'd like to have the (roster) spot, but right now, you deal with the circumstances you have. We're not prepared to give one of our goalies away right now."

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#16 namflashback
October 02 2008, 01:33PM
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Well, hopefully McIntyre was watching the game tape from Tuesday's game.

Dustin Boyd needs a little talking to.

Just to let him know that somebody is watching him.

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#17 Rick
October 02 2008, 01:35PM
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There are more than a few examples of when Laraque left us wanting.

Another situation almost exactly like the one Bruce described was against Columbus and it was Chimera who not only stepped in but pretty much got speed bagged for his troubles.

For all the talk about Regher and Hemsky I remember it being very similar when Laraques was here only it wasn't against Calgary it was against all the super pests that Vancouver had. Every single game guys like Ruutu and Cooke would cheap shot, slash and hack away at Hemsky and there was hardly a word said or a thing done by Laraques.

Maybe he was held back a little by MacT but Laraques was certainly to blame for failing to figure some aspects of his role out as well.

Here's hoping this MacIntyre kid gets it.

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#18 RobinB
October 02 2008, 02:18PM
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Rick: Well said. Georges was the toughest guy in the NHL, but that didn't make him the best enforcer because he didn't just punch guys out and ask questions later.

MacIntyre gets it. And while I'm not naive enough to think MacIntyure's presence is going to make a guy like Regehr give guys like Hemsky and Gagner free passes -- he'll still be physical and he should be because that's what makes him valuable -- he'll think twice about pulling some of the cheap stuff he's done in the past if there's a price to pay every time he does it.

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#19 Dennis
October 02 2008, 02:48PM
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Bruce: I remember a game around xmas time in SJ when Mush kneed Weight and BG seethed on the bench and wanted to run Mush but MacT told him not to.

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#20 Rick
October 02 2008, 03:09PM
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I don't know Dennis, I seem to recall a few conflicting reports on that one including MacT taking the heat for Laraque dropping the ball by saying he didn't want Laraque fighting.

How opposed could MacT have been on that one when the very next Shark game it was all but announced that Georges was going to fight Mush.

Which he did on his very first shift.

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#21 Dr Huxtable
October 02 2008, 03:56PM
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Say what you want about guys like Mush, but at least he would answer the call knowing full well he was taking a lickn'. You just dont see that now a days. Does anyone really think Robyn would answer the call?

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#22 Bruce
October 02 2008, 04:05PM
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I was there on "Marchment Retribution Night", and Big Georges did indeed take on Mush, pretty much By Appointment Only at centre ice, early in the first period. Marchment was a cheap shot artist, but besides dishing it out he also took his share of punishment over the years which is my definition of a real Tough Guy. Give the guy his due, he didn't back down or hide behind teammates, he answered the (opening bell), he took a couple of legendary Laraque lefts in the, uh, mush and went down fairly easily, at least giving the appearance of paying the piper. The crowd roared, the Oiler players on the bench rapped the boards with their sticks but the San Jose players rapped theirs just as enthusiatically, and the Sharks didn't back down one iota for the rest of the night. So what did it prove?

I must say I always preferred the Lee Fogolin/Jason Smith type of retribution (e.g. Paul Baxter, Ken Linseman, others / Jerkko Ruutu, Jay McKee, others). The central tenet being Right. F******. Now.

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#23 David S
October 02 2008, 04:39PM
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Well its kind of out of this era, but I always thought Mark Messier was the toughest, dirtiest guy in hockey. His payback came when you least expected it and it was punishing. Guy was mother effin' strong too. Nobody pushed his guys around the arena when he was on the ice.

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#24 B.C.B.
October 02 2008, 05:20PM
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Bruce: I like your take on mush. And I was thinking Mush did a way better job then Georges ever did at being a deterrent: and so did Smith (I am too young to remember Fogolin).

I hope MacIntyre is more like Mush then Georges.

DavidS: Mess was special, we all know that: the best of physicality, skill, and meanness I'll ever see (again to young to remember Howe). We can't always have a Mess, so I am willing to settle for a new-Mush.

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#25 Mike
October 02 2008, 06:56PM
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Robin - forget making Regher pay every time he lays a big hit on Hemsky. Beat the living shit out of Cammellari, elbow Langkow in the head, run Kipper at full speed. Any one of those is a penalty I'd be happy to take.

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#26 David S
October 02 2008, 09:42PM
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OK. Well back on topic, I'm not surprised that alot of people think Detroit never needed a tough guy. While I agree that they are one of the few teams that really have the guns to make you pay for that 2 minutes, they're also a pretty big team all around. When they play our guys, they look like freakin' giants.

As far as Robin's incredulity goes, I'd agree that the latest series of events is a big turnaround for MacT. Although it might reflect his thought that his team is strong enough now to be able to absorb the time in the box, where before it hurt us more. What I mean is that even though we were pretty good on the PK, it was two minutes less at ES. Maybe he thought he needed as many ES minutes as possible to have a chance. Perhaps now he thinks we can afford to take a few more minutes in the box for a good cause.

Case in point - Stortini's hugging phase last year. As we got better, he was allowed to throw 'em more. The guy takes MacT's word as gospel, so when he'told to stay out of the box, he did so.

All in all, I think this bodes well for the coming year.

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#27 Doogie2K
October 02 2008, 11:59PM
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forget making Regher pay every time he lays a big hit on Hemsky. Beat the living shit out of Cammellari, elbow Langkow in the head, run Kipper at full speed. Any one of those is a penalty I’d be happy to take.

It's amazing the message one can send with a single stick, and the best part is, you'll only end up with the two, instead of the two, five, and ten. My philosophy is, if someone's gonna pussy out of a scrap for something they did, respond in kind.

Also, you don't see that kind of shit in junior. Just tonight, a fight erupted in front of the bench beside me over a high hit that ended in four misconducts, two majors, and an instigator. (The guy with 27 PIM still got first star -- hell of a night for him.) Message received. Later in the night, the teams were reversed, and again, the hitter stood up and fought. As it should be.

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#28 Dennis
October 03 2008, 09:28AM
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Rick and Bruce: Maybe I'm wrong but I remember that MacT admitted that BG wanted to pound Mush in SJ but MacT held him back.

I know the game in SJ happened while I was home for the holidays because I watched it at my Uncle's house and we didn't have net access at my parents place and I couldn't wait to get somewhere to read the postgame comments.

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#29 Jason Gregor
October 03 2008, 02:08PM
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David,

How can you say Detroit is big? The only forwards they had over 6'0" last year were, Samuellson 6'2", Downey 6'1", Kopecky 6'3" and Franzen 6'3". On the backend Lilja is 6'3", Stuart 6'2" and Lidstrom 6'1".

The Oilers had Penner 6'4", Stortini 6'4", Brodziak 6'2", Horcoff 6'1", Pisani 6'1", Moreau (when healthy) 6'2" and Stoll 6'1". The D-core was even bigger. Only Grebeshkov was not 6'1" or more. Staios 6'1", Gilbert, Smid and Pitkanen were 6'3", Souray and Greene 6'4".

Detroit's skill allows them to avoid a tough guy, although Downey will do it if needed. They are the exception, and while the won the Cup last year, the previous years they were critiqued for being to soft come playoff time and losing to teams like the Oilers, Flames and Sharks who were all bigger.

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#30 David S
October 03 2008, 03:29PM
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Hey Jason,

Just my observation. Although most of the Oiler forwards you mentioned in your list didn't have alot of ice time last year with the exception of Stoll and Penner, and Pisani was a rake compared to the average NHLer. Maybe it was the uniform design, but I swear Detroit looks like bruisers every time I see them play our guys. Purely from a casual observer's point of view however. Obviously I'd take a media guy's first-hand comments over mine any day.

And no, I am NOT David Staples.

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#31 Jason Gregor
October 03 2008, 09:50PM
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David,

No worries, but Stortini and Brodziak played as much or more than Kopecky and Downey. Their red jerseys do make them look bigger I will give you that. The Oilers will be bigger this year and shouldn't be outmuscled most nights. Maybe outwilled, but not many teams will be bigger than them. But size doesnt't always make you play big!

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