Georges Laraque and the enforcer who can play

Jonathan Willis
January 09 2014 04:38PM

When it comes to Edmonton Oilers enforcers, Georges Laraque is the gold standard of the last two decades. It doesn’t sound like a high standard for a prospect to meet, but the bar for being an enforcer who can contribute 15 points per season is a surprisingly high one.

Laraque managed the feat, and has never been replaced. Instead, the Oilers have either eschewed fighters entirely or employed guys without an NHL skillset in that position. And the guys in the system, with one possible exception, don’t seem likely to replace him any time soon.

The List

The chart that follows shows the points/82 games performance of Laraque, ex-Oiler Zack Stortini and the most physical of the Oilers prospects (Ewanyk and Kessy don’t really qualify as enforcers, but are listed also). White indicates a player still in junior, orange the AHL and blue the NHL. A ‘---‘ shows a player who didn’t play enough games for fair consideration or one who fell below the AHL line as a professional.

Now, the chart is skewed a little because Laraque played in a pretty high-scoring era of QMJHL hockey. Let’s take his last junior season and adjust it down to what we’d expect in a league where the average team scored three goals per game instead of four.

Even here, Laraque stands out as unique by a hefty margin. Zack Stortini is pretty clearly the second guy in order of actual scoring ability here, and we can make a little allowance for Mitch Moroz, too – I didn’t see a lot of Oil Kings hockey but many people who I trust have complained about his usage and we can see his numbers have improved significantly this year.

Still, the seemingly unavoidable conclusion is that none of the players on this list – including Luke Gazdic, who has strung together two pretty solid games in a row after a bad start to the year – can really compare to Laraque as a scorer. If the Oilers are really lucky, Moroz will make the same smooth transition to the professional ranks that Laraque did and be ready to play NHL minutes as a legitimate fourth-liner and an enforcer two or three years from now.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 Blucifer Copperballs
January 10 2014, 07:53AM
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I say the next time the Oil visit Calgary, we kidnap Brian McGratten, lock him in a room with David Perron, A LOT of wine and pink scented candles, and dont open the door until they produce some kind of Matthew Barnaby-esque love child. Cause thats what this team needs, MATTHEW BARNABY!

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#52 Shredder
January 10 2014, 08:25AM
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Always been a fan of Moroz, ever since we drafted him. The mngmt got some flak for drafting him so high, but he will make it to the NHL and stay for a while. Not at a pt/game, but he'll produce.

That being said, he's a ways away, and we need someone now. Gazdic has been good, and I think that kind of player can thrive under Eakins, but we need more of it, and higher quality versions of it too.

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#53 Spydyr
January 10 2014, 08:43AM
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MessyEH wrote:

Best total package Enforcer....

Dave "Tiger" Williams.

You misspelled Bob Probert.

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#54 Dave
January 10 2014, 09:39AM
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All I can recall about George was that the play usually ended when the puck reached his stick. He used to skate to the end boards and hold the puck against the boards ... a great time waster though.

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#55 Dave
January 10 2014, 09:42AM
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Shredder wrote:

Always been a fan of Moroz, ever since we drafted him. The mngmt got some flak for drafting him so high, but he will make it to the NHL and stay for a while. Not at a pt/game, but he'll produce.

That being said, he's a ways away, and we need someone now. Gazdic has been good, and I think that kind of player can thrive under Eakins, but we need more of it, and higher quality versions of it too.

Thanks,I had not realized that there was a type of player that can thrive under Eakins.

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#56 The Soup Fascist
January 10 2014, 09:51AM
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Spydyr wrote:

You misspelled Bob Probert.

Exactly. Probert was in a different league altogether.

Add Clark Gillies, Al Secord (crazy stats in early 80's) and John Ferguson to the list of guys whose jocks Dave "Tiger" Williams could not carry - as a player or a tough guy. Unless riding a stick like an idiot is part of the criteria.

F me, I am old.

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#57 Spydyr
January 10 2014, 09:55AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Exactly. Probert was in a different league altogether.

Add Clark Gillies, Al Secord (crazy stats in early 80's) and John Ferguson to the list of guys whose jocks Dave "Tiger" Williams could not carry - as a player or a tough guy. Unless riding a stick like an idiot is part of the criteria.

F me, I am old.

John Ferguson was before my time although some old timers tell me he is the best there ever was.All the others bring a smile to my face. My kind of players.Except for the guy the rode his stick like a witch.

Getting old is tough but it sure beats the alternative.

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#58 PimKing
January 10 2014, 10:16AM
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Cameron M Neely. Guy would take your moms lunch money then throw it at you. Drown you with lefts then score a hatty in the last 2 periods. Never going to see a guy like him again with the combination of scoring and scary. Wouldnt fight that guy with my pickup truck....he'd win.

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#59 Rick Stroppel
January 10 2014, 10:18AM
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SERIOUS QUESTION ABOUT OILERS NATION

The "pace" of articles seems to have really dropped off. I know I am exaggerating a little, but it seems like you have gone from 2-3 articles a day to an article every 2-3 days. Some "contributors" have not posted anything in weeks.

Are you all sick of the Oilers? Sick of talking about the Oilers? That would be understandable. If so, why don't you find new people to do articles?

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#60 Rod from Viking
January 10 2014, 10:22AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Exactly. Probert was in a different league altogether.

Add Clark Gillies, Al Secord (crazy stats in early 80's) and John Ferguson to the list of guys whose jocks Dave "Tiger" Williams could not carry - as a player or a tough guy. Unless riding a stick like an idiot is part of the criteria.

F me, I am old.

Unfortunately I remember Tiger playing too, I am old(same age as Serious Gord) as well. I still remember Tiger getting interviewed on HNIC before the 10 second delay by I think Dave Hodge in his baby blue coat. They were playing Montreal and he was asked if he was surprised by all the Hab fans in the building? Tigers well thought out response was," I don't know how all those frogs made it over the Rockies".

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#61 The Soup Fascist
January 10 2014, 10:26AM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

Unfortunately I remember Tiger playing too, I am old(same age as Serious Gord) as well. I still remember Tiger getting interviewed on HNIC before the 10 second delay by I think Dave Hodge in his baby blue coat. They were playing Montreal and he was asked if he was surprised by all the Hab fans in the building? Tigers well thought out response was," I don't know how all those frogs made it over the Rockies".

Yeah, I never really got the impression Tiger was on the verge of splitting atoms.

Way off topic, how cool would it be to have one of those HNIC logo'd powder blue sports jackets? I would sleep in that baby.

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#62 book¡e
January 10 2014, 10:27AM
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Rick Stroppel wrote:

SERIOUS QUESTION ABOUT OILERS NATION

The "pace" of articles seems to have really dropped off. I know I am exaggerating a little, but it seems like you have gone from 2-3 articles a day to an article every 2-3 days. Some "contributors" have not posted anything in weeks.

Are you all sick of the Oilers? Sick of talking about the Oilers? That would be understandable. If so, why don't you find new people to do articles?

Well, Wanye is probably too busy rolling around in his money like Scrooge McDuck.

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#63 Rod from Viking
January 10 2014, 10:29AM
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PimKing wrote:

Cameron M Neely. Guy would take your moms lunch money then throw it at you. Drown you with lefts then score a hatty in the last 2 periods. Never going to see a guy like him again with the combination of scoring and scary. Wouldnt fight that guy with my pickup truck....he'd win.

Harry Dunne knocked him out cold when he was going to give his buddy Lloyd a thumping, he wasn't that tough,LOL. Vancouver lost him and a first round pick and instead signed Barry Pederson, that could be a worse decision than Kevin Lowe has ever made.

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#64 Tikkanese
January 10 2014, 11:22AM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

Harry Dunne knocked him out cold when he was going to give his buddy Lloyd a thumping, he wasn't that tough,LOL. Vancouver lost him and a first round pick and instead signed Barry Pederson, that could be a worse decision than Kevin Lowe has ever made.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but at the time, Pederson had a 100 point season.

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#65 Tikkanese
January 10 2014, 11:23AM
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Spydyr wrote:

You misspelled Bob Probert.

It could also be spelled as "Marty McSorley".

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#66 Will
January 10 2014, 11:31AM
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It's been pretty hard to criticize Gazdic this year. The kid got picked up on waivers from Dallas, has come here and been great. A fighter that can actually fight, he routinely takes on guys out of his pay grade, protects the wonder kids, chips in every now and again on the offence, and hasn't been a complete defensive liability.

I'm not sure what more you could ask for. Plus he's only 24 so who's to say he can't progress to a third line energy guy?

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#67 bluetada
January 10 2014, 11:52AM
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No Eddie Shack fans out there?

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#68 Rod from Viking
January 10 2014, 11:54AM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Hindsight is always 20/20, but at the time, Pederson had a 100 point season.

That is true and Pederson had a serious shoulder problem that wasn't disclosed at the time, things were different when players were not getting millions and they didn't put them through the vigorous physical testing.

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#69 PimKing
January 10 2014, 12:34PM
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Harry Dunne drives a fur covered dog van, we all know that... who's got the footlong?!?!

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#70 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 01:21PM
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Spydyr wrote:

You misspelled Bob Probert.

Probert

GP 935 G 163 A 221 PTS 384 PIMS 3300

"Tiger" Williams

GP 962 G 241 A 272 PTS 513 PIMS 3966

It is not even close. You must have never seen Williams play. Made the all star team. Scored over 30 goals one season. Putting up over 500 PTS while spending over 260 man games in the sin bin.

"Good Grief"

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#71 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 01:29PM
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Cam Neely was a beast. But I thought we wanted the best all around Enforcer and Hockey player. Gordon Howe should receive mention.

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#72 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 01:33PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

It could also be spelled as "Marty McSorley".

McSorley would be in my top ten. He could fight, and take a regular shift. Forward and Defense. Truly underrated.

Tiger Williams Could play with skill and not look out of place punching faces in. (And vice versa. )

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#73 Rod from Viking
January 10 2014, 01:55PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Yeah, I never really got the impression Tiger was on the verge of splitting atoms.

Way off topic, how cool would it be to have one of those HNIC logo'd powder blue sports jackets? I would sleep in that baby.

The last time I saw one was Sean Majumder ( Raj Binder fromthis hour has 22 minutes) was wearing one and had his head all oiled doing interviews at the 2006 All Star Game, it was hilarious. Maybe HNIC could get Sean to do an after hours parody with Mr Katz and the POHO. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AoHUjaOGig

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#74 Spydyr
January 10 2014, 02:41PM
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MessyEH wrote:

Probert

GP 935 G 163 A 221 PTS 384 PIMS 3300

"Tiger" Williams

GP 962 G 241 A 272 PTS 513 PIMS 3966

It is not even close. You must have never seen Williams play. Made the all star team. Scored over 30 goals one season. Putting up over 500 PTS while spending over 260 man games in the sin bin.

"Good Grief"

It is not all about stats.

Probert was the undisputed heavyweight champ of the NHL for Years. Tiger rode his stick around the ice.

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#75 mark
January 10 2014, 02:43PM
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It is funny to see Oilers' fans reminiscing about the greatness of Georges Laraque...

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#76 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 03:19PM
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Spydyr wrote:

It is not all about stats.

Probert was the undisputed heavyweight champ of the NHL for Years. Tiger rode his stick around the ice.

I don't think the word "undisputed" champ means what you think it means. I'd take Little Wendel Clarke over Probert any day.

Probert was a good fighter. But he was never "undisputed".

One thing i am sure we can agree on. They don't make them like that anymore.

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#77 Tikkanese
January 10 2014, 03:43PM
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MessyEH wrote:

I don't think the word "undisputed" champ means what you think it means. I'd take Little Wendel Clarke over Probert any day.

Probert was a good fighter. But he was never "undisputed".

One thing i am sure we can agree on. They don't make them like that anymore.

No, Probert was most definately the undisputed champ for many years.

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#78 Spydyr
January 10 2014, 04:10PM
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MessyEH wrote:

I don't think the word "undisputed" champ means what you think it means. I'd take Little Wendel Clarke over Probert any day.

Probert was a good fighter. But he was never "undisputed".

One thing i am sure we can agree on. They don't make them like that anymore.

Wendy Clark, really?

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#79 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 04:31PM
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My picks are not just goons. But hockey players who can fight

. Clarke had some great fights with Probert, despite 4" and 30 lbs in the difference. (Clarke would jump people.)

Probert was definitely a hockey player. He had some decent hands. Could take a regular shift and not look terrible.

Besides, how interesting would this be if we all agreed. ;)

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#80 Oiler Al
January 10 2014, 04:58PM
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Gadzic as a hockey player is just a step ahead of Big Mac, who is 10 X the fighter Gadzic is.

Gadzic cannot take care of business! Cote [Tampa], and Reaves [ Blues ], were taking runs at guys in the last two games... and Gadzic did nothing about it. I guess he figures he scored a goal is job was done for the next month.

Ps. Also Gadzic plays with little confidence , just dishes the puck off only to get rid of it. His hockey IQ is that of a lizzard.

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