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

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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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#1 Sandra
January 09 2014, 05:40PM
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Laraque always pushes down other fighters he never hits the he just trips them, ask Orr

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#2 Jesse
January 09 2014, 04:49PM
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Oilers are a Junior team, Gazdic fits in well.

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Gazdic isn't mean enough. He's a nice guy who can fight pretty well.

The Oilers need to get more mean. I'm pretty sure it'll actually help in the win column as well.

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#4 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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#5 Rama Lama
January 09 2014, 04:50PM
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The real "gold standard", for enforcers should be Bob Probert. There was a guy who could play second, third, and fourth line minutes.

Although Gazdic has only a few points........he has been marginally played, and not been played enough, IMHO. I would be planting him on the second PP unit right in fron of the net.......he has the size and move fairly effeciently.

I can't believe that we landed this guy. We need one more like him.

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#7 BleedOil4Life
January 10 2014, 12:40AM
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do you people forget how he finished his career??? the man was garbage and couldnt land a job...he played for his home team and was AWFUL.

the guy had 2 good years and then no one would fight him and he tried to be offensive doing that move from the corner where he controlled his stick with one hand and pushed away the guy with the other....it was almost as funny as ryan smyth coming down the wing and taking a "slapshot"

get over george...the man was crap

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#8 I AM KEVIN L.
January 09 2014, 05:42PM
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Wow... You tier-2 fans are already done talking about me? It only took that Gagner bait;)

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#9 borisnikov
January 09 2014, 06:15PM
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@27Ginge

Honestly I'm not sure why he doesn't play more

Oh my.

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Hmmm, lemme see here,

Guys comparable to Georges.

The list starts below*.

* Brad May, Terry O'Reilly, Tim Hunter, and the starting line up of the 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers

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#11 Say what again
January 09 2014, 04:53PM
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So is a 31st overall pick wasted if he's playing as a 4th line enforcer?

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#12 pkam
January 09 2014, 05:32PM
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Say what again wrote:

So is a 31st overall pick wasted if he's playing as a 4th line enforcer?

Depends on if you draft BPA or draft for need.

If the pick is supposed to be BPA, then it probably is wasted. If it is for need, then it should be evaluated differently.

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#13 27Ginge
January 09 2014, 04:44PM
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I'm not sure what the advanced stats say about Gazdic but I'm about 99% sure that his teammates love having him on the team. He has the right size, age, toughness and skill set to be on this team for quite a few years. Honestly I'm not sure why he doesn't play more.

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#14 China town man
January 09 2014, 06:20PM
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Maybe bring back messier for a game or two he looks Mean and plays dirty that is what our current oilers lack grit balls and heart too many pretty boys on this bus.

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#15 MessyEH
January 10 2014, 03:08AM
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Best total package Enforcer....

Dave "Tiger" Williams.

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#16 ToppsSmith
January 09 2014, 05:21PM
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Say what again wrote:

So is a 31st overall pick wasted if he's playing as a 4th line enforcer?

Not a waste, Edmonton needs toughness, they have a lot of offence but they are small. Took the right step with Gazdic but he can't be the only one who can if needed drop them.

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#17 The Real Scuba Steve
January 09 2014, 07:15PM
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I don't known why we got rid of him, He wanted play in Edmonton, He did charity work with kids, and he beat the s#%t out of anybody who took a run at Doug Weight. Another classic KClown decision.

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#18 **
January 09 2014, 08:44PM
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It's ok Jonathan, all you need is time. You will, too, end up liking Gazdic. In time, in time.

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#19 Say what again
January 09 2014, 04:55PM
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I'm talking about Moroz and he was 32nd overall, btw

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#20 ToppsSmith
January 09 2014, 05:18PM
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I really like Kale Kessy. He has some learning to do, but he could be called up incase of Galdic gets hurt, playing the same minutes I think he could fit in. However he is in the right place playing in OKC

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#21 common sense
January 09 2014, 07:55PM
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Wow..what a beautiful clip. It's so nice to see Laraque wallop Boogaard. I remember the bogeyman running roughshod over the Oilers when Laraque was no longer here. If only Laraque had a mean streak...man that guy would've that much greater. I can almost pretend Laraque raising both hands up in victory further ingraciating himself to the fans. Imagine the bolt of energy it would give you as a teammate knowing he pummelled and took down the 270lb animal. How about Laraque together with Steve McIntyre against Boogaard and John Scott. I'd pay money to see that.

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#22 Taylor Gang
January 09 2014, 08:20PM
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This is completely unrelated to this blog.

I'm so mad at the Oilers for sucking, but I'm more mad at myself. I sucked myself into believing that the team would be good this year. I thought maybe they'd have a winning record, and with a bit of luck, make the playoffs. How wrong I was...

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#23 Walter Sobchak
January 09 2014, 08:34PM
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In IIRC correctly the first or second Oil Change, Lowe & Tambellini have a conversation about a player.

(paraphrasing)

Lowe walks into the room and say's we can get him, Tambellini says something to the affect he's talked to other GM's, to which Lowe retorts give him community stuff he loves that, Tambellini then responds I'm afraid of what he might do with the kids"

I've often wondered if they were talking about George?

At any rate there were very few who could handle big George, coincidently after 07 the Oilers injury rate went through the roof!

looking over youtube, I found one draw out of all of those George fights, he was the best!

Another good player flushed by the MacTavish -Lowe & Tambellini regimes.

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#24 Copper
January 09 2014, 10:06PM
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I liked laraque but, he was a fighter not an enforcer. He would only fight the other teams heavyweight and only if they had said yes. That is not an enforcer. An enforcer would make anyone answer to their actions. George never even gave a face rub to Regher or Avery. And he should have.

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#25 Chris.
January 09 2014, 05:43PM
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Kevin Lowe, Scott Howson , and Craig MacTavish like to flip flop regarding the necessity of having a super heavy weight.

In 2006 Laraque wasn't offered a contract after the deep playoff run. The strategy: team toughness. Two years later: the flip flop... Laraque was offered a very generous contract by the same management team that had previously snubbed him but he opted to sign in Montreal instead.

Tambellini flip flopped on Steve McIntyre twice... and not to be undone our innovative new GM got in on the Flip-Flop-Oiler-Hop picking up Steve McInyre for a 3rd time following the Kassian play on Gagner... (Of course then he flipped back and had to do some careful maneuvering to back away from the 50 contract limit)

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the pre rebuild management team looks and acts almost identical to the current management team. Funny that we were all expecting different results.

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#26 The Soup Fascist
January 09 2014, 05:52PM
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Sandra wrote:

Laraque always pushes down other fighters he never hits the he just trips them, ask Orr

~ Yeah George was a real powder puff! ~

Two minutes for ... er .. tripping.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzBSICvS0Dk

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#27 Butters
January 09 2014, 06:53PM
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The second coming of Dave Brown would be fine by me.

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#28 ToppsSmith
January 09 2014, 06:59PM
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TCG wrote:

The only thing about Kale Kessy right now is that he's not showing the offensive touch down with Oklahoma....5pts in 29 games.

I agree. Like I said, he belongs in OKC. He is jut a personal favorite of mine, and I think he could play the 4th line fine where he isn't expected to put up points. But ya I know he isn't at the NHL level yet.

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#29 Alsker
January 09 2014, 07:26PM
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Butters wrote:

The second coming of Dave Brown would be fine by me.

Or Dave Semenko or even Dave Hunter. Gazdic would do better with a McClelland type center(Steve Ott).

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#30 Dog Train
January 09 2014, 08:46PM
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Gazdic seems to be better at his role than some of the guys we have played in that role since George left. Nobody would fight MacIntyre and nobody was afraid of Stortini. Eager just wanted nothing to do with the role after his concussion. Gazdic hits, forechecks and sticks up for his teammates. I think he's coming along as a player so hopefully he can continue to string together some solid games and he can earn some more minutes.

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#31 The Oilers Shot Clock
January 09 2014, 08:49PM
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Laraque could play. He had shifts where he had the puck more than anyone on the ice and a lot of that time was spent 3ft in front of the opposition net. I remember him for that long reach skating at a crawl speed across the front of the net holding off everyone with his strength. The almost scoring chances he created was amazing really. I actually don't remember him for his fighting. He scored 13 goals one year and 8 the year after that. That's pretty awesome from your goon.

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#32 common sense
January 09 2014, 09:04PM
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G-Unit wrote:

George sure could chuck the knuckles, but a player in the NHL who can't turn right is embarrassing. I hope the time of the staged fights are coming to an end. I never remember Sammy asking for a fight if one of the boys on the bus got roughed up. He was a real beaut

I don't mind the staged fights but you're right some spontaneity would be nice. Some real emotion...but alas the instigator rule has dampened that. I still remember Smac daddy walloping Prust with body shots and Prust wincing in agony. How good old McClelland...man that guy had some quick hands. What about Messier breaking Jamie Macoun's jaw.

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#33 common sense
January 09 2014, 10:27PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

The Oilers played Buffalo with Laraque out of the line up and Rob Ray ran Dougie and other Oilers, he forgot they played again about a week later and that was the worst beating George ever gave anyone, It virtually ended Ray's career. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=george+laraque+vs+rob+ray+&sm=1

Simply a marvelous youtube clip. I would love to hear Ray's recollections about that fight. Truly wonderful nostalgia of an Oilers team that was a little short on talent but so much character and heart. Look at the Smac attack on Prust... www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHI3HbabAo8 What a bone-crunching bodycheck.

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#34 Double Down
January 09 2014, 11:03PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

I don't known why we got rid of him, He wanted play in Edmonton, He did charity work with kids, and he beat the s#%t out of anybody who took a run at Doug Weight. Another classic KClown decision.

No he didn't beat the s#%t out of anybody who took a run at Doug Weight. The problem with George is that he only wanted to do the honourable thing and only fight the other heavy weights.

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#35 I AM KEVIN L.
January 10 2014, 05:18AM
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I have another sell out this evening. This time against Crosby... From a purely business standpoint I do not care if the fans booh me or cheer for the other team. I reassured my master that he should not worry about the fans' rumblings as his coffers are full. Thank you suckers!

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#36 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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#37 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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#38 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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#39 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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#40 Bucknuck
January 09 2014, 04:56PM
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Say what again wrote:

So is a 31st overall pick wasted if he's playing as a 4th line enforcer?

If any pick outside the top ten is playing in the NHL, then it's not a waste. Heck, many first rounders never play an NHL game.

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#41 Mac962
January 09 2014, 05:42PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Remember Ken Yermenchuk?

It was Yaremchuk , played against both him and his Brother Gary when i was young. Gary played for the Leafs for a bit, Ken for the Hawks.

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#42 Harlie
January 09 2014, 07:04PM
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We were also paying Laraque a hefty 3 million per if IRC.

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#43 G-Unit
January 09 2014, 08:50PM
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George sure could chuck the knuckles, but a player in the NHL who can't turn right is embarrassing. I hope the time of the staged fights are coming to an end. I never remember Sammy asking for a fight if one of the boys on the bus got roughed up. He was a real beaut

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#44 Rod from Viking
January 09 2014, 10:06PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

I don't known why we got rid of him, He wanted play in Edmonton, He did charity work with kids, and he beat the s#%t out of anybody who took a run at Doug Weight. Another classic KClown decision.

The Oilers played Buffalo with Laraque out of the line up and Rob Ray ran Dougie and other Oilers, he forgot they played again about a week later and that was the worst beating George ever gave anyone, It virtually ended Ray's career. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=george+laraque+vs+rob+ray+&sm=1

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#45 Reg Dunlop
January 10 2014, 12:18AM
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How sad that nostalgia reigns on ON but whatever...

Laraque was a beast, as was Semenko but Dave Brown was the greatest enforcer in NHL history. Will any of the oilers circa 2007-2013 be fondly remembered in 30 years?

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#46 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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#47 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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#48 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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#49 bluetada
January 10 2014, 11:52AM
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No Eddie Shack fans out there?

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#50 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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