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 a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 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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#52 Rama Lama
January 09 2014, 05:18PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

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.

Remember Ken Yermenchuk?

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#53 TCG
January 09 2014, 06:45PM
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ToppsSmith wrote:

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

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

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#54 TCG
January 09 2014, 07:16PM
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If anyone's interested in seeing the Barons players...there's a link to their game tonight on Wiziwig.

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#55 Alsker
January 09 2014, 07:28PM
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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.

He didn't want to fight anymore, he believed his offensive ability was enough to keep his spot on the team...NOT. To bad though.

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#56 Rama Lama
January 09 2014, 07:57PM
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Mac962 wrote:

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.

I guess we are both dating ourselves...........what was he like playing as a kid? How old were you then?

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#57 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
January 09 2014, 09:00PM
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I watched that clip three times. Can't believe how easy George made it look, knocking down a 270 lbs behemoth with a couple jabs and a solid left.

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#58 Giant
January 09 2014, 10:35PM
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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.

He wanted a no-trade clause, and Lowe utterly refused to give a no-trade clause to an enforcer.

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#59 Romanus
January 10 2014, 12:42AM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

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?

Definitely. They will be remembered as the worst team in franchise history.

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#60 @Oilanderp
January 10 2014, 12:45AM
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A good fight fires me up when I am on the bench. I wish I could do it, but I am just too small. I try to make them pay in other ways. But man, I like having a hitman who sees all on the bench. Most of the time, I don't even have to say a name. They already know.

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#61 Oilerz4life
January 10 2014, 06:08AM
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Laraque was arguably the toughest guy in the league but had no idea he actually had some stats going for him. I remember him being strong on the puck behind the net along the boards but hey, I guess that was an advantage to the ownership era Oilers, a forth line that could score. Go figure. Didn't he score a hat-trick one time lol.

Gazdic, who's this fella? A better teams cast away? Who are the Oilers, the also rans? The weaker thans? Just an extension of an under-performing player on an under-performing team. Cool guy, alot of heart, but no championship level player that's for sure, no offence.

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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 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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#66 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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#67 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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#68 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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#69 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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#70 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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#71 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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#72 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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#73 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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#74 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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#75 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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#76 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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#77 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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#78 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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#79 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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#80 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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