GEORGES LARAQUE: HIS SIDE OF THE STORY

Instead of being part of the Montreal Canadiens unlikely appearance in the Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia Flyers, TV facetime for Georges Laraque these days means getting tossed around a wrestling mat by mixed martial arts kingpin Georges St. Pierre.

While the Habs beat the Flyers 5-1 Thursday to cut Philadelphia’s series lead to 2-1, Laraque, told to pack his bags by Montreal GM Bob Gainey January 21, has had to make due with promoting a wrestling match with MMA star George St. Pierre on TSN. What could the 33-year-old Laraque, one of the NHL’s toughest men, have done to compel the Canadiens to send him home with full pay midway through the second season of a three-year contract worth $4.5 million? A contract the Habs will buy-out for two-thirds of the $1.5 million he’s owed next season.

When the Canadiens released him, Gainey characterized Laraque as unproductive, as being a distraction, saying, "I met with Georges Laraque and informed him he would not be continuing as part of our team. We felt our goals were more achievable to continue without him."

Asked about being relegated to sideshow status in a friendly bit of grappling with friend St. Pierre instead of battling the Flyers in primetime, Laraque says the answer lies with coach Jacques Martin, who took over behind the bench to start this season. In Laraque’s first exclusive interview since being released by the Canadiens, the former Edmonton Oilers tough guy gives his side of the story to Oilersnation.

So, Georges, what happened?

ACCORDING TO GEORGES

"First of all, the question you’re asking me is a question everybody around the league has been asking me," Laraque said. "Players, GMs, coaches, to my agent, to many people.

"The way that everything went down, in the eyes of many people, people assume I must have done something really bad. Like I must have fought with somebody or argued with someone.

"Me, I have never argued with a teammate. I have never fought with the coach or the GM. Never once they told me they were not happy with my play. I’ve always worked hard. When I didn’t play, I never complained and I did all my work.

"I never said one word about what was going on with the team. That’s the first thing I clarify with people. I was the player rep. I was one of the most popular players on the team. I was always happy and there was never a problem"

Laraque, drafted by the Oilers 31st in 1995, played parts of eight seasons with Edmonton before signing as a free agent with the Phoenix Coyotes before the 2006-07 season when GM Kevin Lowe declined to give him the no-trade clause he wanted.

Laraque made stops in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, then turned down an opportunity to return to Edmonton — the Oilers offered him a four-year deal worth $6 million when Daryl Katz took over as team owner — opting to take a three-year deal in his hometown with the Habs.

While Laraque had a disappointing 2008-09 season in Montreal with Guy Carbonneau and Gainey behind the bench, playing just 33 games because of back problems, he hoped for better things in his second campaign.

Enter Martin.

NOT HAMMERTIME

"The problem started when Jacques got hired last summer," Laraque said. "When Jacques got hired, Andre Roy, who used to play for him in Ottawa, told me I wouldn’t last three months.

"I asked him why and he said, ‘Jacques doesn’t like tough guys.’ When he said that, I started laughing. I said, ‘There’s no way you know it’s going to go like this.’ He said, ‘You’ll see. Three months.’

"When you look at Jacques, when he was in Ottawa, it’s true he had a talented team. He had Rob Ray and Andre Roy, but he would not play them against Toronto. They got roughed up all the time. Even though Ottawa was more talented, Toronto would beat them.

"Then Jacques went to Florida. He had Wade Belak and Steve Macintyre. He traded Belak to Nashville and he let MacIntyre go to Edmonton. After Jacques left, they (Florida) got MacIntyre back.

"I heard when he came to Montreal, he didn’t want to have a tough guy. But Gainey was the coach in the playoffs the previous year, as everybody remembers, and I did a good job against Boston and he played me lots. I assume he must have told him to wait, or whatever."

RED LIGHT SPECIAL

Even during his rise to becoming recognized as the NHL’s most feared fighter with the Oilers, Laraque was criticized for his lack of a mean streak, for failing to fully exploit his fistic prowess, for not punching first and asking questions later. He heard the same criticisms in Montreal.

"This season, everybody was asking me what was going on, why I didn’t want to fight and stuff like that," Laraque said. "That’s not true. If I didn’t want to fight, I wouldn’t have been in the NHL for 12 years.

"When stuff was happening on the ice, I would tell Jacques to put me out there. He didn’t want to. He wouldn’t let me go out and fight. Sometimes, I’d even ask him if I could take a bad penalty.

"I’m not going to criticize Jacques, but if you don’t like having a tough guy, you don’t necessarily know how to use them. I’ve played for Ron Low, Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe, Michel Therrien. All those guys knew how to use a tough guy.

"When I tapped one of those coaches, I didn’t get a ‘no.’ With Jacques, it would happen all the time. With MacT, that happened at the end, too, but not the first few years. In the beginning it wasn’t like that. I’d say to MacT, ‘Let’s go.’ He would laugh and put me out there."

Handcuffed, he says, by Martin, Laraque played just 28 games with the Habs this season before he was called in by Gainey and told his services would no longer be needed.

"People said I didn’t want to fight any more," Laraque said. "Sometimes I’d go to (assistant coach) Kirk Muller and say, ‘Kirk, I need to go out there. You’ve got to let me go out and do something.’ Kirk would talk to Jacques, but he was the coach and he made the decisions."

READY TO RUMBLE

"I was healthy this year," Laraque said. "My back, everything, was fine. The more the season went on, the less I was playing. It came to a point where I was playing four shifts a game. I never complained. I was just sitting on the bench, but I tried as hard as I could. "I’m not a four-shift-a-game player. I can play more than that. I take pride in the fact that every year in the playoffs, I’m one of the tough guys who can play. The people in Montreal never got to see that. The first year, I was always hurt. Only the playoffs against Boston saved my season.

"The second year, I played for a coach who didn’t want to have me. You know the media in Montreal. When I wasn’t playing, the media would ask a lot of questions. It was to the point that whenever there was a press conference, people were always asking him (Martin) why I wasn’t playing.

"He was getting sick of it, always having to answer why I wasn’t playing. It can be a distraction. You want to talk about the team, the play, whatever. You don’t want to talk about why you aren’t playing this guy. He didn’t like that." In one game against St. Louis last January. Laraque was a healthy scratch. Blues tough guy Cam Janssen was running roughshod over the Habs. That prompted TSN’s Pierre Maguire to question, in no uncertain terms, on the broadcast why Laraque wasn’t being used.

"He (Maguire) was between the benches. Jacques could hear him. After the game, all the media were asking why I wasn’t playing. I got released the next day."

WHO WANTS GEORGES?

When the Habs buy Laraque out this June, he’ll be free to shop his services, likely at a discounted rate. Laraque will get $1 million of his $1.5 million salary for 2010-11 from Montreal, meaning he could sign for the NHL minimum.

"I want to come back and show people who think I can’t do it any more that I can do the job," he said. "I look around the league and I see a lot of tough guys. I know I can still do the job better than most of them.

"I look forward to coming back. When I’m a free agent, I can go wherever I want. I will definitely be back. I’m only 33. I’m healthy. I’m hungry to play more than ever. I want to show those people who think I’m done that I’m not done."

The question for some fans is if a return to the Edmonton might be in the cards for Laraque. "I’m in the driver’s seat. I can play anywhere I want," he said. "Any option I have, I’m going to consider it, right? We’ll see."

For as badly as things went for Laraque in Montreal, he says he doesn’t regret his decision to sign there.

"That’s the way he (Martin) coached in Ottawa, in Florida, in Montreal," Laraque said. "I’m not going to take it personally. At the end of the day, there was way more good than bad. I want to thank the fans for all their support. Still, today, I get their support."

— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Before they think about the idea to bring George back. they need to get rid of Nillson and O’Sulivan first. is there anyway they can send them to the KHL? First on the list is Souray and whom ever Tambo was talking about in his presser ? I don’t care who it was just trade him. I know this has nothing to do with the article.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Alright Robin, I want to pose a question to you. If we don’t go after Georges, who is the fighter that Edmonton should bring in for the role this year?

    I am not that adept at knowing all the tough guys from all over the league as I haven’t watched that much of the other teams, just the Oilers and their opponents. Just curious as I know we NEED someone to play that role for us next year.

  • HOPE

    BGL was way to slow for the new NHL. The opposing team were on a Power Play every time he stepped on the ice. That’s the reason BGL did not get any more ice time.

    Georges’ a really nice guy and all, but he can’t follow the speed anymore.

  • I would like to see a couple of players in the mold of Simmonds (L.A) , Versteeg , Byfuglien , Clutterbuck , Carcillo and many others that are young , fast and can play hard and tough . We don’t appear to have any like that mold ,even in the system, except for maybe Nash if he develops and stays here . Sounds like some of you say Nash does not want to sign and play here , and wants out . What a kick in the gut if they wasted two draft picks on the kid , passed up on Perron twice (Plante and Nash)to get him and maybe lose him for nothing ?

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Robin,

    A lot of enforcer talk here. On the subject, I have painfully had to watch Stortini be the “patrolman” for the Oil the last few seasons. Not only is he a terrible fighter, but his lack of speed is unacceptable at the NHL level.

    His heart has kept him in the line-up, but in my humble opinion, you could fill that roster spot 1,000 times with AHL players based solely on effort- if skillset is obviously not in the criterea.

    Enforcers are supposed to strike fear into the other teams, and its seems other teams literally just laugh at him.

    Is it not time for the Oilers to either get a bona-fida enforcer, or deem the spot unneccessary and fill it with a different role??

    • Cowbell_Feva

      You sell Stortini short. And the Oilers have enough AHL players in the line-up now without replacing Stortini with one.

      If I’m the GM. Zack is my second guy, not my lead guy in the toughness department. Being tough enough is not about having just one guy who beats the crap out of everybody they fight. It’s about letting the other team know that if they screw around, there will be consequences and Zack willingly tackles the role. He’ll go with anybody, even if he has no chance to win much of the time.

      Having the super-heavyweight only works if he can play a regular fourth-line shift and if the other team knows he will f*ck up anybody who steps out of line. If the other team knows your big guy will only go with their big guy and won’t “pick on” smaller guys who take liberties — which has been the biggest criticism of Laraque — then it doesn’t work because there are 16-17 guys in the other line-up who get a free pass because they know they won’t become targets.

      If an opponent takes a run at Hemsky or whoever, then he needs to get filled in without question whether he’s six-foot-one and 200 pounds or six-foot-five and 240. The law of the jungle only works if you approach it that way. If not, you might as well polish up the power play and use that as your deterrent — like Detroit does.

      • Nailed it.

        170 pound Buchberger knew what the deal is. He stood up for teammates no questions asked and got took right hands to the face for 10 years. He could look every teammate in the eye and they would respect what he brought to the game, moreso to the team. It is the willingness to push back, the willingness to stand up and be counted. Not whether or not you win the fight in the end. A yappy 10 pound poodle dog barking away inside your house will deter a burglar because it understands territory and somehow doesn’t realize it is 10 pounds.

        Most players short comings are due to inability (just not being good enough) or having the tools and just not being able to execute at a reasonable pace (Robert Nelsson). Georges failings aren’t a matter of execution or ability. They are a matter of choice.

      • Cowbell_Feva

        Yes, perhaps I did sell him a bit short. There is no doubt that he will go with whoever, whenever. Saying that, I’m not so sure that the other teams are really worried about the “consequences” if they do screw around?

        I guess I would be more in favour of a more team based toughness, rather than pin all the grit on one player. Given the current roster that identity is a long ways away, however I did like what Tambellini did with acquiring Ryan Whitney and getting rid of Lubo (all while saying some cap space). More moves in that direction would help.

        Further, I think a Big John Scott as a #5 or #6 defenseman would only bolster the size/grit factor, as you had mentioned earlier. At the same time Stortini could maybe be play a more limited roll, or in my opinion get replaced with a similar player with better foot speed. I’m not sure how J.F. Jacques back problems are, but I think he would be the better #2 tough guy if a John Scott-type-of- guy was brought in.

        The reason being is, I don’t like the chances of the Oilers P.P. being much of a deterrent given the special teams numbers the past few years!

        • Don’t buy into the Oilers hype. Jf Jacques can’t play hockey period. Storini is a better player, all Jacques can do is hit people with his back I doubt he will be around long. John Scott is super slow he gets beat 95% of the time on the outside. I really don’t know how John Scott made the NHL oh yeah cause he is big and can fight not a 5th or 6th dman.

          • Cowbell_Feva

            What hype are you talking about? If you think J.F. Jacques is worse than Zach Stortini you need your head examined. JFJ is faster, better hands, and can actually fight.

            As far as John Scott, the only reason I made mention is that I was trying to address the Oilers, and their lack of team toughness. Scott can be a 5th or 6th Dman on a 30th place club.

            And if Stortini is NHL material, than so is John Scott, seeing as they are there for the same reason, except Scott actually strikes fear into people.

          • Cowbell_Feva

            I could argue that he has been a detriment to the team…there is 4 other players on the ice that can cover errors.

            However, he put the puck deep, and didn’t make blind backhand passes. He played within his skill.

            BUT.. I’m saying he isn’t effective enough when it comes to being a legit enforcer. If he had much much better foot speed I would have no issues, because he takes the body when he can. Foot speed. He needs lots of it.

          • JFJ hasn’t been nothing more the preseason hype. Stortini has been playing for three seasons in the line up. Jacques is alright but he would have to make the team that Stortini is already on. JFJ fight ? When ? Who? Go back an watch Jacques barely fight or win. If we want a fighter yes Scott would be ok, but he is not a good skater also D.J King never played that much this season. Stortini was good in his role and will get better.nI’d be suprised if any management would pick Jacques over Stortini. Stortini hasn’t claimed nor we I that he is a heavyweight. He is a antagonizer and good at it

          • Cowbell_Feva

            Had JFJ not been injured he would have been much more recognized. For starters he fought Reghyr on Sept.23/09 and Bieksa Dec.11/06 (for your who and when question) If you want to talk about winning fights, Stortini can hardly be the poster boy for that. JFJ is not a so called heavyweight either, but at least he can stick handle, and at least he can SKATE.

            JFJ led the team in hits when healthy, which is what we need, not an antagonizer.

            Stortini was drafted 93rd overall and JFJ was 68th so obviously all 30 teams in the league thought better of him.

            Also, its embarassing watching the Oilers play in a pub outside of Edmonton and you see/hear the laughter from other fans regarding Stortini. They don’t hate him like a good antagonizer would do. They aren’t worried about him beating anyone up. They second what I say….how is this bum in the league??

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            you cant really bring draft position in to back up much of anything. the draft is to much of a crap shoot.

            for example:

            zetterberg was picked 210th overall in 1999. the oilers to jani rita at 13th. does that mean rita is better? 30 nhl teams passed on zetterberg almost 7 times…

          • Cowbell_Feva

            If you had read the post it wasn’t rocket science.

            I said when watching the Oilers play outside of Edmonton-and outside of any biased views- those hockey fans see Stortini for who he is…A BUM!

            Saying that, it is embarassing to be an Oilers fan because he is just that- a bum. It wasn’t that way when Georgie was patrolling because he was feared- not laughed at!

            The effort is there no doubt, unfortunately after Pee-Wee hockey foot speed and skillset become a neccessity to be a pro.

          • Ok, and you’re still saying that it is embarassing to be an Oiler fan and calling Stortini a BUM!! What do you want from me, a pat on the back ” it will be ok “, those guys are just being mean. So you don’t like Stortini and you like George I’m ok with that, but re-read your post since it wasn’t rocket science and you’ve just repeated it again. Do you really think that players are feared or laughed at ? Players respect anyone that is in that role. Maybe the fans laugh since they don’t respect the job those players do.

          • Cowbell_Feva

            I don’t want anything from you, most defintely not a pat on the back…I have broad shoulders. Not sure where you got that I wanted anything from you to be completely honest.

            Your most obviously under a bleed-Oiler-copper n’ blue-umbrella that taints your perception on the realities of the game of hockey. I was,am, and always will be an Oiler fan- but that doesn’t mean I’m delusional.

            To answer the question of whether players are feared or laughed at- its BOTH. There are 4th line plugs that do get respect around the league because they play hard, they fight, but are NOT slower than Hal Gill skating backwards, and can actually stick-handle. (I’m refering to Zach-attack here). This is what separates the respected guys, from the guys that are most obviously OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE, or laughed at.

            OH, and if you think other teams players respect Stortini (not the role in hockey- HIM) you really are out to lunch!!

          • So Stortini isn’t respected by NHL players, was George a great skater or could he stick handle ?. Your pee wee comment is funny ( Wondering if you just finished your first year of Pee Wee ) ~looks at other posts from guys that aren’t actually delusional~

          • Cowbell_Feva

            George is by no means a smooth skater, but he could get up and go @ twice the pace Stortini can. That and he was the toughest SOB in the league. At least he excelled in one area!

          • Yeah George is a tough SOB I haven’t denied that. Did you watch George skate or just fight cause George played about four mins a game on his best nights for a reason. Stortini can play on the 3rd line if needed and never puts the team in a disadvantage while on the ice. Doesn’t run around taking stupid penalties. He plays smart hockey dump and chase, what more do we need from a 4th line player. Also Stortini FIGHTS for his teammates not the fans.

          • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

            I’d like to see you talk all this trash to huggy bears face.

            Storts is a legit NHL player, been in the league full time for 3 or 4 years. Regardless of your assessment on Stortini, real-life actual hockey professionals think he’s good enough to be penciled in on an NHL roster as a regular and that’s more than thousands of hockey players trying to make it to the bigs can say.

        • Hemmertime

          Getting rid of Lubo for Whitney was retarded. Whitney is a decent D man and all, but Lubo is top 15 in the league, and could be top 5 if he had a little more weight on him.

          Though I believe Lubo requested a trade and thats why we pulled the deal. Saving some cap space? Pfft, under 2 mil, can ditch Nilsson and have that

          • I’d have to agree Whitney is a decent D man but nothing close to Lubo. Lubo is a top 2 D man on most team, Whitney is probably a 3rd or 4th on any good team. I don’t really think he is much better then Smid. He played some good games but now coming off a surgey. I’m not sold on him yet, he has yet to prove to me he was the reason for Gilberts play at the end of the season. Oh yeah Gilbert isn’t a top 2 D man also. We are so screwed.

          • Still with this, eh?

            “Top five” with a little more weight on him? Visnovsky is already as big as he can possibly be. He is in ridiculous shape and is put together like a brick sh*thouse. He’s as big, muscularly, as he can be without turning into a bound-up power-lifter. He’s a guy who will drop 20-25 pounds within six months of retiring. He’s an athlete. And he’s a damn smart player.

            That said, your hyperbole abpout Whitney is getting old (and I can back Whitney without knocking Visnovsky). I said it on trade day and since then and I’ll say it again: My best guess is Whitney will outscore Visnovsky over the remainder of his contract. At worst, it’ll be neck-and-neck. Even IF Visnovsky has a slight edge, the Oilers get a guy entering his prime instead of leaving it and they get a cap hit break. Whitney is only decent? Please.

            You cut the legs out from under your evaluation when you downplay one guy to build up the other in such an obvious way. I’d be happy to have them both, but that’s not where we’re at. I get it, you liked Visnovsky, but give the Whitney-isn’t-anything-special spiel a rest, OK?

          • Hemmertime

            Whitney is a fine D man, very decent to have on your team. I didn’t knock his play or anything. Was a one liner on him, nor did I say Visnovsky will be able to gain weight. If he had a little more (say 20 pds) he would be more effective. Its not like hes out of shape or he wouldn’t have that distinctive square look from behind. He’s in hella good shape.

            I won’t quote the statistics Willis posted showing his positive results while playing with any partner or effect on Smid since I know you hate the #’s game, but I will say its an undeniable fact that he made anyone around him better and his speed getting back into his own zone is phenomenal.

            I think both of their contracts are fair, 5.6 for Vis and 4 for Whitney. Whitney is no slouch, but neither is he worth near 6 mil a season. His money reflects the fact that hes a decent 1-2 guy or an above average 3-4. The only counter-point that’s valid to me is age, and that relies on Whitney re-signing here. If he doesn’t, I’d rather have a 34 year old Vis than a 29 year old Whitney in 3 years.

            With Hemsky and Khabby healthy we are not a bottom 5 team, so retaining Vis I believe would have helped our slim chances at playoffs. Pretty much every team in the NHL has a D man that’s better than Whitney, but not many do that’s better than Vis. The fact we got a pick in the deal too shows both GM’s believe Vis is the better asset. Even though it wasn’t a high pick. It was a good trade if what I believe (that Vis asked to be traded) is true. Otherwise, in my not so humble opinion, bad.

          • Cowbell_Feva

            First off, that move was not retarded! I was and still am a big fan of Lubo. Great first pass, great shot. The problem is Edmonton didn’t make other teams pay enough physically (ie, lack of team toughness). Lubo was far from physical. Same for Grebeshkov.

            Tambi got rid of those two along with over-the-hill Staios, brought in Whitney, saved around $6 million in cap space to sign the likes of Gagner, Cogliano (if they want), and Brule. Also, Gilbert and Whitney formed a defensive pairing that was on the plus side of the +/- and Gilbert looked reborn.

            Lubo is a good offensive, puck moving Dman…nowhere near top 5 in the NHL mind-you…but he’s good and I liked him, BUT he’s not what the Oilers need right now.

  • Mitch

    I like GL alot. As a human being he appears to be giving and caring kinda guy. His shaken baby campaign was a highlight. Remember George with the baby in his arms? As much as I would like to see GL in an Oiler uniform again I think that it isn’t going to happen. On the other hand GL could make a nice post hockey living in this city working with the Oilers.He really would be an excellent ambassador for the team. With the push for a new Arena I think GL would and could be an excellent asset in terms of reaching out to the citizens of this city. GL has a love for this city that goes deep. I think it may be time for GL to put aside the old role he has played and embrace a new role that I think is more in line with his personality. Outgoing, well spoken, funny, and approachable. I think that is what the OIlers need more of right now. Dave Semenko is a great example of how a player can be effective away from the ice.Dave is a great ambassador for the team . We need to bridge the gap between the Oilers of the 80s and the modern era and GL would be a great choice. I think that Katz and company would be well served to offer GL a position that uses GL”s off ice assets.

  • This from a guy who like Brownlee actually knows what he’s talking about (Lowetide)…

    On Stortini:

    How important is Stortini to this team?

    He’s valuable in that Stortini is one of a very few Oilers who does his job at a decent cap hit. He’s also pretty healthy and seems to be content in his role. The Oilers have fires all over, there doesn’t seem to be a huge need in this area (4line role player, middle heavyweight).

    On Jacques:

    How important is he to the Oilers?

    I think he’s a full negative. Either he was injured last season (hands, brain, something) or he truly cannot play at the NHL level.

    http://lowetide.blogspot.com/search/label/jacques

    http://lowetide.blogspot.com/search/label/stortini

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Also keep in mind that yes JFJ had alot of hits, but i’d say at least half the time he’d go out of his way to make the big hit, fail, lose his coverage and give the opposing team either a scoring chance or a goal.

      • Who says Quinn is coaching?

        And if he is, there are plenty of tough guys who look like Pavel Bure compared to Steve MacIntyre, who simply can’t get around well enough to satisfy Quinn’s “must be able to play” edict.

        Hardrocker: How do you know what King does in the off-season and what his training regimen is, even if you’re in the same town as him? He fights in the bars? Is that third-party gossip? You hang out with him? You “heard” from somebody who knows somebody who hangs out with him?

        I don’t know of many NHL players in this day and age who make a habit of getting into bar fights. There’s way too many big mouths who start whining publicly hoping for a pay day when they get the ass-kicking they asked for and even the slighest indicretion ends up public thanks to cell phone cameras etc etc.

        • This town is only 5000 people. Ever lived in a town like this? There are more than 3 times the total population of this town at an oilers game at any time.

          Only one gym in town. I have been a member for more than 10 years. I see him at the gym. Not hard to see his training regimen. The bars? Only ever one bar at a time that is busy in this area. Not hard to spot anyone out of the 100 people out at any given point.

          This is not a city, if you havent lived in a small town, maybe try it. City life is very different. Don’t need much “third-party-gossip” here. Very easy to see for yourself.

  • Those interested in D J King, I live in his home town. He is around during most of his off season. Lots of partying in the bars (including fighting) and doesnt appear to be much for training. Not sure if the work ethic is really what Edmonton needs at the moment.

  • As good as Asham?

    Even with decent offensive numbers later in his career, Asham, now 32, is minus-34 through 11 seasons. Stortini is minus-4 through four seasons. Is there an advantage there?

    Stortini is 24 turning 25 in September. Asham had his best offensive season — 15-19-34 — in 2002-03 at the age of 25. Again, though, despite better offensive numbers, Asham gives up more than he gets.

    I’d suggest Stortini will be a more useful player in a fourth-line role from the age of 25 on than Asham has been.

    • Zack’s only broken 5 goals once (six), and he hasn’t even broken 10 assists yet, a long ways off Asham’s career year #’s. I think you’re selling Asham a little short… I’ve liked him since his Rebel days and always thought he was one of the few Islander players that would interest me via trade. He’s a perfect 4th line guy IMO, and if Zack can be as good as him over the next 6 or 8 years, the Oilers have a player. While I think Zack has grown quite a bit as a player since day one, I don’t see him being as good as Asham ever was. Just my opinion…

        • I grew up idolizing Steve Yzerman & Joe Sakic. Jonathan Toews is my new hero (and I’m too old for hero’s). Maybe that’s why I lean toward guys like Matt Duchene & Tyler Seguin over John Tavares & Taylor Hall.

          Must be something to the number… I love me some 19 (even Joe Thornton & Jason Spezza).

      • I never said Stortini is as good as Asham. I said I could see him being a more useful player from this point on in his career. If you are swayed by career-high seasons of 15, 12 and 11 goals for Asham from his fifth season on, fine.

        STORTINI 1st season — 29 games 1-0-1 minus-7/2nd season — 66 games 3-9-12 plus-3 /3rd season — 52 games 6-5-11 minus-3 /4th season — 77 games 4-9-13 plus-3. TOTAL 224 games 14-23-37 minus-4

        ASHAM 1st season — 7 games 0-0-0 minus-4 /2nd season — 33 games 4-2-6 minus-7 /3rd season — 46 games 2-3-5 minus-9 /4th season — 35 games 5-4-9 plus 7. TOTAL 122 games 11-9-20 minus-13

        Stortini and Asham produced points at almost the same rate in their first four seasons when you bump up Asham’s numbers to allow for Stortini’s extra 98 games. Asham, even with increased offensive production from his fifth season on, is minus-21 in the last seven seasons, or an average of minus-3 a season. Asham’s career-high is 34 points, in 2002-03, when he averaged 12:13 per game in ice time. His seasons since are 24, 24, 23, 10, 20 and 24 points.

        I can’t see Stortini matching the 34 points, but it’s not unreasonable, given his first four seasons (he’s averaged just 8:13 per game), to say he could be an 18-24 point guy. If Stortini does that and can remain a minus-1 or minus-2 player, how is that a significant difference from Asham, who produces more points but is a marginally worse plus/minus player?

  • Mitch

    Robin I think the Malkin rumors were crazy, but would you consider a package for Stall from Pittsburgh? I wouldn’t move MPS or #1 overall but any other player would be moveable.
    I think it would help improve Pittsburgh’s forward depth and give the Oilers needed size and skill.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You have to treat +/- with caution. All the credit in the world to Stortini, who’s earned an NHL career on effort rather than talent, but he’s had the benefit of the bounces in a lot of his seasons. The on-ice shooting percentage for him this year was 9.7% and the on-ice save percentage was .937. Last year it was 13% (!) and .892 and the year before it was 9.8% and .933. League average in these situations is about 8% and .920. With the guys lower down the lineup, the save percentage and shooting percentage tend to get lower/higher respectively – 4th liners tend not to have real finish or play guys with real finish.

    I’m not really sold on Stortini as a guy who has real finish. If you were to ask me to bet the percentages for him going forward, I’d bet something like the 7%/.930 mix. Even with more time on the ice, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s already had his best year as far as the counting numbers go. The more serious problem with him is that he just gets bombed out there in terms of shots. Even being hidden, it’s still bombs away for the other team. He’s the kind of guy who’s popular with the fans on crappy teams but who doesn’t have a job on good ones.

    • I’m well aware of the shortcomings of plus/minus and if you want to apply more advanced stats to a fourth-liner who plays 8 minutes a night, fine.

      You can take a 1964 Volkwagen Beetle to a Porsche Dealership and get a far more detailed analysis than at the corner garage. In the end, no matter how detailed you get, you’re still talking about a ’64 Bug and a ride with obvious and expected limitations.

      Real finish? First time I’ve seen that and Stortini in the same sentence. Is there a marked difference between “real finish” and average finish when you’re talking about a player who gets all his goals from inside six feet by hacking and whacking and raising hell in the crease until the puck goes in or the whistle blows? That’s starting to cut it a little fine, no? Come on . . .

  • As far as I’m concerned it depends on who is coaching & how much George would be paid.

    Stortini was a more effective player when MacIntyre played here briefly. If Stortini doesn’t feel like he has to be the guy fighting all time he is an effective player.

    It could be a win win. Like a few other people have posted a guy who feels like he has something to prove could be a good fit here. Having a young line up most likely this season If he signed like Robin suggested for a minimum contract I would have no problem with it.

  • No comments on Peter Pocklington from the Nation followers ? Or Yzerman becoming the new GM in Tampa ? I say good for Yzerman I wish him well seems like a good guy and was one hell of a good player. Why can’t they throw Pocklington in jail already ?

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      It’s BS that Pocklington is getting off, 6 months house arrest? I think it’s a joke that all he is getting is a slap on a wrist when he was facing 10 years in jail.

      Yzerman, well I like that he was learning from the best but I don’t know that because he won gold with a 155mil roster that he is the best candidate for the job. Maybe he is, I guess he needs to get a start somewhere.

    • Let's Rebuild

      I was just thinking of the first conversation Yzerman has with Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Stamkos: “Hey you guys are great players, not Olypmic great or I would have chosen you, but you are still great.”

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Good article, but no mention of how his teammates were getting frustrated with him trying to change people into vegans?

  • Is there a reason that the NHL players from the 80’s are GMs in the league now ? With all the money invested don’t you think that the owners would hire guys with a financial backround etc ? I haven’t nothing against Yzerman or anyother Gm just always have wondered this.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        X2. I keep hearing that teams should hire lawyers as GM’s, why? Just because they know the law and can probably read the CBA doesn’t mean that they can figure out what kind of players to draft or trade for, or what kind of staff they need to help them make a better team.

        • I’m going to go the other way on this. The GM position needs to be filled with someone that can think strategically and can plan long term for the organization, in addition to being able to interpret and understand legal documents, negotiate contracts, etc.

          My thoughts are to put the business mind there, and surround him with hockey knowledge/advisors.