Georges Laraque and the enforcer who can play

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

  • Oilerz4life

    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.

  • Phuryous George

    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!

  • Phuryous George

    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.

  • The Soup Fascist

    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.

  • PimKing

    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.

    • Tikkanese

      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.

  • Rick Stroppel

    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?

  • Tikkanese

    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?

  • Spydyr

    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. 😉

  • Spydyr

    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.