I could live with Kurt Sauer‘s hit on Andrei Kostitsyn. It’s a fast game and it happens when people are hitting others – the arms come up sometimes to protect themselves and near the boards is always a dangerous area to be. What I don’t get, however, is what Georges Laraque was supposed to accomplish.
There are only a handful of teams out there who dress their tough guys fairly regularly: Montreal with Laraque, Minnesota with Derek Boogaard, Pittsburgh with Eric Godard, Atlanta with Eric Boulton, Anaheim with George Parros (who is on a scoring streak), Buffalo with Andrew Peters, Calgary with Andre Roy, St. Louis with Cam Janssen and now David Koci, and the Coyotes with Todd Fedoruk and Brian McGrattan. It goes without saying that coaches choose to play these players 2-5 minutes a night to ensure the safety of their star players, but it does take two to tango, and what if the opposition refuses to fight and pull a Sauer? Instead of dropping the gloves with Laraque, he choose to do it with a much smaller Tom Kostpoulos, who in the process is made to look absolutely silly. So… what’s the point of dressing Laraque? Sauer refused to dance, and there was nothing the Habs, Sergei Kostitsyn, or Laraque could do about it. Obviously there was some sort of thought in the back of Guy Carbonneau‘s head that told him Sauer would willingly respond to Laraque and keep the “fighter’s code,” but he didn’t.
Of course this brings us back to the “unwritten” code amongst NHLers, in which borderline hits on star players have to be answered, but Sauer was always in the driver’s seat. He made the hit and dictated how the Habs would respond. This also goes back to the Ottawa-Buffalo brawl, in which Lindy Ruff sent out Peters and Patrick Kaleta (EDIT: not Kaleta, but Adam Mair and Paul Gaustad as PeterS points out) on purpose against Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley to avenge Chris Neil‘s borderline hit on Chris Drury. The Sens made the hit, and in the process made the Sabres look like a goon squad with Ruff taking the brunt of it.
So what does having a “heavyweight” accomplish? The only upside is that it’s supposed to protect your players and intimidate the other team, but judging from Kostopoulos’ face it sure didn’t do anything to faze Sauer. Teams that regularly dress their heavyweights are wasting 2-5 minutes of ice-time per game, instead of giving that ice-time to quality players. If heavyweights are supposed to dictate the tone of the game, or even just to provide some sort of spark, the Habs and Laraque failed miserably in that department. Sauer’s not dumb enough to take on Laraque, and I don’t imagine many players in the league are. So, really, what’s the point?