Point Taken?

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?

This article has 2 Comments

  1. Hmmm, interesting. I was at that game where Neil took out Drury…I like your description as “borderline”, as the hit was close enough that a Sens fan could interpret it as clean…even though Drury had just gotten rid of the puck at the time and was hit from the blindside in open ice where he was stopped. What I thought was the worst was that Ottawa coach and players pretended that they couldn’t expect the response that had occurred. Murray purposefully put out Heatly / Alfredsson and Spezza on the ice, knowing the Sabres were going to relatiate with Mair, Peters and Gaustad. (Your article mentions Kaleta, who was not yet with the team at that time.) Maybe Lindy Ruff and the Sabres should not have responded the way they did, but shouldn’t the Sens have expected that response?

    As far as the article goes, I am not sure what your point is, per se…that goons aren’t useful? I think they serve a much lesser role than in days of old…but their is definitely a “code” in the NHL…and teams that don’t stand up for themselves…like the Sabres have been known for this prior to this season…tend to get pushed around. Sometimes, you gotta knock someone around to gain the respect of others…the code of the playground that translates to the code of the NHL.

  2. Yeah, my point is that goons have really become useless. If their primary purpose is to somehow dictate or change the momentum of the game, I don’t see how it’s going to work anymore. If players continue to pull a Sauer there’s no use for the heavyweights anymore. I think that’s a really big reason why guys like Clarkson and Carcillo are so valuable – they can scrap and score a couple to boot.

    The ones that I’ve listed, the Laraques, the Peters, the Boogaards, I can really do without, although I’m not to sure the game can.

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