Much to nobody’s surprise, the Montreal Canadiens and enforcer Georges Laraque have parted ways. The Habs have bought out the remaining year on Laraque’s contract, ending a relationship that has often been difficult for both the player and the hockey club.
Laraque had a year to go on his $4.5 million three-year deal. The buyout is worth $1 million and spreads out over the next two years, putting the Canadiens on the hook for a $500,000 cap hit each year.
Plans to buy out Laraque have been in the works since January of 2010. They had banished the popular enforcer from the team by then, stating that he had become something of a distraction. He was a part of the roster “officially,” but was not seen at games or practices for the rest of the season.
The plan in 2008 was for the Habs to add toughness, but when Laraque started to take away from the focus of the game through various incidents, it was clear that his impact was debatable. He rarely did the jobs assigned to him, dropping the mitts only sparingly, and became a problem to deal with for management and the coaching staff.
Many argue that the era of the enforcer is over in modern hockey and they may well have a point. The inability of Georges Laraque to become anything other than an enforcer speaks to his singular dimension as a player and the Habs, looking to add toughness in the right moments, were unable to find more use for him.
Laraque might find work on another NHL team soon enough, as some teams do still consider a role for an enforcer as an integral part of a successful franchise. But today’s enforcers need to do more besides drop the gloves, I think, and Laraque’s rare offensive success and his overall lack of speed may be more problematic than many purists would like to admit.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.