The Montreal Canadiens have come to regret the three-year, $4.5 million pact they signed with enforcer Georges Laraque, and this morning they informed the veteran NHL’er that they intend to buy him out at the end of the season and that in the interim he will not play in any of the team’s games.

Laraque, presently concerned with the safety of his extended family in Haiti and the response to the earthquake there, was uncharacteristically critical of Canadiens management, calling the move “classless.” He described the timing as “awful” and gave the media a glimpse into his relationship with head coach Jacques Martin.

“Jacques Martin doesn’t like me and doesn’t believe in toughness,” Laraque said.

I agree with Laraque on the issue of timing, as the team could have left him a healthy scratch for a while longer without telling him definitively that he was finished, but on the larger issue of the value of his play, it’s impossible to disagree with the Canadiens. Hampered by injuries, Laraque has struggled ever since signing a three year contract, as the following table shows.

Advanced Stats 2008-09 2009-10
ES Points Per 60 0.50 (16/17) 1.12 (8/14)
ES Rel.Corsi Per 60 -12.0 (17/17) -25.0 (14/14)
ES +/- Per 60 -1.49 (16/17) -2.25 (14/14)
Quality of Comp. -0.11 (17/17) -0.11 (14/14)
Off. Zone Start % 60.8 (17/17) 39.4 (1/14)

The number in brackets represents how Laraque ranks among Canadiens forwards with 10 or more games played. The statistics themselves are fairly straight-forward; ES designates 5-on-5 play, and we’re looking at scoring and plus/minus adjusted for ice-time. The other measures are Corsi, which shows how well the Canadiens did out-shooting their opposition with Laraque on the ice, Quality of Competition, and percentage of draws taken in the offensive zone.

The numbers are ugly. Laraque’s a non-factor on offence, bleeds goals against, and does it all playing in a fourth line role. Given that Laraque’s also the kind of guy who isn’t always effective as a deterrent (because he only fights heavyweights) and given the debatable value of a designated enforcer in any case, it’s difficult to blame Martin for his point of view. As Montreal’s coach, I wouldn’t want to put a player that ineffective on the ice either.

I feel bad saying that, because judging from his community work Laraque is one of the league’s great ambassadors, but the fact is that he’s been a liability every time he’s stepped on the ice over the last two seasons.

Comments (12)

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Willis, Sean Tomlinson. Sean Tomlinson said: RT @JonathanWillis: Laraque's finished with the #Habs, and aside from the timing it's hard to blame the team: [...]

  2. Your more then welcome to come to the leafs Laraque and help pound the habs! Would much rather have him then Wallin or Stempniak in the lineup!

  3. As a die hard habs fan, i guess this is kinda good, he was slow, didn’t play much, and either would’ t fight or nobody would fight him, but the habs just let go a guy who was like 6’5 and added toughness to a small team lacking both size toughness, i’m really starting to wonder what bob gainey is doing he must have have something up his sleeve, he needs to do something though, get the team a spark, they can not miss the playoffs or he wont be back!

  4. Why was a trade out of the question? I realize that Laraque has a no-trade clause, but if it came down to playing for another team now or not playing until next season (for another team), I think that Laraque would have agreed to the former.

    Gainey should have tried to at least get a late draft pick for him, surely at least one team would have been interested in that deal.

  5. Art: I’ve wondered the same thing, but who wants to pay 3MM over the next two years to a guy who is a total liability at this stage in his career?

  6. Laraque scored his first goal of the season the night of the earthquake in Haiti. He was HUGELY popular with the fans. I disagree with his level of effectiveness as he was one of the few bright spots in the playoffs against the Bruins last season, he rarely makes bad turnovers with the puck or bad decisions, regardless of his atrocious skating. If he was untradeable, they should have kept him around longer as a healthy scratch etc. From a PR standpoint, it makes the Habs look petty, ruthless and desperate. We’ll see if this move works out.

  7. Burkie: I agree that the PR is horrible, but I don’t know how we can say Laraque’s been an effective player. He bleeds shots against, he bleeds goals against, he doesn’t play on special teams, he doesn’t generally play against good players, and he’s a non-factor offensively. What does he bring?

  8. He brings toughness, size experience and a great locker room personatlity to the team, the other night when jannsen ran over price who went after him???? no one the habs are going to get tossed around without some kinda touugh guy on there team, (Moen will fight but atleast he can play a regular shift so i’d rather not put all the fighting duties on him)

  9. What’s with the huge turnaround in ZoneStart from last year to this? From last to first on the club?

  10. He’s a distraction? Why? Because his country has been destroyed by an Earthquake?


    This is just one more example of why Gainey is one of the worst GM’s in the league, I have no idea how he still has a job.

  11. @Eddy: Doesn’t bring much toughness, either. Doesn’t stand up for his teammates anymore, and I don’t even think I’ve seen him lay a ton of punishing hits, other than that knee on Kronwall earlier this year. Size is only useful if you leverage it.

  12. Laraque rarely makes bad turnovers or take bad decisions??? Burkie how many Habs game have you watch this year?

    Laraque was a huge negative every time he was on the ice. Whenever Big Georges was on the ice, the HABS where playinf 4 on 5. He only did turnovers and bad decision.

    He his big and toff, but even so, there is not that many man in the league who wanted to fight him or can. and everybody knows that Georges is a gentle giant and would never jump another player or tough guy. He went to the guy and if he said no, this was final, no push or shove to make the guy fight you. It happenned so often I cant remember how many time it actually happened. Even if the guy had given a cheap shot to a good habs player, George was gently asking he he wanted to go.

    So if he doesnt fight that much, he doesnt inspired fear in opponents cause everybody knows of George’s code. He can’t be intimidating on the ice as he rarely was able to give a hit dur to his skating issue. Even the only time he fought this year ( about 6 fight) he won 1, tied 2-3 and loss 2. He didnt put points on the board either…

    so he was becoming a liability, with him out of the picture, Bob his clearing some precious cap space to help him ressign Plekanec( I just hope he begins talk soon enough and dont wait until june 22 to do so)

    I do think that Bob is the problem with the HABS, his non signing dureing the season rule will cost us Plekanec, he’s the one who brang Larque and Jaques Martin and his damn SYSTEM. He made the HABs one of the lousiest team to watch,, no emotion no creativity, nothing.

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