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.