Georges Laraque faces suspension Update 12PM: Carey Price Named second star of the week
Anyone who is a Habs fan (a sane one anyway) will tell you that Big Georges Laraque isn't a bad guy. He's always willing to talk to the media, he's a big joker amongst teammates, he has a huge heart when it comes to charity and he's arguably one of the most gentlemanly players in the league.
Thing is, he wasn't signed to be a nice guy. He was signed to be a tough guy, that protects his teammates, aggravates the opposition and provides energy for the 5 to 8 minutes he's going to be on the ice. But in 43 games he's played (out of a possible 195 that he could have played) since he signed a 3 year, $4.5 million deal with the Canadiens in the summer of 2008, he's been almost everything except for the tough guy he needed to be. Forgetting points for a second, he has 77 penalty minutes in those 43 games. Amongst those are 11 major penalties, 11 fights. While one may ask what he was doing the other 32 games, a more appropriate question would be to ask what he was doing in ANY of those 43 games. All those 11 fights were staged, and while he won most of them, they brought next to nothing to the team.
I praised Big Georges early in the season, because his hockey had improved, and he wasn't taking anything away from the team in his role. I could have very well seen continued improvement from him as the season went on, and even a few goals from him, but more importantly, the ability to drop the gloves with someone without first asking him whether he had permission to punch him in the face.
Unfortunately, just like last season, he wasn't in good enough health to play. He had, and continues to have, severe back problems that are probably herniated disks that will end his career, sooner rather than later. Going into his return games this weekend, he said that he's just going to have to learn to live with the pain, and while it may or may not affect his game further, it's only going to be a headache for the Canadiens in the long run.
All that being said, here we are, Monday, November 23rd, 2009, and Laraque faces a disceplenary hearing with the league's Colin Campbell later today, for a knee-on-knee collision with Detroit's Niklas Kronwall. As a result, Kronwall will likely miss a month of action, which will greatly hurt the already struggling Red Wings. (The hearing is ongoing and I will update with the results once they become available).
Laraque isn't a dirty player. He doesn't do those kinds of things. And I believe him when he says that he didn't intend to injure Kronwall. But it is a suspendable action, and the league is more than likely to make an example out of him. 3 games sounds likely, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him get 5 games or more, despite the last of a record in his name before this incident.
Jacques Martin can't be happy with this turn of events either, or with the fact that Laraque took 6 minutes of penalties and Saturday night, that led to 2 Red Wings powerplay goals. If it wasn't for Mike Cammalleri's heroics late in the game (how often have we heard that before!), scoring 2 even strength goals and helping his team get a point in their first shootout loss of the season, things would be much more negative for the Canadiens this morning.
Either way, Laraque needs to face disciplenary action, both from the league and both from within the organization. It's nice that he's finally decided to be a little tough, but he certainly did it the wrong way. We want you to play tough Georges, not dirty! If he can't start playing proper 4th line hockey, the Canadiens are going to need to do something about his contract, and they're going to need to find a way to get rid of him.
The Habs are lucky to have any points this weekend, as both the Capitals and the Wings gave them a run for their money in two one-goal games, despite hurting, either with injuries in the Capitals case, or both injuries and a simple reduced level in play, in the Wings' case. Both games ended 3-2, one a regulation victory for the Canadiens over the Capitals, the second a shootout loss against the Wings, the first extra time loss the habs have had to swallow this season.
It's certainly a good thing that the Habs were able to compete with them and steal 3 out of 4 possible points, but needless it say they had to be a litle lucky. And while BGL's suspension won't hurt the team that much, it really isn't great news for a team that already has a bunch of key injuries. With a tough schedule coming up, the Canadiens are going to have to find a way to keep getting lucky, and keep stealing points from superior oppnents such as the Blue Jackets (Tuesday), the Penguins (Wednesday), and Washington once again on Saturday, before they play 17 games (including 4 back-to-back situations) in the month of December, which has never been kind to this team).
The only advice they can be given is to take these games one at a time, play how they need to play against each opponent, keep things simple and try to score as many goals as they can. Hopefully Carey Price can continue to play like he's playing, and the team will start getting healthy (and better) in front of him.
For now, we can take our fingers away from the panic button and hope the Habs can turn this thing around and start playing good, consistent hockey.
- Finally, if you're a football fan, make sure to keep an eye out on montrealgazette.com, tsn.ca and rds.ca for all the details on next Sunday's Grey Cup game, pitting Montreal's own Alouettes against Winnepeg in Calgary.
Check back here later in the day for updated press and blog reports as well news from both Laraque's hearing and Habs practice.
Carey Price has been named the second star of the week, and deservedly so. The Habs were 2-0-1 this week, and Price posted league-best stats for last week, with a 1.89 GAA and a .940 SVP, and facing 100 shots during the week. He allowed but 2 goals in each game. If it wasn't for this BGL mess he would have been featured in my blog today.