Throughout their history, the Penguins have never really been known as being a particularly tough team. And by "tough," we mean adept at dropping the gloves. There never was a Penguins enforcer who was among the best.
Sure, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz suited up for two seasons with the Penguins, but he was hardly the fighter he was in his heyday with the Flyers by the time he came to Pittsburgh. Marty McSorley had two stints with the Penguins, but they were sandwiched what was the prime of his career. Paul Baxter owns the team's single-season record for penalty minutes with 409 in 1981-82 but he was more of a pest than anything else. Guys like Jay Caufield, Chris Tamer and Krzysztof Oliwa where more than willing to dance with willing partners, but they lost as many bouts as they won. And guys like Kelly Buchberger and Steve McKenna might as well of had an Everlast logo on their chest instead of a Penguin. Francois Leroux might've been the team's best fighter, but he was hardly in a class with the likes of a Tony Twist, Bob Probert or Tie Domi.
At the trade deadline of the 2006-07 season, general manager Ray Shero changed that by finding someone who would protect his young cadre of developing stars. And he did it in a big way. He swung a deal with the Coyotes that brought the game's best fighter in Georges Laraque.
Laraque was unlike anything we've seen here in Pittsburgh. He was a black hockey player of Haitian heritage who had corn rows, spoke two languages and dominated just about any fight he was a part of. He was so dominant of a fighter, many opposing goons just simply weren't all that eager to drop the gloves with "BGL." And when Laraque did get a chance to go at it, more often than not his fights were fairly boring due to Laraque's immense strength.
Our first chance to see Laraque ply his craft came in a game against the Rangers March 10, 2007. Colton Orr was the brave soul who decided he wanted to test Laraque:
On March 27, 2007, he tangled with Washington's heavyweight, Donald Brashear while Ryan Whitney scored a goal:
He began the 2007-08 season going at it again with Brashear on Oct. 20, 2007:
Nov. 22, 2007 vs. Ottawa's Brian McGrattan:
Nov. 30, 2007 vs. Dallas's Krys Barch:
(Why was Barch hunched over like an old man in that fight?)
Dec. 6, 2007 vs. Calgary's Eric Godard who will replace Laraque as the Penguins' enforcer:
Dec. 13, 2007 vs. McGrattan again. McGrattan left the game with an injury:
Dec. 20, 2007 vs. Boston's Zdeno Chara. These two tried to fight twice and it didn't exactly live up to the hype:
Dec. 27, 2007 vs. Brashear:
Jan. 14, 2008 vs. Orr:
Jan. 24, 2008 vs. Philadelphia's Riley Cote:
Feb. 9, 2008 vs. Los Angeles' Raitis Ivanans:
Feb. 14, 2008 vs. Carolina Wade Brookbank:
March 6, 2008 vs. Florida's Wade Belak:
April 2, 2008 vs. Cote again:
(Say what you will about Cote, but he's not afraid of getting beat up.)
Unofficially, Laraque went 13-0-2 as a Penguin according to Hockeyfights.com.
Unlike most goons, Laraque actually had a little bit of ability. He could punch in the occasional goal and could absolutely punish opponents along the boards. He wasn't completely useless like Atlanta's Eric Boulton or Minnesota's Derek Boogaard.
But make no mistake. Laraque paid his bills with his fists. And he did it better than just about anyone ever in a Penguins uniform.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-Random YouTube Find of The Day: Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur making a nice toe save on Mario Lemieux in the 2000-01 season:
-The Canadiens re-signed defenseman Josh Gorges to a three-year deal.
-The Maple Leafs signed Swedish free agent defenseman Jonas Frogen but the NHL rejected the contract.
-Senators goaltender Ray Emery signed a deal to play in Russia next season.
-The Hurricanes re-signed forward Chad LaRose to a one-year deal.
-Former Penguins forward and scout Greg Malone was officially named head professional scout of the Lightning.
-The Blue Jackets signed head coach Ken Hitchcock to a three-year extension.
-The Sharks re-signed defenseman Chrstian Ehrhoff to a three-year deal.
-The Ducks' new AHL affiliate in Iowa has an interesting name. They'll be called the Chops.
-The Kings still need to hit the salary cap floor. (If that makes sense.)