January 21, 2010
What began as a curious story about the Montreal Canadiens parting ways with their enforcer has blown up into a war of words between Georges Laraque(notes) and Habs GM Bob Gainey in a matter of hours.
It started with an RDS report that the Canadiens were parting ways with Laraque, who has one goals in 28 games this season during limited ice time (5:46 on average per game). Habs Inside/Out of the Montreal Gazette confirmed the report, as the Canadiens told Laraque he was no longer part of the team:
Colleague Pat Hickey says the club will pay Laraque two-thirds of his contracted salary in 2010-11, that is, $1 million of the $1.5 million on his contract. The club can spread the cap hit over two years, thus $500,000 next season and again in 2011-12.
Done and done, everyone moves on, right? Wrong, as an emotional Laraque not only went over his former coach but after the Canadiens' sensitivity toward Haitian earthquake victims. Yes, he went there.
Big Georges spoke with Darren Dreger of TSN Thursday morning and said the following:
"Jacques Martin doesn't like me and doesn't believe in toughness," Laraque told TSN.
Laraque added that Martin never shared any concerns directly with him and is furious with the Canadiens' approach based on the emotional issues he's dealing with following the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the impact this disaster has had on both him and his family.
"To do this in the midst of all I'm dealing with in Haiti, the timing is awful," Laraque said angrily.
Laraque followed up the initial conversation after cooling down in an effort to put his frustration into context. "I was very emotional and I'm very hurt by this decision. I'm a proud guy and I may have let my emotions get the better of me," Laraque told TSN.
May have? Didn't know there was a gray area in accusing your now-former team of apathy toward earthquake victims 48 hours after they raised over $150,000 for said victims ...
After Big Georges popped off, Habs Inside/Out published a rebuttal from Gainey:
In a nutshell: he said Laraque was a distraction and was unproductive, and that the team could better pursue its goals without him.
The decision was made to let him go about a week ago, but with the catastrophe in Haiti, where Laraque has relatives, it was postponed. Laraque remains on the payroll this season and probably will be bought out at season's end, though that's unclear. He was not put on waivers because he had a no-movement clause in his contract.
Laraque's time with the Canadiens predated that of Martin, who was hired a year after Laraque signed his three-year contract. The "toughness" charge against Martin is obviously one of "anti-enforcer," and it might actually stick: While he had Andre Roy(notes) and Chris Neil(notes) with the Ottawa Senators before the lockout, his Florida Panthers teams (that he had a hand in building) didn't have a traditional enforcer.
But if Neil is the model, then Laraques didn't fit the mold at this stage of his career and with his limited ice time. Assuming the Habs need an enforcer, which they probably do considering the Ewok-ian average height of their forwards.
Is this the end of Laraque's NHL career? If the "locker room distraction" charges stick, perhaps. But if it is the end, at least he'll have something to fall back on; the "something" of course being roller-hockey soft-core models. And that's a heck of a safety net right there.