September 22, 2007
Oilers lack toughnessMore Palookas needed to score with fists
By BOB STAUFFER
If the first few pre-season games are any indication that the Edmonton Oilers are about to have to their show run again this season.
Last season the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup, while leading the NHL in fighting majors. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers picked up the carcasses of their injured players at the hands of enforcers Derek Boogard and Jody Shelley.
Over and over again the phrase team tough was applied to the Oilers by the Oilers.
We have heard more of the same from head coach Craig MacTavish in the pre-season.
Don't buy it!
In the Oilers second pre-season game first Kris Newberry and then Wade Belak ran Anson Carter.
Carter suffered a concussion, and the Oilers exacted no retribution.
In Vancouver two nights later, Oilers Zach Stortini and J.F. Jacques fought and lost to two guys who likely won't be in the NHL this season.
The Oilers do have Sheldon Souray, Matt Greene and Steve Staios on the back-end with Ethan Moreau up front that can keep opposition players somewhat accountable, but this Oilers team needs these guys on the ice and not in the box.
Stortini, though a very nice young man, is a Louie Debrusk clone. Like Debrusk he holds on in bouts and scares no one. Jacques is an enigma who has been outclassed in bouts a couple times already in his young career.
Clearly the Oilers may have misread the tea leaves when they let Georges Laraque walk in the summer of '06, and opted not to replace him with a legitimate enforcer.
You would think that MacTavish and general manager Kevin Lowe would have seen the value in Laraque or a player with his unique skill set.
After all they had three of the best enforcers in the game: Dave Semenko, Marty McSorely and Dave Brown, riding shotgun for them when they played.
Laraque may have been a pain in the ass at times for MacTavish to deal with ... try having to contain him on the air once a week!
But, the Oilers had a guy feared by everyone even if he wasn't the perfect enforcer.
Bottom line, it is not whether or not the GM or the head coach thinks you need an enforcer, it is whether the players think the team needs one.
My guess is that the players would appreciate a true heavyweight to take care of business, even if they won't publicly say it.
Laraque used one of the seven words that legendary comedian George Carlin used to say that you can't say on TV in a recent interview on Total Sports.
When asked if he finds it ironic that he is now sticking up for one of the most annoying agitators in the business in long-time Oilers nemesis Jarkko Ruutu, George had a comical response.
"I laugh now that we are teammates, because when he was in Vancouver, I used to tell him I wanted to (bleeping) kill him!"
MAKIN' HIS POINT
Laraque sent a succinct message around the NHL this week when he crushed Andrew Archer's orbital bone in a tilt after Archer went after Penguins agitator Jarkko Ruutu.
Archer is not a legitimate NHL fighter but he went after one of Laraque's teammates, and he ultimately paid the fiddler, getting tuned in the process.
The power of the Edmonton Oilers organization was reinforced with stunning amount of coverage that the Edmonton Oil Kings got from media outlets to start their season in this past week.
Current Kootenay Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth who of course was part of the Edmonton Ice disaster must have been shaking his head muttering ... where were you guys 10 years ago?
Granted the failed Edmonton Ice made numerous mistakes in the market including not paying homage to the Mah and Hunter families who are synonymous with Junior hockey in this city.
They also appeared to parachute a team into Edmonton when the Oilers appeared to be on the verge of leaving town.
But, clearly the media appears far more interested in covering a Junior team with Oilers ownership ties then one without it.