Beware of the Boogeyman

Derek Boogaard (right) left the Oilers battered and bruised last season. (Sun Media File/Darren...

Derek Boogaard (right) left the Oilers battered and bruised last season. (Sun Media File/Darren Makowichuk)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

MINNESOTA -- Derek Boogaard would like to assure Edmonton that it's nothing personal, that it was pure coincidence, really, the Oilers had to scrape all those players off the ice last season.

But he's glad you're thinking about him.

And you know the Oilers are, heading into their first of eight games this season against a six-foot-seven, 260-pound nemesis who gave them such a physical and mental pounding last year it was almost difficult to watch.

"That's the way I play every game," shrugged the Minnesota policeman, whose one-man assault knocked three different Oilers out of the lineup with injuries. "It's not just Edmonton. I play like that against Calgary, Vancouver, Colorado, Chicago ... it's just the way it is."

The damage just happened to be a lot more severe against Edmonton. The Copper and Blue were black and blue when the Boogeyman got finished with them.

Ales Hemsky, Ladislav Smid and Marty Reasoner all needed time to recover after run-ins with Boogaard.

His hit on an unsuspecting Hemsky, who didn't have the puck, is one of the examples the NHL now uses to illustrate suspendable offences.

"It speaks to his effectiveness that we're speaking about him," admits Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "Until we prove that we can negate his effectiveness with some good offence and make him a liability instead of an asset, we're going to have to deal with these questions."

The Boogeyman just leans back in his stall and grins.

"Anytime another team's coach gives you that much credit it does feel good," he said. "But when other coaches yell and scream and complain, in a way, that feels good, too. You know you're making an impact in the game."

Boogaard had an enormous impact, and with nobody on the Oilers' roster capable of keeping him honest, there's every reason to believe it will happen again.

Are the Oilers nervous about seeing him?

MacTavish is almost offended by the question.

"Are you serious? It's the NHL, it's not a league of weak-kneed wimps. I'm not concerned that it's going to happen again ... not overly concerned."

Neither is Hemsky.

"That's hockey; stuff like that happens," he said. "It's a different year now. I just want to play my game and hopefully I can score some goals, pay him back."

That's Edmonton's only defence ... a good offence. They can't unring the Georges Laraque bell, and bringing in a new tough guy won't help because Boogaard will just beat him up.

"You really don't want to play to his strengths, which is his ability to fight," said MacTavish. "He's a hell of a fighter. There are a lot of other teams in the league that don't have a matchup for Boogaard.

"You want to limit his physical contribution by having some awareness and moving the puck before he gets there. Just play a hard, physical game, and a skill game. You have to make plays, you have to make him go end to end. Then you can negate the effectiveness of a player like that."

Edmonton made a conscious decision to move Laraque and employ a team toughness philosophy that didn't always work last year.

Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire, for one, can't imagine the Wild going without a heavyweight.

"It's very simple," he said. "Sometimes when you don't have (Boogaard) in the lineup, you have guys (on the other team) who are more brave. There's no doubt. They'll go at our skill players a little more.

"But when he's there ... they ease up a bit. I saw the difference when he was in the lineup and when he wasn't. They know that if they start to whack the top players ... he's going to whack them."


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