Laraque, Sykora make their mark

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

There is an old proverb that states that "one man's trash is another man's treasure".

That's certainly the case for a pair of Pittsburgh Penguins, who open the Stanley Cup final tonight in Detroit against the Red Wings.

Cast aside by the Edmonton Oilers, Georges Laraque and Petr Sykora are important components of a team four wins away from hockey's Holy Grail.

In the summer of 2006, Laraque, the NHL's best fighter and one of the league's top enforcers, signed with the Phoenix Coyotes after he could not get a no-trade contract from the Oilers.

Laraque stated on several occasions that he was prepared to sign for far less to stay in Edmonton.

It was well known that by the end of Laraque's stay here, his relationship with head coach Craig MacTavish had soured.

The Penguins, in dire need of some toughness to protect stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, acquired Laraque from the Coyotes at the 2007 trade deadline.

Laraque has been a good fit with the Pens ever since.

The Oilers, meanwhile, led by the aforementioned MacTavish, have tried to downplay the absence of a nuclear deterrent like Laraque - while all the while selling the virtues of light-heavy Zach Stortini.

Ironically, the team has had back-to-back seasons of record-setting man games lost due to injury.

Sykora was signed by the Oilers to a one-year deal during the 2006 off-season and developed a fine chemistry with Ales Hemsky for the first half of the 2006-07 season, appearing to be on pace for a 35-goal season.

A true complementary player who excels with a playmaker, Sykora got a little nicked as the season wore on and finished the year with Toby Petersen as his centre.

The writing was on the wall for Sykora, who obviously did not fit into MacTavish's long-term plans.

Nonetheless, Sykora stated on more than one occasion that he liked Edmonton and wanted to re-sign with the Oilers, before eventually getting an offer from the Penguins.

Sykora, who previously won a Cup with New Jersey, will line up beside Malkin and Ryan Malone tonight.

Two players who weren't a fit in Edmonton are now a part of a team that is being compared to the 1980's Oilers.

Does that say more about Sykora and Laraque, or more about the Oilers?

THURSTON STAYING

Sources have indicated that the Kamloops Blazers expressed serious interest in University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Eric Thurston for their vacant head coaching position.

Thurston, who has won two CIS national championships in the last three seasons while Rob Daum was on leave, is staying at Alberta.

It is a wise decision by Thurston, as the Kamloops situation is a mess.

In November the team was purchased by former Vancouver Canucks owner Tom Gagliardi along with ex-Blazers Jarome Iginala, Shane Doan, Darryl Sydor and Mark Recchi.

The team blew out former WHL coach of the year Dean Clark, who was GM and head coach, and eventually replaced him with one of their buddies, the completely inexperienced Greg Hawgood.

The Blazers finished the season winning one of their final 19 games under Hawgood's ...er... guidance.

Former Blazer Craig Bonner, who has worked his way up through the ranks in the WHL, was hired as GM in April.

Meanwhile it is believed that Hawgood is slated to remain with the organization as an assistant coach, along with another ex-Oiler and ex-Blazer, Steve Passmore.

STANLEY SPLITS

Thurston meanwhile has lost a sniper up front who was originally expected back with the Golden Bears next season.

Dylan Stanley, a one-time 90-point scorer in the WHL, has passed on his final two years of eligibility to sign with Rosenheim in the German league. He also had an offer from Rochester in the AHL.

Harlan Anderson, who finished the season with the AHL's Springfield Falcons after being named Canada West MVP with the Bears, did not wait for an AHL offer.

He's signed with the German club Heilbronn.


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