Some Love for the Guy Oft Accused of Hugging Too Much

By , August 22, 2009 10:22 pm
"Nobody... call's.. me... HUGGY!"

"Nobody... call's.. me... HUGGY!"

As mentioned in the latest Updates from the Hockey World post, I mentioned that Georges Laraque spent some time with Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre. The official Oilers site has an interview up with Laraque in which he talks about the importance of those two guys on the Oilers and goes in depth to defend Stortini from some of the big critics.

“Hockey wise, I’m really impressed,” said Laraque, of Stortini. “Zack is a hell of a player. He can play on the third line easy and be a good checker and stuff. He can skate. Zack is a guy, in my mind, that should be playing every game”.

Laraque also defended Stortini from those who accuse him of hugging too much. “If people think that he hugs too much, then why don’t they go out there and fight? When he fights a heavyweight guy my size, (he) can’t go and fight open because (he’s) going to get killed. The goal of a fight is not necessarily to open up and fight open because if you lose, then what’s the point of it? You know, you have to protect yourself. ”

“The biggest thing is about showing up; standing up for your teammates,” Laraque explains. “It’s not necessarily the result because even if you come in and hug the guy a bit because he’s bigger than you, you’re still showing up for him; showing that you don’t accept this and you want to do the job. We’ve had guys in the past in Edmonton that wouldn’t fight at all and that was a bigger issue.”

Last year, Stortini led the league in fighting majors, and Big Georges took notice. “He’s a league leader ever year in fighting majors and fighting takes a toll out of you and stuff. It’s really hard. And fighting 25 times a year and playing the way he does, I admire him.” That’s a pretty big compliment coming from the man that many regard as the league’s best fighter.

Laraque continued to explain the necessity of enforcers in the league today, recalling Minnesota Wild forward Derek Boogaard’s effectiveness against the Oilers in past years when the Oilers did not have an enforcer. “It’s proven that when a tough guy like Boogaard plays the Oilers and if there is no one in the line up (that can fight him), he’s going to run around a bit more. And he used to be more effective than Gaborik against the Oilers because he would take all the skill guys out and nobody was there to respond to it.”

Personally, I really like Stortini because for a guy in his role, he very rarely makes stupid mistakes or takes bad penalties. Most of his penalties that he takes, there is someone else (generally seen as being more valuable) going to the box with him on the other team. He also can play. Having a tough guy on your team that can actually play the game… well that’s pretty hard to come by.

I must admit, the way I defend Stortini sometimes, you might think I am his mother. I haven’t always been a fan of his, though. There was a brief moment at the beginning of the season where I thought the Oilers should waive him once they had MacIntyre. But really, Zack Stortini stepped up his game big time and showed how important he is to the team outside of fighting. You may not like his fighting style, but I don’t think anyone would criticize his gamesmanship. He’s a great guy to have on any team. He’s also been touted as being a quick learner by coaches at various levels, and for that reason I am looking forward to seeing Laraque’s lessons put to good use.

6 Responses to “Some Love for the Guy Oft Accused of Hugging Too Much”

  1. OilerTyler says:

    I absolutely love Stortini

    He brings alot of energy to the team, and also has a little bit of a scoring touch (Better than Reddox’s!). His fighting has also been improving alot, i see less hugging and more haymakering.

    Even EA is giving Stortini some love on their website
    http://nhl.easports.com/home.action

  2. Racki says:

    Ya Tyler, he is a brute in front of the net. So it won’t go in all pretty like, but it might go in. But he DID score 21 one year in Sudbury. Not too shab. If we see a JFJ Brule Stortini line this year, things might be pretty interesting. Those guys all play an energetic, crash & bang style. I’m really looking forward to seeing that.

  3. chucker says:

    I think people expect Storts to be an agitator and a heavy weight fighter. I always expected him to be an agitator of the same ilk as Barnaby. A guy who can skate, hit and will drop ‘em but isn’t the team’s tough guy. I think he’s great at his role.

    He leads the league in fighting majors (always a good pool pick up for the minutes BTW) and always brings off a better player or a distracting player with him. He has the ability to yap and it’s so effective the other team is running around focusing on him instead of their roles. He’s great. The hugging styel I think is by design to frustrate. Having said that, he’s shown he will throw them and go for the win when he knows he can. I think we have one of the most effective pests in the game who is pure class off ice. He’s a keeper. MacI can drop the nukes when needed.

  4. Horpensky says:

    Yep he’s a great agitator. Like when he got Regehr to purposely kick his winger off the draw just to fight Stortini. And when Regehr is off the ice for 5 minutes that’s a good thing, it gives Hemsky a little more breathing room.

    I know I keep looking in the past, but Glencross, Brodziak, and Stortini would have made one hell of a 3rd line today, but it’s too bad we already had contracts for the third line at the time. At least we were able to keep one of the three. Like Racki said, a JFJ, Brule, Stortini line might be able to replicate something like that.

  5. Hockey Noob says:

    I have to admit that part of me misses big George. He’s a class act through and through–even considering the recent incident of avoiding the instigator that you wrote about recently, Racki. Great of George to vocalize his respect for Stortiini….

    I still remember Laraque as an Oiler tying up the puck in the offensive corners shift after shift if not producing much if any offense, at least, maintaining the puck in the offensive zone.

  6. Racki says:

    Horpensky: Yah seriously, it’s a whole year later, and I can say I still haven’t recovered from the loss of Glencross. Horrible decision. Again a case of the Oil brass putting all their eggs in one basket and not looking after the little things.

    Hockey Noob: Yah honestly, I have huge respect for Georges as a fighter and as a person. But as an enforcer, very little. I’m sure he does scare most people… not many would want to fight him. However I think most know he’s a very gentlemanly player and won’t drop the gloves unless you’re willing (in a large majority of cases, anyways). Actually, I had lost a lot of respect for the enforcer in general on that night. But thankfully MacIntyre also had given me a lot to respect when he laid a beating on Vandermeer ;)

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