The Penguins have had now four close calls with suspension: there was Georges Laraque's hit on Steve Downie, Jarkko Ruutu being called for 3 dives (which is written in the rules as a suspension pending a call with the NHL), Ruutu's knee-knee hit on Ilya Kovalchuk and the hammer finally dropped on Laraque's elbowing of Buffalo's Nathan Paetsch last night.
Can't say we're that surprised or disagree with the call. The NHL has to protect their players and blows to the head are the most dangerous, and becoming too frequent offenses around. And for anyone who follows Colin Campbell's discipline techniques it's usually either no suspension, 1 game or 3 games...So it's no real surprise on the length either.
The bigger question is how Laraque and Coach Therrien will handle the vacation after it's up. You'll remember, Therrien specifically and publically put BGL through the paces after a practice not too long ago; skating him back and forth in an effort to jumpstart his biggest player who hadn't been playing fierce enough in management's eyes. Will Laraque be given a chance to play down the stretch and in the playoffs?
Room for BGL could be hard to find even before guys like Sidney Crosby, Marian Hossa, Gary Roberts and Adam Hall return. With role players from the minors like Connor James and Chris Minard playing well in limited minutes; not to mention Jeff Taffe who's carved a niche in roster.
Laraque's bigger question has to be if his future in Pittsburgh is also got to be in jeopardy in this point. No one denies that BGL is the ultimate "nuclear deterrant" of the NHL. He's the top dog on the block. Abuse to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, particularly after the whistle has decreased 100 fold since Laraque's acquistion.
The problem, as Edmonton and Phoenix found out, is keeping the big guy motivated and giving an honest effort every night. To Georges' favor, a lot of players refuse to fight him (as an example Milan Lucic turned him down in a game before fighting Ruutu). Plus everyone pretty much knows that Laraque will not be anything more than a 4th line winger. It's got to be a boon to motivation to know you've reached potential as a hockey player. But at the same time, pretty much the only way a player can be effective at the NHL is to be busting tail and giving 100% all the time.
It's a Catch-22esque situation: that what makes Laraque great (enforcing) also limits his ice-time and willing opponents which naturally shuts down motivation a little bit. All which ultimately makes him expendable to an organization.
Or, of course he could come back with a new perspective after this "vacation" and be given a second chance by a coach who honestly does believe in him and want him to do well. Maybe BGL sticks in the lineup solely on presence, moves his legs really well, makes a few good, clean hits and does hit part to help the Pens long into the playoffs. Who knows.