With today's dismissal of Georges Laraque by the Montreal Canadiens, one has to wonder if the trend away from heavyweight enforcers at the NHL level is gathering steam. Few and far between are the big, intimidating players that can skate a regular shift, like Bob Probert in days gone by.
UPDATE: As you read this, feel free to listen to the segment I did on the Thom Abraham Show discussing this very topic.
Here in Nashville, I've been quite critical of the way Wade Belak is being used; when dressed, he plays just 4:34 per game, and in what I've always considered an odd aspect of the modern "Code" of NHL fighting, he only gets engaged with other heavyweights. Thanks mostly to the NHL's controversial Instigator penalty, mid-sized "agitators" like Sean Avery can usually skate around without fear of facing bare-knuckle justice from the likes of Belak and other enforcers. If those are the parameters for his involvement in the game, wouldn't the Preds be better off dressing a guy like Andreas Thuresson or Mike Santorelli instead?
I understand, and fully agree with, the Predators' emphasis on minimizing penalties and tipping the PP/PK balance in their favor in as many games as possible. This team is not the Anaheim Ducks of just a few years ago, that tried to rough up and intimidate opponents. Nashville's philosophy, along with the unspoken agreement that heavyweights only dance with other heavyweights, severely hampers Belak's role on the ice, however, and the rest of the lineup is certainly capable of taking care of their own business if the need arises.
So what do you think? Is there still a valuable role for a guy like Wade Belak on the Nashville Predators?
In fairness to Wade, I'll offer up the highlight of his Nashville tenure thus far, the KO of Donald Brashear from last March: