Forcing Laraque on the ice is a better punishment 

November, 24, 2009

On Monday evening, NHL's top cop Colin Campbell slapped a five-game ban on Montreal Canadiens winger Georges Laraque for the knee-to-knee hit that has sidelined Detroit Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall for anywhere from four to eight weeks.

The natural question: Was it enough?

If the goal of the suspension -- other than to punish Laraque for his reckless act -- was to send a message that the league won't tolerate such plays, the five games weren't enough. A 10-game suspension would have been a little more eye-opening for the players, several of whom have told me they'd welcome more significant discipline for potentially dangerous shots to the head or knees.

In this case, however, Campbell could suspend Laraque for life and it wouldn't offset the loss of Kronwall, who's among the better defensemen in the league. A simple look at the numbers tells the story. Kronwall averaged more than 21 minutes per game as a key contributor to the Wings' blue line. Laraque, meanwhile, when he's been in the lineup (he's played in just 10 of the Habs' 23 games), has received an average of 7:04.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.