Georges Laraque: What the Heck, Man?

On Saturday, a report surfaced that former Edmonton Oiler and NHL-tough guy, Georges Laraque used his platform on a Montreal radio station to air some potentially damaging information; information, that for some inexplicable reason, he thought fans in Edmonton and around the NHL had a right to know.

During a spot on CHOI Radio X 98.1 with host Alex Leblond, Laraque and Leblond were talking about Taylor Hall when Hall’s trade out of Edmonton came up. Laraque revealed, “Hall had problems off the ice, and went to rehab during the summer of his trade (2016).” For starters and to say the least, that’s quite the bombshell.

If releasing that none-of-our-business tidbit of enlightenment wasn’t enough, Laraque promptly added fuel to the fire. “When he [Hall] got to rehab, word got out across the NHL that the Oilers were looking to move him because of it… When everyone in the league knows the player’s dirt, it’s normal that the player’s value is going to drop,” he elaborated. Not completely done breaking news, Laraque finished things off with, “He absolutely had to leave Edmonton, no question.”

Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Where Is This Hall News Coming From?

Almost everyone who follows the Oilers closely knows that Laraque is a huge fan of the team. Having played for the Oilers between the 1999 and 2006 seasons, he’s passionate about the Oilers organization. So passionate, he flew to Edmonton last season to attend a playoff game, didn’t tell his media bosses in Montreal he was leaving and flew back to Montreal the next day to be a part of his radio show. He later admitted that had he been caught, he might have been terminated.

Knowing that, it’s probably safe to assume that like many fans in Edmonton, he’s sick of talking about the Hall trade — a stinging trade that saw Taylor leave the Oilers in 2016. It’s a trade that probably hurt Laraque’s heart — it hurt a lot of Oilers fans. And while he may be coming from a well-intentioned place, it still doesn’t make what Laraque just did here even remotely ok.

Georges Laraque as a Pittsburgh Penguin (Dan4th/Flickr)
Georges Laraque (Dan4th/Flickr)

Nothing against defenseman Adam Larsson, but fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been reliving, revisiting and regretting the trade that sent Hall to New Jersey and brought Larsson to Edmonton for most of the 2017-18 season. The New Jersey Devils — Hall’s new team — are going to make the playoffs and Hall is having a Hart Trophy-type season. Meanwhile, a dismal year saw the Oilers officially eliminated from the postseason a few days ago.

So too, while Larsson has been a more-than-serviceable defenseman for the organization since coming to Edmonton in said trade, most fans didn’t like the deal when it happened. This year has been especially painful in that regard as the club has admitted one of their needs this summer is a top-line scoring winger. Rumors are they’re willing to trade a top-four d-man to obtain one. Wasn’t Taylor Hall exactly that?

For many, it was hard enough to justify the trade when it happened. Today, Oiler fans who want to love this team regardless of its mistakes are doing everything in their power to find excuses for general manager Peter Chiarelli’s decision to trade one of the best left-wingers in the NHL. Perhaps Laraque thought this might help.

It doesn’t. And, it completely throws Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers under a giant yellow bus.

Related: Surging Oilers Forwards: Who Stays? Who Goes?

Now What, Laraque?

I’m not going to suggest what Laraque is saying should be taken as gospel or is even remotely true. I have no idea where his information is coming from. A former NHL player known to make the media rounds and provide his often controversial opinion, there is every possibility this is just a player talking with no real proof to back anything up. He’s been known to “break news” that often doesn’t come to fruition.

Laraque is beloved by many in Edmonton but there is a large contingent of fans who understand loving him comes with accepting the fact that he’s the kind of person who loves to hear himself talk. His genuine emotional connection to the team often comes off as a scathing indictment and while he probably always means well, he has not endeared himself to fans who want to move on and focus on the now. In saying that, it doesn’t mean he’s being untruthful here.

Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils, NHL
While his career points per game is under 0.89, would you consider Taylor Hall a successful player? (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Other reports have surfaced from people who had heard similar stories and when Hall was moved, there were rumors of turmoil in the locker room (we cannot confirm the validity of these sources). There was even an interview this year, coming out of New Jersey and from Hall himself, that he didn’t listen to his coaches in Edmonton. In short, he felt the team didn’t hold him accountable like the Devils have since his arrival.

Therefore, potentially, there may be some truth to this story. But, from the perspective of Laraque, who is an avid Oilers fan, and for the sake of Hall who isn’t in Edmonton any longer, does any of that actually matter?

The Real Issue Here

I’m not going to use this platform to form an opinion about what Hall may or may not have done. It’s not my business, especially when we’re talking about subjects of this nature. Taylor Hall also doesn’t need a guy like me to defend him. What I will say is, if Hall had off-ice issues, I can only hope he’s gotten the help he needed and those issues are not issues any longer.

Where this becomes, at best inappropriate and at worst, ugly, is that Laraque thought this would somehow help fans in Edmonton come to terms with the trade or excuse a potentially unethical move that sent Hall out of the city.

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers, NHL
Taylor Hall as an Edmonton Oiler.

If this claim is true and we’re to understand why Laraque may have shared this information, does he want Oiler fans to think Todd McClellan thought Hall’s problems were disrupting the team, or maybe Chiarelli did? Are we to connect some sort of imaginary dots and believe that Connor McDavid — who was Hall’s roommate at the time — had a problem with his roomie’s lack of professionalism? Maybe Hall said he couldn’t function in Edmonton with the pressure put on him by a struggling organization? Who knows what it is and those types of issues might explain why he was traded.

That said, if off-ice, substance abuse or attitude issues were at the forefront of why Hall was moved, it doesn’t change the fact it means the Oilers traded a player — not just a player, but a superstar — because he might have needed help and the Oilers figured he was better off as someone else’s problem. It doesn’t change the fact they were willing to move a player for a lesser return simply to rid themselves of an obviously fixable headache. It doesn’t change the fact now the organization looks like it is willing to trade very useful players for non-hockey related issues and lose a trade.

Furthermore, if any of this is true, are we to then assume that maybe Jordan Eberle had issues? We like Ryan Strome but the Eberle for Strome trade was not a good one-for-one trade either. It sounds ridiculous but now it’s out there. One can only hope it’s an inaccurate portrait of a seemingly flawed front office.

Related: 5 Options To Replace Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli

My Take On This Laraque Drama

True or not, Hall doesn’t deserve to have his name run through the mud like this, even if you see Hall as an arrogant former Oiler who had some scathing remarks on his way out. So too, a former Oiler shouldn’t be shedding such a negative light on the organization he claims to love. Worst of all, a former NHL’er should have thought twice about breaking what is probably a very solid player’s code.

It would be one thing if Laraque thought he was trying to get a player help who still needed it. That’s a noble thing to do. Cleary, that’s not what’s happening here. Despite their competitive nature, players are supposed to look out for each other. This is not doing that. This sounds more like a fan of the team making excuses for a bad season and less-than-ideal trade and waiting until the chips were down to share something, that if true, should have leaked around the time of the trade that sent a very talented player packing. Some ignorant fans might do that. Laraque should know better.

In the end, if Laraque couldn’t say something nice about Hall, his time as an Oiler and the season he’s having now, he probably shouldn’t have said anything at all.