June 09, 2009

Paul Laus

On the surface Paul Laus was a goon. If you watched him play with the Florida Panthers in the 1990s, you quickly realized he was far more than that. He was a hockey player's hockey player.

Laus was a very physical player. He hit anyone and everyone, and he hit to hurt. It could not have been a pleasant experience going into the corners or standing in front of the net when Laus was on the ice. He was big, powerful and mean.

Of course, he was also noted for dropping the gloves. HockeyFights.com counted 177 career NHL fights for the native of Beamsville, Ontario, 39 in the 1996-97 season alone. Laus would stand up for his teammates, knew when the team needed an energy boost, and never forgot that fighting was the ticket that got him into the NHL in the first place.

Unlike a lot of goons, Laus was able to transform himself into a good player. The defenseman worked tirelessly at all aspects of his game, making him a popular leader and figure with the Panthers.

He became a very serviceable fifth or sixth defenseman who was also utilized as a fourth line right winger. His skating was always a question mark at the NHL level, as he had no speed or agility to speak of to cover the ice. But Laus smartly recognized his own limitations and learned how to play within them. He was usually pretty good about reading the oncoming attack and knew how to position himself so he would not be burned by speedier forwards. He would force them wide to the boards where his superior balance on his skates helped him battle for pucks and space. Of course, his reputation as a mean son-of-a-gun also bought him some time.

While he was a great teammate, a very good tough guy and a serviceable defenseman and utility player, he had no offensive game whatsoever. 530 NHL games he scored just 14 goals and 72 points.

The highlight for Laus was of course the Panthers unexpected Stanley Cup finals run in 1996. That is where Laus really earned high praise for the evolution of his game. He even scored 2 goals and 8 points in 21 post season contests.

A serious wrist injury hampered Laus after the turn of the century, and ultimately forced him to retire from hockey. He would return home to Ontario to raise his young family and get into coaching youth hockey.

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