Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Colton Orr delivers for the Maple Leafs

Not everyone sees the value or the importance of having Colton Orr on the Leaf roster. I have seen many in the media criticize Ron Wilson for sitting out many marginal players but dressing Colton Orr for every single game. Although he may only get 5 to 6 minutes of ice time per game and no time on the powerplay or penalty killing units, he still remains an integral part of the team.

Last night’s game was a classic example of the role that Orr plays. Early in the second player, Oiler enforcer Zack Stortini took out Mikhail Grabovski at the knees while he was in full flight. He was assessed a kneeing penalty and fortunately Grabovski was not injured on the play. But he easily could have been lost to the team for the rest of the season. The next time Stortini stepped on the ice so did Orr. Within several seconds of the faceoff, Orr had dropped his gloves and was pummeling Stortini’s face opening up several large gashes. There was a strong message delivered in that altercation. Let’s just say Stortini may be advised to visit a plastic surgeon this week.

The Leafs do not play the Oilers again this season but when they do meet up again, what are the odds Stortini or any other Oiler will be taking liberties with one of the Leafs’ speedy forwards? Not likely. Orr’s teammates and coaches appreciate how he protects the other players. That’s why is penciled on the lineup every game. This is the role Brian Burke envisioned for Orr when he signed him for 4 years. Certainly the cheap shots against Leaf players have dropped off significantly in the past 2 years. Previous enforcers were not as feared or respected as Orr and the Leafs have benefited.

I’m not a Don Cherry disciple and I’m neither pro or anti fighting. There too many gratuitous fights in the NHL which slows down the pace of the game. In some cases they are intended to perhaps change the momentum of a game. But enforcers have an important role to play. They provide much more of a deterrent to cheap shots than any rule change or increase in rule enforcement. I would rather rely on Orr to protect Phil Kessel than the referees and Colin Campbell.

So count me in as a Colton Orr fan.

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