FanPost

Chad LaRose: A Look At the "Chuck Norris" of Canes Hockey

Chad LaRose will never be mistaken for a franchise elite hockey player. He fills a role with the Hurricanes just like the vast majority of other NHL hockey players. He is a role player, a utility player, a specialist, a character guy, all those titles of guys who fill the bottom two forward lines generally carry. When you see Chad skating like a little train across the ice, bent over and head cocked way forward, it speaks for itself. Determination, effort, desire……winning. I have often thought that you can probable sit a glass of water on his back and it would likely never spill when he skates. It is the Chad you already know. It is the Chad who is hard to miss or ignore.

It is time some effort be made to set the record straight, or at least do that in my view. This will be both a popular post and one that will be vilified. I honestly don’t care how you feel because Chad deserves better, certainly better than what has been happening recently in my opinion. I hope this will contribute something to the Chad LaRose "legend", someone who has given all he can to us and more. So I do this more as a history rather than fueling debate. I hate it when history or truth is distorted.

Chad is almost 30 years old but it does not seem that long ago that he was sort of a shrimp caught out of water when he was first called up by the Canes in that famous and unforgettable experience of the 2005-2006 Cup run. But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

Chad was not really a known hockey player in 1999-2000 when he played for Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League, but he did notch 55 points that year and someone starting looking in on him. He was never drafted by any NHL team so he had to break into the NHL the hard way. He did not join the Karmanos owned Plymouth OHL team until the following year in mid-season but he contributed 25 points in the last 32 regular season games and another 20 points in their 19 playoff games. They gave him a chance and he took it.

His next two years with Plymouth proved to some that he was a possible hidden jewel that so many scouts work so hard to uncover. Chad has always been undersized so that always worked against him. He is listed at 5' 10” and 185 pounds but that is likely generous. No one could get a finger on a career projection back then so Chad created his own projection by his hard work. When the 2002-2003 year ended for Chad he lead that team with 61 goals and 56 assists for a total of 117 points. He also represented the US at the 2002 IHF World Junior’s scoring 2 goals and 4 total points and was an 2 time OHL/CHL All-Star.

Those successes got the attention of the Canes. They signed Chad to a 3 year entry level contract beginning with the 2003-2004 season. He split time between the ECHL and AHL in Lowell in that first year and Chad continued to grow as a hockey player. He spent all of his second season in 2004-2005 season with Lowell and at the end of that year had 42 points in 66 games. The boy had 3 hat tricks that year and 8 points in 11 post-season games.

Chad was eventually called up to the big team and after a while stuck. He was part of the Canes team during the Cup year playing in 49 games. He played in 21 of the 25 playoff games as a utility 4th liner and that was when his fan fame took off. “Charlie Hustle” was a name I heard often sitting in the stands that year as well as “Water Bug” during the cup run. Later he earned other endearing nicknames including the “Chuck Norris” of the title of this post, bestowed by a CC regular. What I remember most about this year was Chad spending more time laid out on the ice on his butt than on his skates. The little train continued to run into bigger trains but he got back up and did it again, always. Nothing kept him down for long.

Since that magical Stanley Cup year, Chad has continued to contribute and served in the roles he has been asked to perform. Here is a scouting report and career projection by professional scouts on Chad, something that has been around unchanged since about the 2006-2007 season as best as I can determine:

Flaws: His aggressive nature would be more successful at the NHL level if he were bigger and stronger, so he could use more upper-body strength. Is not a natural goal-scorer by any means.

Assets: Displays a ton of energy with every shift, and isn't afraid of mixing it up--despite a lack of size. Possesses decent offensive instincts and excels in defensive situations.

Career: Energetic two-way winger

This style of play has resulted in Chad suffering a broken leg and missing 21 games and a concussion missing 3 games during the 2007-2008 season and 24 games during the 2009-2010 season with the “lower body” injury. He suffered a head/shoulder injury and has had the “flu” and recently missing 20 games altogether, almost back to back.

Statistics are not fool-proof. They can be twisted and turned in such a way that the results can be deceiving or so misleading that false conclusions can be drawn. I am not going to try and prove anything. What follows are just statistics which are available in a number of places. Judge for yourself.

Plus Minus:

Canes

Chad

Staal

2006-2007

-13

-2

-6

2007-2008

even

+6

-2

2008-2009

+4

+6

+15

2009-2010

-19

-2

+4

2010-2011

-7

-21

-10

2011-2012

-21

-18

-21

Canes All Forwards Time on Ice, Chad’s Rank

Shifts

TOI

SH TOI

PP TOI

2006-2007

13

10

3

12

2007-2008

10

9

3

15

2008-2009

9

7

6

9

2009-2010

6

9

4

12

2010-2011

5

6

3

8

2011-2012

7

6

5

5

The first chart shows that so goes the Canes as a team goes so goes Chad. It also indicates that when compared to the franchise player (which Chad is not) those numbers are pretty much in line with his numbers. What is really interesting is when all forwards ice time is viewed with that plus/minus chart. The first couple of years after Chad stuck with the Canes he was limited to generally 4th line duty and PK work. His rank of 3rd on the PK ice time and 12th on the PP and 10th in total ice time confirms this. However, beginning in 2008-2009 there has been a gradual shift in assigned roles. Since 2007-2008 Chad has been assigned more ice time in the PP and his PK work has been reduced, relative to all other Canes forwards each year. He has been asked to do more. For someone who is not suppose to be used in this manner the Canes have not only increased his ice time close to top 6 amounts but have also increased his PP ice time to almost full time second unit ice time level as compared to all Canes forwards.

Chad’s Production

Games

Goals

Assists

GWG

SHG

2006-2007

80

6

12

0

2

2007-2008

58

11

12

2

1

2008-2009

81

19

12

4

2

2009-20010

56

11

17

0

1

2010-2011

82

16

15

0

1

2011-2012

48

11

11

3

1

2011-2012 Proj.

62

19

19

3

1

Playoffs: During the 2008-2009 playoff year, Chad scored 4 goals and had 7 assists or 11 points in 18 games.

In December, 20011 Elias reported that LaRose is one of only 4 current NHL players to have scored at least one goal or more shorthanded in each of the last 6 seasons.

Chad also has 3 game winning goals this year and 12 game winners over this same 6 year period.

TSN Power Play Calculations

Power play time top 40 players who time has changed significantly: by Scott Cullen TSN as of 1/26/2012. The numbers are seconds per game average. Bowman PP ice time has increased and seems to be a popular comparison to Chad so let's look at him. Harrison was also ranked high so I also added him. First number is current year average seconds per game and the second number is last year’s with the difference in seconds the last number. Sorry about the chart, could not get it to correct.

21. Chad LaRose Carolina RW 103 30 +73

22. Drayson Bowman Carolina LW 101 28 +73

3. Jay Harrison 124 8 +116

What has Chad done during this time? 2 goals and 4 assists

What has Drayson done? 0 goals and 1 assists

What has Jay done during this same time? 2 goals and 3 assists.

Chad has outperformed with his increased PP time as compared to either Bowman or Harrison who also were given a significant additional PP ice time. Why is this important. If you have not had significant PP time and are suddenly given increased PP time how will you react? For at least the first half of this year, Chad has better utilized that increased time compared to only these two players.

Thoughts and Observations:

Chad in many ways owes his current development to Roddy. Early on Chad made a decision to stay in Raleigh after each season to team with Roddy and participate in his workouts. Chad was the first one on the ice after Roddy when each of the informal team pre-season workouts were held which was about 30 days or so before the formal and mandatory team pre-season events. When Roddy retired, Camp Roddy (or Brind'Amour) became Camp Rosy. LaRose took the lead and made it happen. Many people who sit and view practice sessions or pre-season sessions will inevitable have a story or two to tell about LaRose and his hi-jinks, some joke that he told or what they heard when Rosy whispered to someone on the ice or in the locker room but still could be heard where they sat. No better team mate than LaRose.

Chad has come back from two absences this season; 17 games for the shoulder/head injury and then (couple of games later) 3 more games for the dreaded “flu”. The observation we should keep in mind; it takes a couple of games for any player to get his game legs back under him before he is fully performing again. Skinner is a recent example. However in the very first game back a number of folks tried very hard to attribute the Cane's loss to Chad being back on the ice. Pretty low if you asked me. In spite of these absences (20 games), Chad is still on pace to achieve a tie in career number of goals with 19 and career number of assist at 19 and career number of points at 38. Pretty good compared to his scouting projection you read earlier. Most of you admit that he has the skills of a 4th liner. Yet he has and continues to exceed the expectations we think we have of his role. If everyone on the current Cane's team performs at the same level beyond their OWN scouting projections we would win the Cup, hands down. But alas, I bet you are not able to think of many other Canes who exceed their career projections quite like Chad has done; Can you?

Chad has been given a significant amount of additional responsibilities and ice time over the last couple of years and this year it has been the biggest increase Chad has ever been asked to shoulder. In a significant number of measures he has produced. He has not produced at the elite franchise player level. If you expect that of him you will always be a frustrated fan. Until such time a better choice is available to the Canes, Muller has decided Chad seems to be the best option for him. It remains to be seen if Muller continues to do so but so far he has not blink or second-guessed himself in using Chad in a variety of ways. Until such time as Muller blinks, Chad will continue to be asked by Muller to play out of his natural slot. Chad will give it the best he has; what else can you asked of him.

Chad deserves better than he is receiving from a few fans. He is not a perfect hockey player, nor are any of his teammates. All have imperfections. I choose to not follow the leader and say yes sir when it comes to vilifying Chad LaRose. I think the boy who is now a man has a bit more contribution left in him. I will continue to recognize that Chad will have his good days and his bad days just like all hockey players. When Chad gives up on himself, I will wish him well as he makes his way out the door. I am thankful Chad has toiled so hard for the team. He has contributed, he continues to contribute, he is not irrelevant.


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