Georges Laraque will not play another game with the Montreal Canadiens.
General manager Bob Gainey contacted him Thursday morning and told him that head coach Jacques Martin didn't have any confidence in him anymore and the team believes they can win without the enforcer in the lineup. The club will pay his salary for the rest of the season and will buy out the rest of his contract at the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
"I don't have anything personal against Georges and I appreciate what he did for the organization, but we've decided to go in a different direction," Martin told reporters following Canadiens practice Thursday.
"It's a hockey decision. We felt that he was not helping our team to win games."
Laraque, who told TSN he was on his way to practice in the morning when he received the call to meet with Gainey, insists he's been a good team player and said there were no issues with the team or Martin, whom he believed was behind the decision.
"Jacques Martin doesn't like me and doesn't believe in toughness," Laraque told TSN.
Martin disputed the notion that he doesn't believe in toughness but admitted that he did not think that a team needed an enforcer to be successful.
"The Red Wings, I don't think they have an enforcer and they've won some Cups," said Martin. "I think it depends on your team and where you are at in your development. The game has changed and speed has become a major factor. It's nice to have, but it's not a necessity as some teams have proven."
Laraque added that Martin never shared any concerns directly with him and is furious with the Canadiens' approach based on the emotional issues he's dealing with following the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the impact this disaster has had on both him and his family.
"To do this in the midst of all I'm dealing with in Haiti, the timing is awful," Laraque said angrily.
Laraque followed up the initial conversation after cooling down in an effort to put his frustration into context.
"I was very emotional and I'm very hurt by this decision. I'm a proud guy and I may have let my emotions get the better of me," Laraque told TSN.
"Needless to say, I'm very disappointed."
Laraque, a Montreal native, signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract in July of 2008 and has one year remaining on his deal.
A lingering back injury limited him to just 61 games with the Canadiens over the last two seasons, as he tallied just five points and 89 penalty minutes. Laraque scored his first and only goal with the Canadiens last week in a game against the Dallas Stars.
Laraque's teammates admitted the move caught them completely by surprise.
"It was nothing that anyone saw coming," admitted Brian Gionta. "We walked in this morning and found out about it."
While his teammates were surprised to see him go, they don't believe that other teams will be able to take liberties with the Habs now that they no longer have a team enforcer.
"I think that we have enough guys that will stand up for each other if push comes to shove that are willing to go to war for each other," Josh Gorges stated. "Guys that are willing to put their bodies on the line and stick up for each other. It doesn't have to be an enforcer like Georges but anybody that's willing to stick up for their teammates and that's all you really need."
While Laraque was well liked in the dressing room, his dismissal came down to a single factor.
"It's all about winning and they're trying to put a winning team together," said Glen Metropolit. "If (management) feel like there is a weak link in the chain they are going to get rid of it."