On Oilers Now this week, Bob Stauffer had Luke Gazdic on the show and they talked about what Luke's offseason has been like and what his plans are moving forward. To be honest, the interview was quite refreshing to hear. Gazdic spoke about how is trying to round out his game on the ice after beating up everyone up.
In '13-'14, Gazdic fought 15 times, which tied him for 5th in the league. Amongst those fights were knockdown/knockouts of Patrick Bordeleau, Kevin Westgarth, Shawn Thornton and Clayton Stoner. Listed below are just half of his fights that season, but these are the ones that I find most impressive.
1) Brandon Prust v. Luke Gazdic
2) Patrick Bordeleau getting KO'd by Gazdic
3) A very respectable scrap with Milan Lucic
4) Gazdic KO'd Kevin Westgarth here. Later in the season, they fought again but Westgarth was holding on for dear life.
5) Mark Stuart got TKO'd in about 10 seconds
6) With one punch, he sent Shawn Thornton to the ice
7) Clayton Stoner got dropped to the ice by Gazdic
Last season, Gazdic was coming off of an offseason shoulder surgery that limited his ability to prepare for the season and it also limited his ability to fight. Despite that, he was able to get half of the Dave Brown lawnmower going against B.J. Crombeen after a slight wrestling match.
The NHL is slowing moving away from the old ways of every team dressing a guy that is a pure enforcer, however amongst the teams that have employed scrappers in recent years were the San Jose Sharks. Dating back to the beginning of Todd McLellan's tenure as the Sharks' head coach, he had tough guys dressed:
2008-2009: Jody Shelly, 70 GP, 116 PIM, 4 points.
2009-2010: Ryane Clowe, 82 GP, 131 PIM, 57 points. Brad Staubitz, 47 GP, 110 PIM, 6 points.
2010-2011: Jamal Mayers, 79 GP, 124 PIM, 14 points.
2011-2012: Ryane Clowe, 76 GP, 97 PIM, 45 points. Brad Winchester, 88 PIM, 67 GP, 10 points.
2012-2013, lockout year: Andrew Desjardins, 61 GP, 3 points.
2013-2014: Andrew Desjardins, 81 GP, 86 PIMS, 17 points. Mike Brown, 48 GP, 75 PIMS, 5 points.
2014-2015: John Scott, 38 GP, 87 PIMS, 4 points.
Given that some of these guys like Clowe are not pure enforcers, it shouldn't take away the fact that guys like John Scott, Mike Brown and Brad Winchester have found regular employment with the Sharks. John Scott is literally a California Redwood tree on skates, and there is no denying that Gazdic is a better skater than Scott .Given that, I would not be surprised to see Luke Gazdic play more of a regular role on the Oilers roster.
Gazdic is certainly a great fighter, but that's not all that matters. In order for him to make it on this team next season, Gazdic will need to work on his play in almost every facet of the 5 on 5 game. If he is able to improve his decision making with the puck as well as being more efficient at positioning himself in the defensive zone, I firmly believe that he could play regular minutes for the Oilers. During his Oilers Now interview, he said it himself that he needs to work on being more effective on the puck.
Gazdic also said he stressed to the Oilers that he wants to be in the lineup every night whether or not there are tough guys in the lineup, and the team agreed.
One of the more impressive things about Gazdic is that he is an extremely smart fighter. His fight against Bordeleau came after he ran Petry face first into the boards. When he KO'd Kevin Westgarth, the Flames had just scored to go up one nothing. The Oilers had just scored a goal to close the Boston lead to 3-1 a minute before Gazdic fought Lucic. Lastly, he fought Mark Stuart after Stuart laid a big open ice hit on Nail Yakupov.
With just one year left on what was a two-year deal, Gazdic has to prove he has the ability to play effective regular, or semi-regular minutes in the Oilers lineup.