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Florida Panthers Summer Sweater Series: #3 Paul Laus

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We continue to go "By The Numbers" this offseason, with Florida's all-time leader in penalty minutes.

Paul Laus 2000-01 Pacific Hockey Card #181
Paul Laus 2000-01 Pacific Hockey Card #181

Laus, from Beamsville, Ontario, was a 6'1" right-handed defenseman with the OHL Hamilton Steelhawks in 1987-88 (56 games, one goal, nine assists, 171 PIM). The following season he played with the Niagra Falls Thunder (49 games, one goal, 10 assists, 225 PIM). The Buffalo Sabres took notice, and selected him in the second round (37th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He would spend one more season with the Thunder (60 games, 13 goals, 35 assists, 231 PIM).

1990-91 would see Laus split his season with three teams at two different professional levels. The ECHL Knoxville Cherokees (20 games, six goals, 12 assists, 83 PIM), the IHL Albany Choppers (seven games, seven PIM), and the IHL Muskegon Lumberjacks (35 games, three goals, four assists, 103 PIM). In 1991-92, he remained a Lumberjack, making 21 assists with no goals through 75 games, earning 248 PIM. The following season, he stayed with the team as they relocated to Cleveland. He earned a ridiculous 427 penalty minutes, with eight goals and 18 assists in 76 contests. After the season, Florida claimed him in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft.

In 1993-94, Laus was restricted to 39 games by injury and coach's decision. On November 26th, he had his best game of the season, scoring his first career NHL goal and earning a season high 17 penalty minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. He would total two goals on 15 shots over the course of the season, ranking third on the team with a plus-9 rating and 109 penalty minutes.

1994-95 would see Laus play in 37 of the strike shortened 48 game season. He ranked third on the team amongst Panthers blueliners with seven assists, leading the team with a plus-12 rating and 138 penalty minutes. Over the course of the season, he took 15 shots on goal, failing to light the lamp on any of them.

Laus played in a career high 78 games for the eventual Eastern Conference Champions in 1995-96. He scored nine points over the season, in nine different games. The Panthers were 6-0-0 in games in which Laus registered an assist, but racked up an 0-2-1 record in games where he scored a goal. He totalled three goals on 45 shots, leading the team with 236 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating (the first negative rating of his career). In the playoffs, Laus discovered his scoring touch, lighting the lamp twice while dishing out six assists through 21 postseason contests. He led the NHL with 62 penalty minutes. On April 22, he made two assists as the Panthers defeated the Boston Bruins, 6-2 in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The fans in Florida are very passionate about their team, I got to know many of them on a personal level. - Laus

source

In 1996-97, Laus failed to register a single goal out of 63 shots placed on net through 77 Panthers games. He did, however, achieve career highs with 12 assists, a Panthers second best plus-13 rating, and 313 penalty minutes, good for third in the NHL. He tacked on one assist in five playoff matches as the Panthers were taken out by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. He also set an NHL record that season with 39 fighting majors.

1997-98 would see Laus open the season strong. In the Panthers second game, a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 4th, he picked up a season high two assists. For the second season in a row, Laus failed to score a single goal, even though he set a career high with 64 shots on goal. He dished out 11 assists, spent a team leading and NHL fourth-most 293 minutes in the penalty box, and finished with a career low minus-5 rating.

In 1998-99, Laus averaged 11:09 TOI through 75 Panthers games. He scored one goal on 54 shots, dished out nine assists, and finished second on the team (and sixth in the NHL) with 218 penalty minutes. He finished the year with a minus-1 rating.

Laus appeared in 77 Panthers games in 1999-00, averaging 7:37 TOI per contest. On Febuary 24th, he put up a season high two points with a goal and an assist in a 4-2 road victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. His 172 penalty minutes ranked second on the club (and ninth in the league). He scored a total of three goals on 44 shots with eight assists and a minus-1 rating. He did not impact the scoresheet in Florida's four game sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals other than to accrue eight minutes in the penalty box.

In 2000-01, Laus averaged 14:22 per game as his season was held to a career low 25 games due to an injury he suffered on November 13th in a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. In that contest, Laus had a first period throwdown with Thrashers right winger (and team enforcer) Jeff Odgers. When Laus finally returned to action in March, he managed to score a goal (on 18 shots) and two assists.

In 2001-02, Laus continued to struggle with injuries due to his fighting. He had averaged 14:10 through 45 games when his right uppercut caught the helmet of Atlanta Thrashers forward Jeff Cowan on Jan. 19, 2002 in a 6-1 Florida loss. The injury required three surgeries, but Laus was unable to continue his career, eventually announcing his retirement a year and a half later. In his final season, he scored a career high four goals on 39 shots, adding three assists. As per Michael Russo, staff writer with the Sun Sentinel reported on August 26, 2003:

"I was in pain every single day and I made the decision that I had to give something up to get rid of the pain," Laus said.

That was mobility.

"When I slept, anytime I rolled over, I would catch myself and it would throb," Laus said. "I was in constant pain. Now, I had the rod put in, the bones fused and I'm in no pain whatsoever ... because I can't move it."

That has affected Laus' life.

"I never realized how much you need the wrists," Laus said. "I'll go outside with my son and I can't even throw the ball to him. I have to throw with my left hand. My daughters tease me and say I throw like a girl.

"I almost don't do anything right-handed now. The only thing I do right-handed is write, but I had really bad handwriting anyway. Pouring milk, I can't do it. Shaking hands, I have to bite my lips to do it. Picking up my kids, turning keys, I just have to live with it. You just adapt."

During his NHL career, Laus embodied commitment, acting as Florida's enforcer and leader on the ice. He skated hard and fought harder - always with his heart on his sleeve. He played his entire NHL career with the Panthers.

What I think people saw in me was not the best or fastest skater, stick handler, shooter, but what I did do was give everything I had every shift every night, and stood up for my teammates. - Laus

Altogether, Laus played in 530 games (sixth all-time) over nine Florida seasons. He totaled 14 goals, 58 assists, 72 points, a plus-31 rating (second all-time), and a franchise record 1,702 penalty minutes.

Thanks for stopping by for Laus. Other Panthers who also wore number three were Karlis SkrastinsClay Wilson, and TJ Brennan. Steven Kampfer currently sports the number.