Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Maxim Lapierre

The numbers

53 GP: 7 G, 11 A, 18 Pts, 60 PIM, +5, 68 Shots

Career best year
This season

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 0 G, 3 A, 3 Pts, 6 PIM, -5, 19 Shots

Career best playoffs
Rookie (same as above)

Plays of the game: 3

Game pucks: 0

Domes: 8

3 Star selections: 0

The story

Where he started the season
After the season that Max had with the Canadiens in 2006-07 and the playoff run he made with Hamilton, it was a shock that he did not make the team in October. I never thought that he would have a guaranteed roster spot, but thought that he had at least earned a shot to start the year in Montreal. So, it was back to the farm to once again prove himself. At 22 years old, he probably knew that making and sticking with the Habs was a big challenge, but let's not also foregt that 22 isn't too young either in the world of hockey. The way he would start the season (attitude and play) with the Bulldogs would likely determine whether he'd get another shot in the bigs.

The season
The Habs knew they could test Chipchura and Grabovski in Montreal early on and if it didn't work they had Max, who was NHL ready, waiting in the wings. In early December, Gainey finally made a move that saw Lapierre get called up, a move that would last the entire season. Max went on to play in 53 of the team's final 55 games and started each and every playoff game. Despite this ringing endorsement, to me, it seemed like Carbo never really settled on a spot for Max. Was he a 3rd or 4th line centre? Or, was he actually a winger? Did we want him to score, make plays or just simply agitate. This experimenting went on for most of the season as his linemates and roles were in constant flux. With 7 goals (10 over an 82-game season) he showed he could score, but was no natural scorer. His 11 assists left a lot to be desired from a 3rd line centre. It was his work on the 4th line, however, as an agitator or pest that seemed to be most effective. It looked like he could become a more intense, younger Steve Begin.

He enjoyed moderate success in this role during the latter parts of the season and even finished at a +5. In the playoffs, he was teamed with Dandenault and Latendresse in what can only be described as the token French line. The energy was lacking, the scoring was non-existent and their presence was not really felt. Those 3 were asked to be a third scoring line with 4th line ice-time – something that was over their heads given the way the series was going. It was a very weird situation as I didn't understand their roles and worst of all I don't think they did either. The playoffs (Max's first) didn't really pan out the way I had hoped for him as he ended -5. By the end, the Habs were relying on 3 lines as the French connection's lack of scoring and defensive blunders made it hard for Carbo to justify much ice-time.

Highlights: All offensive moments – not really showing what we appreciate about Max, but at least he scores on Brodeur...

Lapierre by the numbers:

Lions' links on Lapierre:
Canadiens Changes: Part 1 of 2
Lapierre Signing Very Positive

Grade: C
Lapierre had moments where I really saw his value, but at other times he seemed quite useless. I can't blame this on his play, however, but rather on the way he was used. He may have been a scorer or a playmaker in other leagues, but in the NHL his role is obvious - he is a 4th line, energy guy. His value to Montreal lies in his style of play, his mother tongue and his workaholic attitude. To be fair to Max, he accepted each new role this season with a good attitude and that is what you need in a player. You never know when injuries, trades or other movements will come along and players will be asked to assume a new or different role. He proved this year that he is an NHL player and that we should keep him Montreal. The season probably could have gone better for Max, but then again it could have gone much worse. He saw a lot of NHL action, gained playoff experience and is starting to get noticed around the league.

Where we'd have him next season
At 23 years old, there is no reason why I wouldn't want Max back. He now has 100 games of NHL experience and 2 playoff rounds of experience. The team has to be careful though not to take too many players like Max. His value is obvious, but like I said before he is a 4th line player. This year should be the year where we strive to have 3 scoring lines and put players like Max either on the 4th line, in Hamilton or in the press-box. I would take him any day as my everyday 4th line centre as I feel he could play well alongside Kostopoulos and Stewart. If we ask more of Max, like we did this year, then I could see us hitting the same wall that we hit against Philadelphia this spring.

As we mentioned, it is Max's attitude that makes him most valuable. Never has Max once shown anything but a willingness to fight for a position and to play with a sense of pride. He has never cruised, tanked or displayed an attitude of entitlement like some previous young Quebecers (Dagenais, Ribeiro to name but two). I think the Canadiens need to seek out more young Maxim Lapierres if they can, so that they can build a legacy of a French Canadian championship hockey teams for a new generation.

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