AU REVOIR MAXIM
Hometown player found it hard to say goodbye but understood it was time to move on.
Drafted by his hometown Montréal Canadiens in 2003, Maxim Lapierre got to realize his boyhood dream of donning the jersey of the team he grew up adoring. For the St. Leonard native wearing the historic bleu, blanc et rouge was always something special, but 293 NHL games later, Lapierre came to another realization: he no long factored into the future plans of the only NHL organization he has known.
On New Year’s Eve, Lapierre was boarding the bus with his team-mates to head to the Bank Atlantic Center to play their final game of their season-long road-trip and head home to Montréal when he was told to remain behind at the team’s hotel. He was then informed he had been traded to the Anaheim Ducks for prospect Brett Festerling and a fifth round pick in the 2012 draft. At 7:30 a.m. ET New Year’s Day, Lapierre flew out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to join his new team-mates – just like that, he was no longer a Montréal Canadien.
After posting the best offensive stats of his NHL career thus far in 2008-09, the last two seasons have been very difficult for Lapierre. Last year, he struggled with his ankle injury most of the season posting disappointing stats (7G, 7A & minus-14 rating in 76 games) before finally playing 100 per cent pain-free late in the regular season and into the playoffs. During the Habs magical post-season run he made up for his rough play all year by scoring three playoff goals, including the game-winner to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals vs. the Penguins.
Maxim, a natural center, was made a right-winger, which took some time getting adjusted to. He showed up to training camp this September healthy and had a very strong preseason; it looked like MaxLap was going to pick-up where he left off from the Spring, but that wasn’t the case. With only eight points (5G, 3A) and a minus-7 rating, Lapierre finally hit rock-bottom this season on December 28 when he had just over four minutes of ice time vs. the Capitals. He had also lost his spot on the penalty-kill rotation to Michael Cammalleri (!) after being one of the main PK-guys under Guy Carbonneau.
Habs General Manager Pierre Gauthier and Lapierre himself have said no formal trade request was made. However, a conversation did take place where Maxim voiced his discontent on how he was being utilized and it was concluded moving on would be the best thing for both parties. In many cases a change of scenery is always just what the doctor ordered – and there might not be a bigger change of scenery from Montréal, Québec to the O.C.!
Lapierre’s style of play has earned him a not-so-flattering reputation around the league as many things including a diver, a sh*t disturber and a coward who doesn’t back-up his mouth with his fists as often as he should. But at the same time, he can be an very effective two-way player. He is an energy player with great speed and size. His disruptive nature has also landed the Habs on the receiving end of powerplays quite a few times as well and for those reasons plus his heavy involvement in the community, he will be missed.
The Ducks know exactly what type of player they’re getting and see a place for Lapierre on their team. Ducks VP & General Manager Bob Murray believes Maxim can upgrade their bottom-six forwards and while Murray denied it, Lapierre does fill a position (center) now weakened by the loss of captain Ryan Getzlaf for an indefinite amount of time.
“He feels he can contribute more and we are going to give him an opportunity to do so,” Murray also said. “We wanted to upgrade forward groupings and we had an eye on Max. He’s a guy we wanted.”
Encouraging words for a player who felt he had over-stayed his welcome in his home.