Maxim Lapierre was sent a message loud and clear yesterday in practice when Mike Cammalleri got in his face which soon led to a physical confrontation over Lapierre's lackluster effort and indifferent attitude, not just in practice recently but all season long. 51 Games later, Lapierre is an absolute shadow of the player he was and the type of player the Habs expected him to be this year with no goals in 27 games and just 2 goals on the season. Clearly, not what anyone expected from a player who was anticipating a large raise as a RFA on July 1st and who is a key component of the team’s advertising campaign in the Francophone community.
After the trade of Guillaume Latendresse and the pending buyout of Georges Laraque this summer, the message being sent by management is that being a Francophone celebrity no longer provides extra leeway to take advantage of your status and under-perform on the ice. Maxim Lapierre, nicknamed “Yappy” by many fans still has the mouth to cause trouble and get under the skin of opponents but the act is wearing thin on everyone, especially his teammates when there’s no offensive production or shutdown capability to back it up. Mike Cammalleri spoke privately with Assistant Coach Kirk Muller along the boards earlier in the practice session, shortly before the incident so it would appear the confrontation with Maxim Lapierre was planned and orchestrated by the Coaching staff and team Vets to send a message to “Yappy” that enough is enough.
Maxim Lapierre was expected to be the leader of “The Next 6” this season, followed closely by Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini and filled out by Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit & Max Pacioretty to provide secondary scoring at average salary of $1 Million or less. It was hoped someone from Hamilton could step in and contribute enough to cover for the demotion of Sergei but it just didn’t happen. Worse, Lapierre & D’Agostini have combined for just 12 points on the season so far when 30-40 points were expected from each of them.
In the era of the Salary Cap, teams can only do well if they have young and affordable secondary scoring to free up the big dollars needed to sign front line players. Failure to find it or back-fill the line-up each year with prospects from the AHL or with shrewd trades will only lead to disaster. Performance wise, all of GM Bob Gainey’s off-season acquisitions up front have paid off and performed as expected. What has been a complete disaster however is the utter lack of secondary scoring. Glen Metropolit cannot be expected to lead the “Next 6” in scoring and have a career year at the age of 35. Max Pacioretty cannot be expected to be #2 in that group when he was penciled in to be 4th or 5th in production during his sophomore year.
So, with Tomas Plekanec & Glen Metropolit UFAs and Maxim Lapierre a RFA there is great concern at Center, not just going into next season but as the trade deadline approaches. If Maxim Lapierre cannot be their 3rd line shutdown Center who’s capable of 30-40 points in that role then there’s a very strong likelihood he won’t be offered a long term contract this summer. That, combined with his lackluster attitude and lack of production could force the Habs go outside the organization in an effort to save the season.
So far, it would appear that Lapierre doesn’t particularly care if he remains a Hab or not so how he reacts tonight and especially against the Rangers on Saturday will go a long way towards what happens next.