When you’re the best team in the NHL with an offense and defense that ranks in the top two in the league, you really don’t need to make any changes at the trade deadline.
So the Canucks, in adding Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, did all they really should have in tweaking a fourth line that has at times been slow, inexperienced or not quite effective enough.
Higgins, a Montreal first-rounder from 2002, once had the offensive upside of a reliable two-way second-liner, but somewhere along the way in the Red, White and Blue fishbowl he strayed from that line and has become little more than a depth player who would now do well to hit 30 points, let alone 30 goals. But in Vancouver, Higgins won’t have to be a first, second or even third line player and will settle in nicely away from the spotlight. His speed and penalty-killing acumen are undeniable and will go a long, long way for Vancouver when the wear and tear of the post-season begins to tug. And for a guy now on his fifth team in four years – who missed out on Montreal’s playoff run from a year ago and has been stuck in Florida this season – motivation won’t be a hard sell.
While Higgins can be labeled as the best deadline pickup by the Canucks, Lapierre certainly qualifies as the most interesting. A teammate of Higgins’ from their Montreal days, Lapierre is more known for his mouth and cheap, garbage hits than any other intangible he brings to the ice.
The thinking is his attitude took a valium in Anaheim, where he had only nine penalty minutes in 21 games, and that he is someone who ups his level of play in the post-season (just look at least year’s showing in Montreal). The Canucks have managed to reel in Alex Burrows’ temper and make him into a more effective player and while Lapierre won’t ever be as productive as the Canucks’ first-liner, if he can responsibly walk the line of agitator and aggressor it could gain Vancouver an extra power play or two.
But Lapierre also seems like the type who could start to poison a good thing and if that happens he won’t be long for Canada’s West Coast. Lapierre has thrown around a number of cringe-worthy hits from behind the past couple of years and if you remember how quickly Sean Avery was dismissed from Dallas after signing there as a free agent in 2008 you’ll understand how Lapierre has to fall in line.
All in all it was a great deadline day for a team that didn’t have to do much. Just like in the summer when GM Mike Gillis made minor tweaks to the defense and third line that improved the club in the exact areas that needed to be addressed, Canucks management has once again done the smart, shrewd and calculated move.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.