It wasn’t meant as a slight.
OK, maybe it was a bit, but the THN staffer who shook his head in disbelief after finding out Maxim Lapierre was the cover boy for our French Yearbook could be forgiven for his flummoxed state.
Lapierre, after all, has never been confused with Lemaire, Lafleur or even Laperriere. And you can bet the farm he never will.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t cover-worthy. Andrei Markov is Montreal’s best player and any number of Habs – from embattled goalie Carey Price to new acquisition Scott Gomez – have a much higher profile, but Lapierre’s lippy and chippy style of play endears him to Habs fans as much as anybody on the team.
He’s a player Canadiens fans are excited to cheer for and that’s why he’s not out of place being the face of a magazine.
Habs supporters are going to like Mad Max even more this season when he scores 20 goals, officially throwing his helmet into any discussion about which players league-wide are most adept at burrowing under the skin of opponents.
The 24-year-old Lapierre slides in as Montreal’s third-line center, behind Gomez and Tomas Plekanec. He scored 15 goals in that role last year, playing with Guillaume Latendresse and Tom Kostopoulos on what was the Habs’ most consistent line in the second half. Slot Matt D’Agostini or Max Pacioretty in on that trio to replace the departed Kostopoulos and there is sufficient offensive talent to score more than most third lines are expected to.
(Here’s hoping Pacioretty lands on that line so the name contest can begin: We’ll start with Max Factor and Big Max Combo.)
New Habs boss Jacques Martin is also going to appreciate the fact Lapierre has come to embrace his defensive responsibilities and can be trusted in his own zone. And if Plekanec doesn’t bounce back from a sub-par season last year, expect Lapierre’s ice time to spike.
As for his place among the NHL’s premier shift disturbers, the Montreal Mouth is nowhere near the bruiser Minnesota has in Cal Clutterbuck and doesn’t have quite the hands of Dallas digger Steve Ott. But Max yaps, and only after he hustles for his entire shift, hounding the puck down low in the offensive zone and getting on the right side of it on the backcheck.
Montreal has been far too fun to play against for many years now and the departure of Mike Komisarek only accentuates that point. Lapierre is one of the few players who makes facing the Canadiens a little less enticing and his team needs him at his absolute agitating best this year.
And so do we, just so people don’t question our ability to spot a cover boy.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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