Lapierre might want to start mouthing off again; looking at the Canucks’ penalty plus/minus

Prior to the start of this season, Maxim Lapierre suggested that he was going to be chirping opponents a lot less when he was on the ice. For the most part, it seems like he’s followed through so far. He’s been avoiding most of the scrums and has only gotten yappy a few times at the bench.

It’s been important for Lapierre to stay focussed on his play: with Ryan Kesler out of the lineup and the announcement that Manny Malhotra is done for the season, Lapierre has been relied upon more at centre than ever before. He’s had to take a lot of faceoffs, particularly in the defensive zone. He’s currently second on the Canucks in total faceoffs, behind Henrik Sedin.

Shutting his mouth has seemed to have an unintended negative consequence: he’s not drawing anywhere near as many penalties. Unfortunately, he’s still taking his share of penalties so, overall, is putting the Canucks on the penalty kill more often than he’s putting them on the powerplay.

After a skate at UBC near the beginning of January, he said, “It’s going to be a physical game when we get back and I don’t think I’m going to talk as much on the ice. I even think I’m not even going to talk at all. I’m going to play my role and play physical. Do what I have to do and get back to the bench.”

One of the big parts of Lapierre’s game, however, is being an agitator and getting under the skin of his opponents. It’s a big reason why he (and Alex Burrows) found themselves on Sports Illustrated’s top 10 list of the most hated players in the NHL. But that agitation frequently makes opponents take bad penalties, allowing the powerplay to go to work.

Drawing penalties and taking advantage of them has been the gameplan for the Canucks for the past few seasons and it’s worked pretty well. Admittedly, the Canucks’ powerplay hasn’t been firing on all cylinders to start the season, but drawing penalties will still be important.

Over at Backhand Shelf, I’ve been writing about penalty plus-minus, which simply looks at minor penalties drawn and taken by a player at even-strength. Lapierre led the Canucks in this statistic last season, drawing 15 penalties and taking 11, for a plus-4 rating. Chris Higgins was also plus-4 in fewer games.

This season, however, Lapierre is dead last on the team, taking 5 penalties so far and drawing just 1 for a minus-4 rating:


Name Pos Team GP Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalties Taken/60 Minutes Penalties Drawn/60 Minutes Penalty +/-
1 Dale Weise C VAN 12 1 5 0.5 2.7 4
2 Alexander Edler D VAN 12 1 5 0.3 1.7 4
3 Daniel Sedin LW VAN 12 0 4 0.0 1.5 4
4 Zack Kassian RW VAN 12 1 3 0.4 1.2 2
5 Manny Malhotra C VAN 9 0 2 0.0 1.7 2
6 Keith Ballard D VAN 12 5 6 1.7 2.0 1
7 Jannik Hansen RW VAN 12 1 2 0.4 0.8 1
8 Chris Tanev D VAN 12 1 2 0.3 0.7 1
9 Dan Hamhuis D VAN 12 1 2 0.3 0.7 1
10 Andrew Ebbett C VAN 5 1 1 1.4 1.4 0
11 Kevin Bieksa D VAN 12 4 3 1.3 1.0 -1
12 Jordan Schroeder RW VAN 10 2 1 1.2 0.6 -1
13 Mason Raymond LW VAN 12 2 1 0.9 0.5 -1
14 Christopher Higgins LW VAN 12 2 1 0.8 0.4 -1
15 Alex Burrows RW VAN 12 4 2 1.6 0.8 -2
16 Henrik Sedin C VAN 12 4 2 1.4 0.7 -2
17 Aaron Volpatti LW VAN 12 4 2 2.8 1.4 -2
18 Jason Garrison D VAN 12 3 0 1.0 0.0 -3
19 Maxim Lapierre C VAN 12 5 1 2.4 0.5 -4

 

Dale Weise’s spot at the top of the list has to be a bit surprising, but considering his performance in the fastest skater competition at Sunday’s Superskills event, maybe it shouldn’t be. Fast players are generally better at drawing penalties and often take fewer penalties as well. Speedsters frequently force defencemen to take obstruction penalties to slow them down and also can get back into position more quickly, necessitating fewer hooking penalties and the like. Weise also has his physical play to help him out, as he’s been a bit of an aggravating presence so far this season.

It’s impressive to see that Edler isn’t resorting to taking penalties to make up for his struggles on the right side. While he hasn’t looked entirely comfortable on his off-side this season, he isn’t responding with hooking and interference penalties when he gets beaten. He’s also drawing penalties well, something that isn’t always easy for defencemen. Honestly, it’s surprising to see just one defenceman, Jason Garrison, at the bottom of the list.

Keith Ballard is the most active defenceman when it comes to taking and drawing penalties, which can certainly make a coach nervous, but as long as he draws more than he takes, he’s helping the team overall.

I would like to see Aaron Volpatti avoid getting on the negative side of penalty plus-minus. Fourth liners are not on the ice much, but can still have a very negative impact on a game with bad penalties. He has the highest rate of penalties taken per 60 minutes of ice time. If he’s going to take penalties, it’s best if they’re coincidental minors (or fighting majors) that take one of their players off the ice at the same time. Theoretically, the Canucks should be one of the better teams in the league at 4-on-4, with the Sedins and a bevy of speedsters that can take advantage of the extra room on the ice.

Admittedly, it’s still pretty early to be looking at this statistic. It will be interesting, however, to see if these trends continue. At the very least, Lapierre needs to start drawing more penalties than he’s taking. To do it, he might need to open his mouth again.

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17 comments

  1. junk
    February 14, 2013

    The guys at 1040 was talking about the same thing about Lapierre yesterday. For some players yapping is simply a distraction, while for some others it’s a motivation to bring the best out of them. I used to be an avid NBA basketball fan and some of the best players of my era were also notorious “Trash Talkers” – Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Gary Payton and so on.

    I’m not saying Lappy is one of the best players in hockey, but I think he’s definitely one of the type who drives themselves by chirping. He can still play well without it, but will lose an edge that could ‘maximize’ his performance on the ice.

    I know it’s a very fine line between playing on the edge and going over. I wouldn’t mind however, seeing Lappy’s chirping and the smirk – which only his teammates and the fans can tolerate – every once in a while to drive the opposing team crazy. After all it doesn’t hurt anyone, unlike those rats who slewfoot or low-bridge another player with a clear intent to injure him.

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    • J21 (@Jyrki21)
      February 14, 2013

      “I wouldn’t mind however, seeing Lappy’s chirping and the smirk – which only his teammates and the fans can tolerate – every once in a while to drive the opposing team crazy.”

      Every once in a while, sure. I’d still prefer he maintain a good-behavior policy for the time being, though, because Lord knows the Canucks don’t need more reasons to sink down the officials’ dung-list. Having Lapierre on the team at all is already a lightning rod for criticism that is too easy for lazy analysts to sink their teeth into (note how much the 2010-2011 Canucks were reviled in the media for their so-called reputation, largely invented on the spot to support the argument, and often explicitly for the presence of Lapierre, notwithstanding that Lapierre wasn’t on the team for most of the season).

      I don’t mind Lapierre opening his mouth when he is already in the midst of a “situation,” such as the one with Justin Falk the other night. (Holy crap, the NHL has both a Justin Falk and Justin Faulk? That’s as bad as the two Ni(c)klas Bäckströms!) But I don’t really want him initiating for no good reason.

      Besides, didn’t Lapierre already vow to keep a lid on it at the beginning of last season?

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  2. Kesler's Nose
    February 14, 2013

    That would be great advice.. right to the penalty box. If he is only there to be a mouth piece, trade for Marchand. At least he puts up points. Lapierre is horrible.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 14, 2013

      Yes, because Marchand is readily available in a trade. Your idiotic opinion about Marchand has fully convinced me that you know everything about hockey, so Lapierre must be horrible, because you have said so.

      Dillweed.

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    • junk
      February 14, 2013

      Give your name a well-deserved upgrade: Marchand’s Booger. That’s just about as much value your trolling carries here. Now excuse me ’cause I need to wash my hands…

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      • Angry Canadian
        February 14, 2013

        I had suggested Horses A** a few weeks ago as a new moniker for Mr. Troll, but since boogers have as much value as his opinion, then I’ll second your motion.

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  3. chinook
    February 14, 2013

    Interesting comment by Ray Ferraro (whose colour commentary is excellent) that chirping elevated his play. hmmm… could this be a new tracking stat for the stats-eggheads?

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    • Snepsts
      February 15, 2013

      Someone likes Ray Ferraro?! His high-pitched vacuum-esque drone, not to mention his seventeen-minute utterly pointless, enraging historical tangents (GORD LISTEN NOW, SMITH AND SMYTHE PLAYED IN THE 2006 OHL ALL-STAR GAME ON OPPOSITE TEAMS AND NOW THEY’RE ON THE SAME TEAM TOGETHER THAT SURE IS ONE HECK OF A COINCIDENCE, SCREW THE PLAY-BY-PLAY) makes me want to blow my brains out. I watch TSN games with the sound off.

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  4. akidd
    February 14, 2013

    there’s a stat for drawing penalties? hmmm. so if a team goes after henrik for something that lappy says how do they count that? if a dman puts a perfect breakaway pass on a forward’s stick and that forward gets hauled down who gets credit for that?

    not saying it couldn’t work to some degree but like hits, that’s gotta be a pretty subjective stat.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 14, 2013

      It’s not that subjective. The player who gets cross-checked, tripped, high-sticked, etc. is credited for drawing the penalty. Calls like delay of game, too-many-men, and unsportsmanlike conduct are not committed on any one person, so no one gets credited for drawing them.

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    • akidd
      February 14, 2013

      and is the ability to get highsticked an asset a player can take credit for?

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      • nanodummy
        February 14, 2013

        It’s kept Kaleta gainfully employed in buffalo.

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  5. akidd
    February 14, 2013

    sorry, daniel, didn’t see your reply. like i said i think it could work to some degree with a longer period but it’s still not a exactly precision tool, imho of course..

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  6. Knight of Cydonia
    February 14, 2013

    This is clearly a bogus stat, seeing as daniel and hendrik are on opposite ends of the equation…

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 14, 2013

      Ha, yes. Henrik has actually always taken more penalties. He’s particularly prone to hooking penalties, which is why we call him Captain Hook from time to time. Henrik has 518 penalty minutes in his career to Daniel’s 364.

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      • Knight of Cydonia
        February 14, 2013

        Haha ya. How many of his 4 this year have been hooks… I know he had at least one ruthless “boarding” call..

        On a related note between the sedin differences, I found this:
        http://danielorhenrik.com/

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  7. James
    February 15, 2013

    I think Lapierre was thinking of going in Kesler’s mould and rebuilding himself as a player who puts aggressive hockey first, and keeping the yapping to a minimum. It certainly worked for Kesler.

    Don’t forget although drawing penalties due to being an ass is one strategy, a better strategy may well be simply to focus on playing better yourself if you are capable of it. That can also have the Detroit Redwings advantage of putting the zebras on your side.

    just my 2c

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