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 +/-|
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.Tags: Maxim Lapierre, Penalty plus-minus, Statistics