Does Maxim Lapierre's Suspension Show He's Irrelevant to Montreal Canadiens?

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 04:  Maxim Lapierre #40 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the San Jose Sharks during an NHL game at the HP Pavilion  on March 4, 2010 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

As we await tonight's Habs vs. Tampa game, a thought occurred to me about the Montreal Canadiens: Maxim Lapierre was out of the lineup for the last two games, and I didn't even notice.

Did you? Did anyone except for Max?

In case you didn't know, Maxim Lapierre was suspended for four games for a 'dirty' hit on San Jose's Scott Nichol this week.

Sunday's game against the Ducks, was the second game of Lapierre's suspension and I for one didn't even notice that he was out of the lineup?

While Lapierre made a name and carved out a niche for himself last year, this year he has been a ghost. With the exception of a handful of games, Lapierre has been a non-factor on the 2010 edition of the Montreal Canadiens.

Now that he is suspended, I think it has become even clearer how irrelevant Lapierre has become to the Habs lineup.

Looking at the Habs roster, there are basically four players vying for the last two center spots on the team: Maxim Lapierre, Glen Metropolit, Dominic Moore and Ben Maxwell.

Maxwell is generally considered to be last on that depth chart, for now, going forward—and looking towards next season—it will be interesting to see where he fits and who else gets re-signed or gets the axe.

Where last year Lapierre seemed to be reaching his potential, this year he has beaten out by the surprising skill, speed and grit of Glen Metropolit.

Metro is no slouch, but at 35 years of age and a UFA at season's end, will GM Gauthier extend his contact with the Habs? There is no question that he is an excellent team guy and a very useful, versatile player but given that Gauthier just traded for Dominic Moore— who is six years younger than Metro—you'd have to think that he wants to give him a shot next year instead.

As for Maxwell, the conventional thinking is that as an offensive player, he needs to play on one of the top two lines. With Plekanec and Gomez already holding down those spots—assuming they both stay with the team next year—maybe Maxwell will get a chance to take the reins of the third line during his first year before getting a shot at one of the top two spots.

That would mean that either Metro, Lapierre or Moore should be the fourth-line pivot and depending on who stays and who goes, my money is on Moore.

Whatever happens in the off season, there is no question that Lapierre has done himself no favors this year. Lapierre's absence from the Habs lineup this week is glaring by its lack of effect.

It means nothing. It makes no difference. His presence is not missed.

Given how well he played last year, I find his 2010 stumble to be unfortunate. Furthermore, it would be even more unfortunate if he were to leave the team and rediscover his form in another city.

All things being equal, the way things are going for Lapierre and in light of his RFA status this summer, I would not be surprised to see Gauthier move him at the draft.

Let's see what the offseason brings!


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