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On the left: Higgins. On the right: Lapierre.
Prior to the NHL trade deadline last spring some hockey insiders did not expect the Canucks front office to do much to improve the team. Most saw no glaring holes to fill on the eventual President's Trophy recipients as the league's top team in the NHL regular season.
Mike Gillis sought opportunities to give the core of this team more breathing room by injecting two former Canadiens forwards Christopher Higgins and Maxim Lapierre.
Christopher Higgins was once a promising young forward coming into the NHL with high hopes in the eyes of Montreal to one-day become a 40-goal scorer. He has the speed and the offensive instincts to find opened areas and a pretty decent shot. However, in the hockey fever town of Montreal, those dreams quickly faded away. Higgins was traded by the Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey to New York Rangers for a package that included Scott Gomez.
Higgins fit in well last season on a line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. Expect Higgins' role to develop further with training camp and pre-season this September to gel with his prospective line-mates.
On the other hand, the Vancouver Canucks went out to acquire an upgrade on the fourth line center position at the trade deadline. The answer that coach Alain Vigneault gave to his general manager was to go out and acquire a junior player he has coached before in Maxim Lapierre. Because of the past history Vigneault has had with Lapierre in the QMJHL, Mike Gillis agreed to bring in a super-pest who would never have entered his scouting radar.
Maxim Lapierre brings assets that were overshadowed by the Alex Burrows biting incident in the Stanley Cup Finals with a handful of Bruins players. Apart from the offering of fingers, Lapierre brings an element that coaches love from their role players.
Lapierre is described as a hardworking player who skates very well, and plays a hard-nosed fore-checking and back-checking game. One of the knocks the Canadiens TV and radio analysts had on Lapierre was his lack of finishing ability. Canucks fans saw some of that in the playoffs when Lapierre took over games with his grit and speed, but couldn't finish.
Despite that problem, Lapierre is a good face-off man, a good penalty-killer, and a player not afraid to get his nose dirty with the opposition. If he plays the way that Alain Vigneault asks of him, he could potentially overtake Manny Malhotra as the third checking line center on the Canucks depth chart.
To wrap things up, Higgins and Lapierre are both brought back by Mike Gillis this off-season, and bigger and better things can be expected of these two forwards.