I hate to say this, but Maxim Lapierre is going to have to fight. I hate it because I think hockey should have evolved past fighting. The game is so fast, skilled and thrilling without fisticuffs, yet it's still part of the NHL. So, since it is, Lapierre is going to have to step up.
I was watching TSN count down the top ten agitators in hockey tonight, and one thing that stood out among them was that they didn't only yap and needle and annoy; they also backed it up when the guys they tormented turned on them. Lapierre got an honourable mention on the agitator list. Bob McKenzie pointed out the absolutely horrible faces he makes at his opponents. There's no doubt that's a brilliant agitating tactic, and Lapierre could be a total bastard to play against if he'd back it up.
Last year when he turtled against Steve Montador, he became a laughingstock. You don't mind an agitator who doesn't fight much, but one who dishes it out without the ability to ever take it is just distasteful. Sometimes, a guy has to put his fists where his big mouth is, or he borders on becoming a liability.
I think Maxim Lapierre is one of the few players who could be better by fighting. He's got speed, a little bit of offensive ability and those nasty faces he makes. If he could pound people who wanted a piece of him, he'd be truly fearsome. It wouldn't have to be every time, but often enough to send the message that there's a price to pay for spooning his own medicine back to him. One of my favourite moments from the last playoffs was when the Canadiens scored against Pittsburgh while Pens defenceman Brooks Orpik was behind the Habs net trying to murder Lapierre, instead of playing his position. That's what Lapierre is good at, but he'd be even better if people were not only annoyed by him, but afraid of him too.
The thing is, he can do it. He's not a small guy, and he's good on his skates. If he chose to take a few beatings to establish his reputation as a guy who'll back up his nonsense, then he'd be taken more seriously.
I honestly believe the days of the fighters in the NHL are numbered. There's too much better in the game to have room for fighting. But while it's still a part of hockey, teams don't really need guys like Georges Laraque anymore. They need fast guys who can kill penalties, make horrid faces and knock opponents on their asses when appropriate. They need the guy Maxim Lapierre could be if he took his aggressiveness to the other player's nose once in a while.
I like Lapierre. I think last year was an off-year for him, and he's capable of much better. If that means knocking some guys around once in a while, so be it.