When I first heard the trade that sent Marcel Goc away and brought in Maxim Lapierre, the first thing I thought about was the playoffs. Specifically, I thought about the teams in the Metropolitan Division that are going to the playoffs.
The Islanders 4th line features Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck; mostly big players who are aggressive and have found success this season and have seemed to take the imaginary "best 4th line in league" title from the Bruins. The Rangers, despite foolishly signing Tanner Glass, still have the dependable Dominic Moore and the young, fast JT Miller currently on their 4th line. Washington has Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle as generally effective checkers from the 4th line and sometimes include a very talented youngster like Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson - even though the latter two are pretty much wasted on the bottom line.
The Penguins dropped a vanilla player in Goc for a spicy one in Lapierre. Goc, though far from poor, didn't play very inspired in his Penguins stint. He barely scored. He barely was noticeable. Maybe it was bad luck, maybe he just couldn't get adjusted to the caliber of his teammates or shine in the role they needed him for, but the fit wasn't right. Lapierre adds size and the presumption of making the team tougher. Whether or not that's relevant can be largely up to the reader, however if you look a lot of the names in the paragraph immediately above (Martin, Clutterbuck, Moore, Chimera, Beagle), Lapierre fits in a lot better than Goc.
It's hardly been the first time the Pens have tinkered with depth players so far this season. They acquired Rob Klinkhammer but moved him right back out the door after just ten games in Pittsburgh. Then, general manager Jim Rutherford snagged Mark Arcobello off of waivers. Due to injuries they've had to play Bobby Farnham 11 times in the NHL. Now they have swapped Goc out for Lapierre.
The constants have been Craig Adams and Zach Sill, two players who have played when healthy and pulled down the rest of the line, and will surely pull down whichever center they have. Adams and Sill simply have to be replaced in the lineup if the Penguins want to have a competent fourth line like the Islanders do, or like the Rangers do when they make Glass a healthy scratch.
So, in that regard, the tinkering shouldn't be finished. There's plenty to see that Lapierre isn't going to carry a line by himself. His metrics aren't great- as this read from Pens Initiative is worth your time- and, to me, best not to have any illusions that Lapierre is going to improve the team below the surface.If the Penguins intend to roll Sill-Lapierre-Adams into the playoffs, they'll be run over just as much (if not probably more) than if they had Goc out there with the two anchors.
Through Rutherford's moves, by now, he's earned the benefit of the doubt. His frequent tweaks and moves should buy him time. He's not done putting his stamp on this Penguins team. Hopefully, when Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau return from injury, the Penguins can have the health and the wisdom to push Adams and Sill out of the regular lineup. If that doesn't happen now, hopefully another trade is made to upgrade the bottom 6, or push more depth down the line.
Pens fans might remember Lapierre for his play- then with the Canadiens- in the playoffs in 2010. He scored a huge goal in Game 4 in the 3rd period to tie the game, a game Montreal would go on to win and prevent the Pens from taking a 3-1 series lead. Lapierre also scored this Game 6 goal that ended up being the game winner to push the series to a seventh game.
Lapierre was also a visible piece for Vancouver when they went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2011. His advanced metrics say he stinks, but advanced metrics say that almost every 4th line player stinks. That's why they're on the 4th line, after all. Advanced metrics also praise Goc, and he scored 2 goals in 64 career games with the Penguins.
The Penguins aren't attempting to win the Score Adjusted Fenwick Cup, they're looking to build a team for the Stanley Cup. Lapierre is far, far from the final piece of the puzzle, let's stress that, but should provide an added dynamic that Goc clearly doesn't have to bring to the table.