Five years ago....Claude Lapointe

New York Islander Fan Central | 4/24/2008 08:01:00 AM |
A little Islanders-Sound Tigers look back today at some interesting things Claude Lapointe had to say five years ago when with Philadelphia. Hard to believe it's been that long.

For those curious about the former Nystrom award winner he never returned to the NHL after his problems in Philadelphia. He played four games with Bern, a Swiss A league club in 2006-07 but was injured.

Despite reports of retirement in 2007-08 he played eighteen games for Trois Rivieres Caron and Guay of the LNAH with a goal. (Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey)
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By Tim Panaccio
Inquirer Staff Writer
4/24/03

Claude Lapointe still doesn't know why the New York Islanders soured
on him.

He knows only that on the first day of training camp last September,
general manager Mike Milbury called him into his office and told him
in rather unflattering terms that he was unwanted.

"Right away, he said he was going to trade me," recalled Lapointe,
who joined the Flyers at the trade deadline in March. "He said there
were better players than me and that I belonged in the minor leagues.
He told me the only reason I was there with the Islanders was because
of my salary [being high].

"From day one, I felt unappreciated the entire year, and it showed in
my ice time. I didn't get the time I deserved. But that's OK. It was
for the best. I'm here now."

Lapointe, who pronounces his first name as "Clode," cost the Flyers
virtually nothing - a fifth-round draft pick this summer.

While it's well known that his final season on the Island was one of
acrimony between him and the club, you'd be hard-pressed to find a
league scout who wouldn't see value in a man who has long been
regarded as one of best defensive centers in the NHL.

His worth to the Flyers is simply this: gritty, veteran depth at the
bottom of the lineup to match the same at the top. Lapointe had a
goal and two assists in Tuesday's 6-1 rout of the Toronto Maple
Leafs, which advanced the Flyers to tomorrow's Eastern Conference
semifinal round against Ottawa.

It was his first playoff goal since April 28, 1993, when he played
for the Quebec Nordiques.

Lapointe spent the Toronto series working straight up on a number of
veterans - Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker, Travis Green, Robert Reichel,
even Mats Sundin. Some nights he centered a skill line with John
LeClair and Mark Recchi. Others, he worked with Donald Brashear and
Marty Murray or moved to wing to work with Jeremy Roenick or Keith
Primeau.

In a very short time, Lapointe has proven his versatility. Whenever
the Flyers have a key defensive draw, he's usually on the ice with
Primeau in case Primeau is thrown out of the circle.

Guys like Lapointe have their own niches. Lapointe's is the defensive
draw and penalty killing.

"It's very important," he said of face-offs. "That's one thing I take
pride in. I practice it pretty much every single day. At the end of
games and there's like three or four minutes left and you're up by
one goal, you want to win that face-off."

With the Islanders in a youth movement under coach Peter Laviolette,
the 34-year-old Lapointe was gradually phased out for 28-year-old
Shawn Bates, who played for Laviolette in Providence of the American
Hockey League.

"In New York, I had a tag number on my back that read fourth line
only," Lapointe said. "I got maybe five or six minutes a night under
Laviolette. It's a lot different here. I love being here."

Under Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, Lapointe isn't an old piece of wood
to be thrown into the fireplace. He's something worthy of putting on
the mantel.

Hitchcock compares Lapointe to Guy Carbonneau, who was a key player
on the Dallas Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup squad. Carbonneau was a veteran
checker who came up big in the playoffs.

"Carbonneau could always make the good plays at the right time... ,"
Hitchcock recalled. "My feeling was, we wanted to use Claude the same
way we used Carbonneau. When you have proud, competitive people, when
you get into the playoffs, those players seem to stand out. Their
pride takes over."

Hitchcock reasoned that after being devalued by the Islanders,
Lapointe's pride would overtake him once he got to Philadelphia. So
the coach decided to test his versatility by moving him around the
lineup.

"My feeling was," Hitchcock said, "why not put him in a situation
where he can have an impact instead of a little bit of a role? Give
him a bigger bite."

Lapointe averaged 15 minutes in the Toronto series and figures to get
decent time in the series against Ottawa, as well. He's never gotten
past an opening round in the playoffs in his 13-year career. He
admits it hasn't been easy to play with LeClair and Recchi one night
and then jump back into a strict checking-line role the next.

"It was hard," Lapointe said. "I try to use my common sense and read
off Johnny and Mark... . One thing about coming here, when you feel
appreciated, your mind and attitude changes. You go on the ice and
feel like you're a different player. I think Hitchcock sees that."

Said Recchi: "He's been a terrific player and skater since we got
him. He kind of energizes us."

Yesterday, Recchi accidentally called Lapointe "Marty" as in the
Bruin, Martin Lapointe.

"Hitch called him Marty the other night [in Game 7]," Recchi added.

Lapointe laughs that stuff off. And, he said, after spending seven
good years with the Islanders, he laughs off how things ended there,
too.

"Someday, I will ask Peter Laviolette, 'Why did you do that to me?' "
Lapointe said. "I did my job for the last 12 years the same way. He
never gave me a chance. He took his boys who played for him in
Providence and gave them my job."

Right now, no one is going to take away Lapointe's job with the
Flyers.

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