There are two general impressions of right winger Ian Laperriere. One, the prevailing one among fans of the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings as well as most everybody else in the NHL, is that "Lappy" is one of the hardest-working and most genuine hockey players to ever skate in the big leagues. Their evidence: he's always first on the ice and last off, he never backs down from a confrontation, and will do anything to help his teammates, no matter what. To most, he's the ultimate team player.
The other general impression, mostly held by those on the receiving end of his endless smack talk and flying fists, is that he's a clown who plays cheap and dirty. They cite his endless stream of insults on the ice, his hard hits and his tendency to knock them off their game mentally.
Regardless of the impression, there aren't many players in the entire NHL that wouldn't love a chance to skate alongside Ian Laperriere instead of against him.
For this reason, and many others, Ian Laperriere is number 19 on the list of Top 19 Avalanche Players Of All Time.
Lappy began his professional career in St. Louis, when the Blues picked him in the seventh round, 158th overall, during the 1992 NHL entry draft. His late pick seemed like quite a steal for the Blues the next season, when he scored 140 points in 60 games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. His 96 assists that season led the junior league. He followed that impressive showing with 113 points in 62 games the very next year.
In 1994-95, Laperriere graduated to the AHL, playing for the Blues' affiliate Peoria Rivermen, where he continued to be a prolific scorer. Before being called up to the NHL in January of 1995, Lappy scored 48 points in 51 games. Amazingly, his offense didn't die off considerably once he hit the big leagues, finishing the year with 27 points (13 goals) in 37 games. A .73 points-per-game percentage is nothing to scoff at for any rookie.
But despite his impressive production the year before, Laperriere was traded to New York in 1995-96, having to trade his Blues sweater for that of the Blueshirts. His offensive output dropped considerably, and his penalty minutes increased. Lappy became a middle weight antagonizer. His natural two-way ability and skill at trapping oncoming offenses didn't win him any fans among the Rangers, and he was traded again. His third team that season was the Los Angeles Kings, but this time he seemed to fit right in. In the final ten games of the season, he scored five points (with 15 penalty minutes).
Lappy stayed with the Kings for seven full seasons, from 1996-97 until the 2003-04, the final season before the Lockout. During that time he really made a name for himself as a pest and a middle weight fighter, racking up the penalty minutes by the dozens while still contributing a bit on offense. He scored less than 18 points only once during his stint with the Kings. Lappy's antics, especially his loud mouth and frequent fights (not to mention his hip fashion sense), endeared him to Los Angeles hockey fans (yes, they exist) immediately. How could you not like a guy who kicked Red Wings ass even as a King?
But Lappy's contract with the Kings expired with the Lockout, and as a free agent, he decided to move a little farther east to Denver. His first season with the Avs, 2005-06, was a huge success. With 21 goals and 45 points, along with 116 penalty minutes, and Lappy was an instant favorite among his new teammates and fan base. His debut season with the Avs remains his best year by far. He got in 12 fights, including decisive wins against annoying jerks like Steve Ott and Ryan Hollweg.
Though Laperriere's offensive numbers have decreased since his first year in the Burgundy and Blue, his contributions to the Avalanche have not. His happy-go-lucky attitude with his teammates, his fiery temperament on the ice, veteran leadership and his gritty two-way play have kept the Avs afloat during a rocky period of post-Lockout "rebuilding."
And, all that aside, he's produced two of the most highly-regarded YouTube clips among Avalanche fans anywhere.
First he beat up Dion Phadouche in 2006-07:
And then he broke Nicklas Lidstrom's precious glass vagina:
And despite all his innumerable contributions to every team for which he's played, Ian Laperriere is also a major charity contributor and a big-time family man. This month he was honored as one of four fathers of the year by the American Diabetes Association and the Denver Father's Day Council.
Lappy wasn't on a lot of people's top 19 lists, but compared to some of the others who were, I think it's safe to say that Lappy has earned a spot as one of the best Avalanche players of all time. The fact that he played this past post-season with a broken foot certainly helped his ranking. It will be a sad day when he leaves the team, for whatever reason, whenever it happens.
[Highest rating: 14. Lowest rating: 17. Average score: 19.00]*