It’s rare that you practically beg your team’s GM to go get a coveted player. That’s precisely what I did just over two weeks ago in a poetic tweet on my Kovy274Hart account on Twitter.
I knew Winnipeg was a good possibility for Kevin Hayes. While I would’ve preferred a top prospect who’s NHL ready such as Jack Roslovic or Sami Niku, I understood that if Hayes got dealt to the Jets, he was going as a rental with no guarantee of re-signing. That’s always the risk/reward contending teams take when they acquire players, who can become unrestricted free agents in July.
Maybe for that reason, I was hoping for a first round pick and gritty forward Brendan Lemieux. Sometimes, wishes do come true. Unlike one of my favorite scenes from The Goonies, it wasn’t at the bottom of a wishing well. The 22-year old is in his first full NHL season. Thus far, Lemieux has demonstrated that he can become a agitating pest like his more well known father, Claude Lemieux. As much as I despised him, he was a pretty good player who delivered when it counted.
In 44 games this season while carving out a secondary role for Winnipeg, the former Sabres 2014 second round pick taken 31st overall, has nine goals and two assists for 11 points along with 64 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating. The newest Ranger is already excited to get started.
This is a unique opportunity for him. On a rebuilding team, Lemieux has the chance to make a good first impression. Coach David Quinn said that his newest player will receive more ice time than he did with Winnipeg. He was averaging 7:25 on a deep playoff contender with Stanley Cup aspirations. That’ll increase on a younger roster that’s still being assessed with 20 games left.
I’m excited to see what he can bring. Most of the season, Quinn has stressed the need for his team to play grittier and tougher. That message has gotten through with both Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo responding well to criticism. Vladislav Namestnikov has changed his game by becoming more physically involved during shifts. Even if the numbers don’t show it, the former Lightning forward is a better player now compared to last year.
The one thing Lemieux does is keep opponents honest. He has four fights in ’18-19 with his most recent coming against the bigger Ben Harpur of Ottawa. Despite giving away some size, he did okay. He also fought newest Devil Connor Carrick. Maybe they’ll renew acquaintances in the remaining two games.
At least now you won’t have to see some of the other skilled Rangers fend for themselves like Ryan Strome did against Matt Niskanen on Sunday. Lemieux finishes checks and plays that familiar North American game needed to compete on a daily basis. He will drive foes batty.
He’s the exact kind of physical player who can make a difference. If he continues to develop the rest of his game, even better. Think Sean Avery. You need those types around to keep opponents honest.
Avery may not have ended his NHL career the way he had hoped. But he definitely made an impact. Have you ever seen one player take Martin Brodeur off his game more than the Grate One? He definitely helped that ’07-08 team advance past the Devils in a heated first round best remembered for Screen Gate. The Avery Rule became a thing as did a incensed Brodeur not shaking his hand. He was wired differently.
Its funny, but I kinda miss those days. Fun times. Henrik Lundqvist was a lot younger and Marc Staal was a rookie. It’s hard to believe that was so long ago.
I’m looking forward to the Broadway debut of Lemieux tomorrow against the Lightning. So, who will he play with? That’s best left for Quinn to answer.