Gritty Brendan Lemieux will only get better for the Rangers

When the Rangers acquired Brendan Lemieux in the Kevin Hayes trade at last season’s deadline, it flew under the radar. Everyone focused on the Rangers adding another first round pick which they sent back to Winnipeg for Jacob Trouba that summer. However, the moment Lemieux stepped on the ice wearing Rangers Blue, eyes started to open.

Making an Impression

Statistically speaking, Lemieux notched just 3 goals and 6 points in 19 games after the trade. Surely not jaw dropping at first glance, until you dig deeper and see the 44 penalty minutes (very few of them of the cheap variety), 2 fighting majors, and 48 hits. This was done averaging around 12 minutes under David Quinn while being moved up and down the lineup.

Coming into this season the Rangers lacked a player with this much sandpaper up front in their lineup. On defense, Jacob Trouba is as tough as they come and can scrap with some of the best fighters, but you really don’t want his $8M hands punching some 4th line agitator’s helmet. Mind you, Trouba doesn’t see it that way, just ask Zach Hyman’s face. That’s where Lemieux comes in, and obviously fighting is down league wide but he certainly makes his presence known tied for 4th in the NHL with 5.

Fire and Ice

Lemieux set career highs on many individual statistics before the NHL pause. The 23 year in-your-face winger has 18 points on the season in 59 games. That surpasses his 17 points in 63 games last year. When it comes to the stats that really matter for a player like Lemieux, he has 164 hits on the season, only Jacob Trouba’s 173 has more for the Blueshirts. The feisty winger also amassed personal best 111 penalty minutes including a team leading 5 fighting majors, and didn’t avoid the league’s heavyweights. That was proven when he went mano-a-mano with Caps bruiser, Tom Wilson.

Of course hitting and fighting certainly means more when you can chip in offensively. That’s what makes the best agitators effective, just remember who Brendan’s dad is. Lemieux has shown the skills to score, enough so that David Quinn has used him on the 2nd PP unit playing a similar role to Chris Kreider on the 1st. On top of his impressive grit stats, he has 2 goals and 5 points on the man advantage plus 1 goal and 2 points shorthanded.

All and all this 2nd year player has proven that he will only get better from here. When the off-season comes, the Rangers and Lemieux will come to an agreement on at least a 2 year bridge deal. Speculating on the AAV will likely be around the $2-2.5M range, which will look like a bargain as he cements himself as a 3rd liner who will be a boon to both the PP and PK units.

Chip off the Block

Brendan and Claude Lemieux

Lemieux is a banger and a high energy guy. His father Claude Lemieux was considered one of the game’s clutch players. In 1215 regular season games he scored 379 goals and 786 points. Claude’s clutch reputation was well earned in the playoffs, where he scored 80 goals and 158 points in 234 games and finished with 4 Stanley Cups. However his reputation to agitate is legendary.

That under your skin style earned him the nickname Pepe Lemieux which was a play on the Looney Tunes skunk character, Pepe Le Pew. Oddly enough, the only things they had in common was the French accent and the fact that people really don’t like skunks.

Blueshirts fans clearly remember the countless battles Lemieux and Adam Graves had during those bitter rivalry days. One particular incident led to an all out brawl during the 1992 playoffs. Now take it from me, as someone who witnessed Claude up close, his son has shades of his father and that is something this Rangers team will need to compete in the years to come.