Larry Brooks is providing player evaluations daily in the NY Post, an exercise that began the past Monday. The order is by last name, and while he is not giving a grade, he is giving a sort of high-level assessment. Since it's my hope that we will have hockey, I thought it might be interesting to take one or a few aspects of his daily column along with his closure - the latter in italics - and provide my view, then receive yours in the comments. I will try and do this daily, and have covered Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo, Jesper Fast, Adam Fox, Alexandar Georgiev, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider. Today, it's Brendan Lemieux.
The traditional numbers are not going to be of any help to Brendan Lemieux in negotiating a new contract and neither are the more esoteric ones. Six goals, 12 assists, 42.2 percent Corsi, on for 19 goals for and 30 against at full strength. Yikes.
But there is one stat that the winger’s team — the off-ice one captained by his agent and father, Claude — should be pleased to present general manager Jeff Gorton, and, should it get to that, an arbitrator, to highlight his contributions.
And that is the penalties drawn vs. penalties taken stat that reveals Lemieux’s effectiveness as an agitator. Because even accounting for those times that referees whistled The Son of Pepe off the ice for imaginary infractions and those times that the fine officials gave opponents two or three whacks at No. 48, Lemieux drew 19 minors while taking only six himself at even-strength for a plus-13 that led the Blueshirts.
Lemieux was not able to produce as he did the previous year both in Winnipeg and in New York following his deadline acquisition in the Kevin Hayes trade. That may have something to do with the fact that his 2018-19 shooting percentage was a rather wild 17.9 (12 goals on 63 shots) as opposed to this season’s measly 7.0 percent (six goals on 86 shots).
The season was actually fractured for Lemieux, pre- and post-broken thumb he suffered on Dec. 27 that caused him to miss about three weeks. Before the injury, Lemieux had posted 13 points (5-8) in 38 games. After he returned on Jan. 19, he recorded just five points (1-4) in 24 games the rest of the way.
He just didn’t seem to be getting there on time, as often. His hands betrayed him when he did get to the front. His work off the puck suffered. David Quinn used him on the second power play as a net-front presence and disturber about as long as he could and also had him on the penalty kill unit
There is value to Lemieux, who has personality and is popular in the room, and who never misses an opportunity to come to the defense of an opponent. The Rangers need him and they need the abrasive element he brings. But they also need him to be better. They need some numbers beyond penalties drawn and taken.
Lemieux could use them, too
Lemieux, in my view, was a major disappointment. Maybe the expectations I had for him was too high. But even at the low end of what might have been acceptable wasn't reached.
As Brooks noted, six goals, 12 assists, 42.2 percent Corsi, on for 19 goals for and 30 against at full strength. Ugly numbers overall, cognizant of the expected decline in shooting percentage. Even with giving him credit for the penalties for/against differential, the numbers weren't there.
One comment I heard a lot was Lemieux didn't appear to be in shape, which impacted his play. That may have been the case, since he did look a step slow. Lemieux should have been a staple on the third line, moving up when needed. But Brooks noted in the column that Lemieux was mostly planted on the fourth line, rightfully so.
The one piece of good news is that Lemieux's so-so campaign should result in a lower salary increase next next season. Signed to the minimum this year due to no arbitration rights, Lemieux, like Tony DeAngelo, bet on himself by taking a one-year deal. Despite having arb rights this off-season, I would not expect Lemieux's salary to rise much. Maybe he goes from 925K to $1.2-1.5 million, but no higher and it's quite likely he ends up at the lower end of that range.
Lemieux needs to come to camp in great shape and prove that he belongs in the lineup nightly as well as in a prominent role. This past year was a not a good one for the agitative forward. For Lemieux to retain his roster spot, 2020-21 must be a lot better.
NHL.com's season snapshot review of the Rangers: