It’s no surprise that Jets prospect Brendan Lemieux plays the game on edge.
Growing up watching his father Claude, a hall-of-fame forward that was known just as equally for his goal-scoring than his tenacity, has undoubtedly shaped his playing style.
“I think it rubs off,” said Claude, who amassed 377 goals and 1777 PIM through 1215 NHL games. “As young boys, we want to be like our dads, and especially with his dad (playing in the NHL), maybe he started realizing (as he grew up) that his game was going to be a lot like mine.”
Monkey see, monkey do.
Be it between the whistles, on the way to the penalty box or even on the bench–Brendan doesn’t back down. He’ll take issue with an extra shove after the whistle–he’ll voice his displeasure to the referees and for as long as Number 48’s in the game–he’s not going to stop jawing with the other team’s bench.
“It’s fun to watch and listen to what comes out of his mouth,” chucked Moose teammate and longtime friend Chase De Leo. “Sometimes I’m even caught off guard [by what he says]. He knows exactly what to say to piss the other team off [and] he’s not afraid to back it up.”
Indeed, Lemieux isn’t afraid to back up his trash talk. And with his fellow troops rallying around his antics and emotion, it seems to ignite a Moose team that sits atop the AHL standings with 51 points.
“You get behind him on the bench, and he starts yelling at their guys, and then you start yelling back and everyones yelling at each other,” said Moose forward Buddy Robinson. “A couple profanities here and there but it’s all in good fun.”
Just like his ‘ol man.
“He’s an intense person and you see it in the way he plays,” said Moose head coach Pascal Vincent. “He’s a guy that creates confusion on the ice, and good confusion for us, and brings a lot of attention to himself because of the way he plays and the way he moves around the ice—it’s part of his game and he’s really good at it.”
And that intensity that Lemieux provides game-in and game-out is indicative of the person he is.
“I don’t think I play angry,” clarified Brendan. “I wear my heart on my sleeve, I guess.”
As Claude notes, Brendan is protective by nature.
“He’s very protective of his family, his little sister [and] his friends–and I think that’s a really strong quality.”
But Lemieux’s not solely an agitator who’s sharp trash talk is his ticket to a role in professional hockey. He’s a modern-day pest, and to play that part in today’s NHL–a league where fighting is on the decline— you have to have some skill, and Lemieux certainly does.
Through 22 games with the Moose this season, Lemieux is scoring at a point-per-game pace, a vast improvement from last seasons totals, where he recorded 19 points in a 61-game span and scoring 0.31 p/pg.
Lemieux has evolved into an essential fixture to the Moose lineup, seeing time on the power play, and spending a lot of time in front of the net, and according to Vincent, he can tip pucks in front of the net “as good as anybody.” The Denver native is outright too talented to spend all his time in the penalty box, but as it stands right now, he’s on pace for 147 PIM’s–17 more minutes in the box than he spent last year.
“We don’t want him to change that part of his game—that’s what he brings,” said Vincent. “The learning curve of walking that line [is] knowing [that] he has a role to do.”
“I don’t think I play angry — I wear my heart on my sleeve, I guess.”
“I’ve said [to him] a few times, you have to pick your spots,” said Claude. “There’s [a time and place] where you need to stir things up, get something going if the game [is] not going your team’s way.”
And if Lemieux can balance out his agitating ways with the skill that lead to the Sabres selecting him with the first pick in the second round of the 2014 draft–he could suit up for more than the seven games he played with the Jets earlier in the year, according to his father.
“There are players out there that play a physical game between the whistles and are effective,” said Claude. “As he matures, that’s [the kind of] player that he will be in the NHL. Somebody that is difficult to play against, capable of scoring–and also a guy that is going to go to the tough areas and someone that doesn’t play with fear.”