The Winnipeg Jets trip to Finland was full of news and interesting stories. Patrik Laine rediscovered the net, the Jets seemed to have found their game, and it was a great event for fans and players alike. Winnipeg and Florida split the two games, which may not have been masterpieces, but the crowd got what they wanted.
Unfortunately, it was an event in the second game that stole all the positive headlines and replaced them with an ugly one. Brendan Lemieux’s 2nd period hit on Vincent Trocheck was the exact play the that the league is trying to get out of the game.
Brendan Lemieux has been suspended two games for this hit on Vincent Trocheck
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) November 5, 2018
Lemieux delivered a blind side hit on Trochek, targeting the head, and caught him on the jaw. Lemieux is the kind of player that has two sides. At his best he reminds people of his father, an agitator with a fair amount of offensive skill, and a guy who can drive other teams crazy. However, also like his father, Lemieux has shown a tendency to cross the line, hanging his teammates and coaches out to dry, unfortunately for Winnipeg, the Jets have seen more of the latter.
More Than Just One Hit
The hit does not need any more dissection, In the three weeks since it happened every opinion had been offered and the video has been reviewed forward, backwards, sideways, slow ways and fast ways. What I will argue however is, Lemieux was in trouble long before that hit, and though the hit kept him out of the lineup for a couple of games, it was Paul Maurice and the coaching staff who kept him out after that.
Lemieux was a long a shot coming into camp this season, however he played his way onto the team with a great camp, and some excellent pre season games. He played hard nasty minutes, but stayed out of trouble and showed some of the offensive skill that has made him more than just an agitator. Once the season started however Lemieux quickly saw his usage dip. In his nine games up to and including the game in Finland, Lemieux played under six minutes in five of them, and he never played more than nine minutes.
When Lemieux did see the ice he was largely ineffective. He failed to find the score sheet and did not make a difference in most games. With Kristian Vesalainen waiting in the weeds, and Nic Petan ready to return it looked like Lemieux’s days in the lineup were numbered. After playing only 4:17 in the first game in Finland, things went from bad to worse.
After the major and suspension few remembered Lemieux’s penalty earlier in the game. An errant stick that got up high, costing Lemieux two minutes. A costly penalty as the Panthers would tie the game on the power play. It was a dumb penalty, a careless penalty, and it cost the team. Combine that one, with the major, which Florida scored the eventual game winner on, and the blame of that loss came down squarely on the young forwards shoulders. It was probably deserved.
This game was the straw that broke the camels back when it came to Lemieux, however the camels knees were buckling under the weight far earlier. Lemieux playing on the line is his value, but Paul Maurice and his coaching staff were losing trust in him already. When he cost them the game in Finland, that may have been the end of Lemieux as an everyday player in the Winnipeg lineup.
Lemieux served his suspension, but Maurice kept him in the press box for the next five games. That likely would have continued into last nights game had it not been for an Andrew Copp injury. With Copp injured the Jets only remaining forward on the roster was Lemieux. If not for Vesalainen departing to Finland, it was likely going to be another shot for the young Finn. As it stood Lemieux finally drew back into the lineup.
Two ways to look at this goal..
Lemieux's first of the season.. Or lovely Nic Petan assist.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) November 25, 2018
Lemieux played a season high 9:02, and also potted his first goal of the season (yes it was stolen from Jack Roslovic). However, Lemieux also took a penalty, an interference minor that ended up in the back of the Jets net.
Lemieux remains a project for the Winnipeg Jets. At this time his days may be numbered. Marko Dano has returned to the organization, and Lemieux is not required to pass waivers should the Jets choose to send him back to the American Hockey League. It may be extreme, but as of now, Winnipeg has no reason to believe Lemieux can be in a game and not hurt his own team. It will be up to the coaching staff if they will give him another shot or let him figure it out in the minors.