Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Claude Lemieux

No, Claude Lemieux is not related to Mario Lemieux. Although he plays a very different style than Super Mario, this Lemieux was also one of the best hockey players of his time.

Claude Lemieux is one of the peskiest players in NHL history. Some people would say he is one of the dirtiest. He antagonizes the opposition like no other player can. He will do anything to get the opposition off of its game and often draws retaliatory penalties. Then he uses his offensive instincts to bury the other team by netting a big goal to help win the game.

A lot of people don't like Claude Lemieux because of the way he plays. Although he was a selfish player, he is the type of player you love to have on your team, but hate to play against. While he has done some borderline things to help his team win, and some down right nasty things, love him or hate him, you have to respect that this guy will do whatever it takes to win a hockey game. He may lack morals, but he will do the dirty work no one else will.

Bottom line - Claude Lemieux is a winner. In fact he won twice as many Stanley Cups as Mario Lemieux did. He also has a Canada Cup title and a World Junior Hockey gold medal on his resume.

Claude Lemieux was born on July 16, 1965 in Buckingham, Quebec. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens as their second choice and the 26th overall pick in the 1983 Entry Draft.

Although he played in a total of 9 games over from 1983-1985, Lemieux made his debut in an NHL starring role late in the 1985-86 season when he was called up along with another rookie, Patrick Roy, for the Stanley Cup playoff run. The two rookies played huge roles in a surprise Stanley Cup championship in 1986. Lemieux scored 10 goals in 20 games in those playoffs. Four of those goals were game winners, including in overtime of game 7 of the Adams division finals against Hartford.

Claude would enjoy 4 more solid campaigns in Montreal. He was a consistent 25-30 goal scorer as well as a defensive forward while of course polishing his reputation as hockey's most abrasive player. He would help return the Habs to the Stanley Cup finals in 1989, only to come up short.

An injury plagued 1989-90 season saw the Habs trade Claude to New Jersey in exchange for Sylvain Turgeon just prior to the start of the 1990-91 season. Lemieux had a terrible time with a groin/abdominal injury, and the Habs felt he may be damaged goods. He also had run ins with coach Pat Burns over incidents both on and off the ice, so Lemieux forced the trade out of Montreal.

The 6'1, 215 pound right winger developed into a better rounded player, especially offensively. He scored 40 goals in his first season with the Devils, and in his five seasons there, he notched 125 goals and another 134 assists. In 1994 Claude helped the Devils to within one game of their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. But in 1995, things were quite different. Lemieux led the Devils to the Cup Finals with his clutch play, and New Jersey won its first Cup championship. For his gargantuan efforts, Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, after scoring 13 goals in the playoffs to lead all post season scorers. He had just 6 goals in the lock-out shortened regular season.

The off-season brought contract squabbles with New Jersey management, so "Pepe" was shipped to the New York Islanders for Steve Thomas on October 3, 1995 and then promptly to Colorado by the Islanders for Wendel Clark on the same day in a three way deal. Finding a home on a line with Peter Forsberg and Valeri Kamensky, Claude logged 39 goals and 71 points in 79 games for the Avalanche. More importantly he helped them win the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver, scoring 4 more game winning goals along the way.

In doing so, he became the fourth player in NHL history to win Stanley Cup with three different teams and the fifth to win it in back-to-back seasons with different teams.

The 1996 championship does come with a black eye, however. Of all the dastardly acts Lemieux committed in his career, none were more infamous than when he hit Detroit's Kris Draper from behind in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Draper's face crashed into the boards, leaving him with a fractured upper jaw, a fractured cheekbone, a broken nose, a 30-stitch cut on the inside of his mouth and five displaced teeth. The incident turned boiled over an already heated rivalry. For several years after the fact the incident sparked violent retribution and replies, including a fist fight with Darren McCarty where Lemieux turtled.

Suffering from another abdominal pull, Lemieux struggled to stay in the NHL. He bounced around after leaving Colorado in 1999, most notably returning to New Jersey where he was part of another Stanley Cup championship in 2000, giving him 4 Stanley Cup titles. He ranks 2nd in playoff game winning goals with 19, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull and ahead of fellow playoff legends Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Glenn Anderson and Joe Sakic.

"I love playoffs. You know what its like when teams play back-to-back games in the regular season, there's usually a lot of intensity and bad feelings grow. In the playoffs it is even more intense," said Lemieux. "The physical side of the game really became more important and I think that is where I have been able to give my team an edge."

He finished his career with 379 goals and 406 assists for 785 points in 1,197 NHL regular-season games. He had 80 goals and 78 assists for 158 points in 233 Stanley Cup playoff games.

After all the sucker punches, slew foots, sticks to the groins and verbal assaults, there is plenty of reason to dislike Claude Lemieux. But you also have to admire what he accomplished and his stature as one of the greatest NHL playoff performers of all time.


About This Blog

Lorem Ipsum

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP