On March 27, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Brendan Lemieux from the New York Rangers in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. To some, it may seem like a bit of salary dumping and creating room for other players on the part of the Rangers and the Kings giving up a mid-round pick, but it is much more than that.
The Kings have received a key piece to their ever-evolving puzzle of title contention. With their best-in-the-NHL prospect pool and the maturation of key players like Alex Iafallo, Austin Wagner and Adrian Kempe, the addition of Lemieux could prove to be a pivotal one.
What & Who Are the Kings Getting With This Acquisition?
Lemieux can be described with one word. Tough. He is the kind of tough the Kings have been needing since Kyle Clifford left the team and the kind of tough that will trickle down the rest of the roster. Lemieux is the type of player who will create space and decrease the workload for some guys who are having to take on roles that are different from what they would normally be playing, perhaps on top of their main role.
Another way to describe Lemieux would be, honey badger. He has a do-not-care type of attitude and he will take the big hits, fight whoever needs to be fought and get into the dirty areas in the corners and along the boards to get the puck to his teammates. He might not be the biggest guy out on the ice but night in and night out, he can be counted on to perform this tough guy role and pester the opposition.
Lemieux’s Roll Within the Kings Organization
There are a few places and many things the Kings could do with Lemieux. One of the best options would be to put him on a line with Blake Lizotte and Austin Wagner. Lizotte is small and quick. He really is not the toughest guy and he could use some grit alongside him which would help him to be able to focus on crafting and molding his speed to the NHL level and not having to fend for himself night-in and night-out. Wagner is half a foot taller than Lizotte so for him, size and protecting himself is not an issue.
Wagner is in a similar position to where Lizotte is at. Trying to do more than what he needs to. Wagner is also very fast and good at controlling his speed, but to really get him to the next level, he should focus on doing just that, perfecting his speed. Putting Lemieux on a line with Lizotte and Wagner might do the trick for them to help in the next step of their development.
A Lemieux-Lizotte-Wagner line would roll really well. Lemieux would perform the dirty work and keep the opposition’s defense away from Lizotte and Wagner or at least create space and time for Lizotte and Wagner to get up to speed without any obstruction. Lemieux would also be the guy to get into the corners for the pucks and get the puck to his Lizotte or Wagner so they in turn can go out and score lots of goals.
Lemieux can also be the guy to take the penalties and dish out some fists if need be. That way, the fast and productive guys can focus on being fast and productive. Not that he should be gunning for Tiger Williams’ PIM record, but he should be a hybrid enforcer of sorts – stand up for his teammates but also create opportunities by opening up lanes.
Lemieux & Kempe
Another good player to pair Lemieux with is Adrian Kempe. Kempe is an extremely solid second-line center and those are hard to come by in today’s NHL. Kempe, from the very beginning, was known to be fast and that is precisely why the Kings selected him. Lately, after trading away some key pieces like Clifford and Trevor Lewis, Kempe has found himself to be taking on more of a physical role than he needs to. If the Kings choose to put Lemieux on a line with Kempe, this could perhaps prove to be the best decision.
Lemieux will do his thing, which will allow Kempe to really focus on applying his blazing speed and scoring touch to the score sheet. Adrian Kempe is a skill player, not a prototypical power forward. By adding Lemieux on to his wing, Kempe will have the time, space and ability to focus on cementing himself as the pure, speedy center the Kings need for a push to the playoffs and eventually contending for Stanley Cups once more.
What This All Really Means for the Kings
By adding Lemieux, the Kings have added a piece to rotate through the lineup to help relieve some pressure off the younger guys and allow them to focus on letting them develop their craft and forming into their designated roles within the team. What the Kings roster is shaping up to become is a version of their rosters that won them Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Albeit a much younger and less gritty version. With Lemieux, the Kings have added a crucial piece in their climb to contention, and possibly accelerated it.
My name is Nicholas Chudoba and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I am a life long Kings fan and have been around hockey in some capacity being, watching it, writing about it or playing it. I am an avid gear nerd and I take great interest in what equipment the players use. I also take great interest in observing the game and learning from what the professionals do and integrate it into my own skill set. Hockey is the greatest game and I couldn’t be happier having the oppurtunity to write about it!