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Abel to Yzerman

After 13 Years…Lemieux Is Still Garbage

Make no mistake about it. Don’t let your foggy memory play tricks on you.  Kris Draper’s back was to the ice.  He was facing the boards.  Claude Lemieux took his time, selected his angle, moved a few steps forward and brought his hands up high enough to place both fists between Draper’s shoulder blades. 

Then he drove forward, smashing Draper’s face into the boards, almost at the edge of where the top of the bench ended.

Make no mistake about it.  Claude Lemieux knew what he was doing.  And let’s be real clear about something here.

Time hasn’t changed a thing about that incident.  I don’t care about Draper “dusting off the old cliches”, which has ironically become one of the old cliches he can dust off.  He still hates Lemieux.  I don’t know if the Wings put “money on the board” in their room. I’d bet they don’t.  Even if they did I doubt Draper or anyone else would be so stupid as to put a bounty on Lemieux’s head.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one.  I’m not going to count because that would take some serious research. But I’ll bet Kris Draper’s played in fifteen games against Claude Lemieux since ‘96.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t casually put a thousand bucks on the trainer’s table before each of them, not saying a word, but letting the Wings know that anyone who takes Lemieux out can buy momma some new shoes…on Draper.

Claude Lemieux started a rivalry we all fondly remember.  Of course it’s over now because Denver’s a terrible team, an inept organ-I-zation that’s lost its bandwagon base and its relevancy in their own city and state.  But his hit on Draper started it.  Had the Wings won that series?  Maybe the hate toward Lemieux wouldn’t have escalated to the maniacal level it did.  But the Wings lost and Lemieux’s role was cemented forever.

Time has changed a lot of things. Kris Draper won four Cups and a Selke while the guy who re-arranged his face with one of the dirtiest hits in history became a hockey hobo.

Now Lemieux’s return has actually become a feel-good story around the league.  Claude wants to come back so his kids can see him play. He says the only thing his son knows about his career is what he reads on the internet.

In other words, the kid reads that his dad is nothing but a scumbag who made a living being a bitch and a cheap shot artist. If he wants to, he can read some of the same stuff today.

Dave Dye

“Obviously, he (ticked) someone off last week when he got pummeled (by Edmonton’s Theo Peckham),” Chelios said. “He still managed to keep his mask (visor) on. What a surprise.”

Asked if he ever got in a fight with Lemieux, Chelios said: “When he was on my own team. Whether it was him cheating at cards or (ticking) someone off. He got under people’s skin on other teams as well as his own team, coaches, everybody. That was his thing. Not the most pleasant guy to be around.”

We’ve talked about hate here a few times over the years.  Some would say that to hate another sports team, another group of fans, a particular player…is over the top. Some would say it’s irrational, even an indication your priorities are not what society says they should be.

I don’t know about all that, and I don’t really care.  I’ve gotten over my hatred of the Dive.  They’re a punchline now.  I don’t care for their fans but, again, it’s hard to hate someone who has no ammunition to hate back.  Even their bloggers are harmless little fruit flies, buzzing around from time to time trying to remind everyone that their team used to present a problem to the Wings.

But Claude Lemieux?  Tha hate’s never going to fade because he won’t let it.  He never apologized to Draper.  Not one word.  Not only that, he still doesn’t accept responsibility for it.

Sportsnet

“I always said, I never hit Kris Draper. I hit a player that was there. I never went after him. I had no intention of hurting one guy verses the other. It just happened at that time, at that moment, he was there and he got hit and it was never intentional to try to hurt somebody, never mind hurt him. It happened, (in) a fraction of a second. It’s a quick game. It’s not like the guy had done something to me or I was trying to get back at him. There’s been a lot of hockey played since then.”

“Hit a player that was there…”  What the hell is that supposed to mean?  No, I don’t think Lemieux was targeting Draper specifically, just any Wing he deemed vulnerable. It could have been Primeau or Kozlov or Fedorov.

Or it could have been Yzerman.

Does the fact that he didn’t single out Draper make the hit any less cheap, or cowardly?

Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if not for Doug Wilson and Todd McClellan.  ‘97’s a long time ago and the different motivations that drove that team would have been historical footnotes, ones not likely needed this season…if the Sharks hadn’t decided to bring Claude Lemieux onto a first place team so he could play six minutes per night. 

And since he’s joined San Jose?  He hasn’t done jack squat.

San Jose Mercury News

Is this all there is to Claude Lemieux? Activating him Jan. 19 was a calculated move to give him six weeks of audition time before the trade deadline. No one expected the 43-year-old Lemieux to be a big scorer. But he has not injected as much consistent adrenaline as I thought he might — even when joined on the Monsters of Medicare line with fellow old guys Jeremy Roenick and Jody Shelley. Let’s see what happens Wednesday in Lemieux’s return to Detroit (where he is villain No. 1). If he has no effect on the game’s vibe or outcome, Wilson may wish to pursue another bang-it-up veteran for the fourth line.

Now that would be real justice right there.  Lemieux was signed to give the Sharks an advantage in one matchup and one matchup only.  And if he’s a non-factor tonite?  How funny would it be if he were given his release?  Maybe his son can read about it in the transaction wire.

Here’s what I’d like:  a Kronwall explosion around center ice, early on.  A collision that reminds Lemieux what the cold JLA ice feels like against his bloody head.  Then?  A Wing win, a convincing one.  And then tomorrow or the next day?  No fanfare, just a small announcement from San Jose that Claude Lemieux’s been released.  Nice attempt, sir.  Good effort.  But we brought you here to have an impact against Detroit and all we got out of it was watching you try to pick yourself up like Creed in II after Kronwall blasted you into oblivion.

If you’re going to the Joe tonite?  Don’t feel like you have to hold back because Lemieux’s attack on Draper occurred thirteen years ago.  Let him have it.

And if he needs help leaving the ice after that Kronwall hit?  No need for stunned, concerned silence.  Nope.  Go ahead and cheer because no one deserves it like that piece of trash.

Welcome home motherfu**er.

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com