Brendan Lemieux will be suspended. Eventually.
As far as when and how long, that – like the NHL season – has yet to be determined.
The gritty Blueshirts winger will sit for an illegal check on Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi which came in the final game for both teams prior to the NHL’s pause due to the Coronavirus pandemic, back on March 11.
Lemieux picked up a minor penalty for interference on the play from referees Brad Meier and Justin St. Pierre. Donskoi did not return to the game.
There’s no question a suspension is coming. Player Safety confirmed as much. The part that’s up in the air is how long it’ll be.
Following a hearing today, the DOPS has determined that Brendan Lemieux will be suspended for his hit on Joonas Donskoi Wednesday night. The precise parameters of the suspension will be determined and announced once resumption of play guidelines have been established.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) March 13, 2020
With the NHL’s Return to Play approach throwing the Rangers right into a playoff qualification series, Lemieux’s suspension potentially has a greater impact than it would if it had come with 12 games remaining in the regular season. Any time missed now will happen during New York’s best-of-five series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Lemieux has one goal in four games against the Canes this season.
He also has a bit of disciplinary history. Lemieux was suspended for two games in 2018 for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. He was hit with a $2,000 fine from Player Safety earlier this season for elbowing.
So what does Player Safety do?
Suspensions: Regular Season vs. Playoffs
Regular season suspensions have historically carried over to the postseason.
In 2017, Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie was suspended two games – the regular season finale and one game of the playoffs – for roughing. DOPS likely factored that playoff game into the suspension length.
Similarly, Duncan Keith’s 2016 suspension saw him miss six games, five in the regular season and Game 1 of the Blackhawks’ playoff series against the St. Louis Blues.
There’s no getting around this. Lemieux
be suspended, which means he’ll miss postseason games. So, how many?
Brian Burke spoke on Sportsnet in 2019 about suspension length as it relates to playoff games.
“I don’t think Player Safety explains adequately how games are weighted in the playoffs. … In the first round of the playoffs under the system that I used – that they still use – the games are weighted at two or three to one. So if you’re going to give a suspension in game 82 [of the regular season], let’s say it’s a three-game suspension. That’s a one-game suspension in the first round. It might be a six-game suspension turns into a two-game suspension in the second round. In the finals, we used to use a factor of six to eight games per game, so Claude Lemieux, his suspension [in the 1996 Western Conference Final for his hit on Detroit’s Kris Draper] was two games in the finals. That would’ve been a 16-20 game suspension in the regular season.”
Burke was the NHL’s Director of Hockey Operations at the time of Lemieux’s suspension. His son Patrick is currently Senior Director of Player Safety, working under current head George Parros.
“I wish fans would understand. I wish Player Safety would explain it better,” the elder Burke added. “These games count more than the regular season games.”
How Long Will Brendan Lemieux Be Suspended?
Player Safety has not handed out any single-game suspensions for on-ice infractions this season. Over the past two seasons, there have been nine regular season suspensions for illegal checks to the head; seven of those were for two games, while two were three-game bans.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs saw three suspensions for illegal checks to the head. All were one-gamers.
Aside from Tom Wilson and Nazem Kadri, no player has received a playoff suspension of more than one game since 2016.
If these were regular season games, we’d expect Lemieux to sit for two or three. The NHL is moving right into playoff qualifiers, though, which have to be treated like playoff games. With these series as a best-of-five, the value of each game is even higher than it would be in a typical best-of-seven playoff series.
Expect Brendan Lemieux to be suspended for one game.