Or, more accurately, how could he possibly not be? We’ve had plenty of enforcers on this team—who could forget Rob Ray’s wonderful, fictional breakaway goal in double OT?—so it’s not about what Lessard is bringing so much as how little else he combines with that pugilism.
Zenon Konopka seems to be a well-liked team player and an ace faceoff man. Rob Ray brought leadership and experience in the dressing room, having been a regular NHLer for many years. Chris Neil has flirted with 20 goals in a season in his career, albeit playing on the stacked 2005-06 team. Matt Carkner is actually a serviceable 5-6 defenceman, penalty killer, and shot blocker. It seems that, at a minimum, all an enforcer needs to bring to the table in addition to wanting to kill people is an attempt to be a good person in the dressing room, i.e. not lose his mind and kill someone on his own team.
In 115 career NHL games with Atlanta and Ottawa, Lessard has one goal, three assists and 346 penalty minutes, which I think officially puts him in the category of professional hitman. In the AHL he has 487 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Chicago Wolves, Hartford Wolf Pack and San Antonio Rampage with 26 goals, 42 assists and a stupifying 2,544 penalty minutes. Which transcends him beyond professional psycho to some kind of wild animal.
The blogs seem to read pretty unanimously: even the defenders of goonage don’t see what he brings to the table that one of our other goons doesn’t already.
Now you have Lessard taking a run at Filatov, our low risk / high reward player and arguably the player fans are most excited to see during what is sure to be a challenging year, during a meaningless scrimmage. Filatov left the ice, but then returned. There is a larger argument here, which is Ottawa’s old-boy insistence on putting tough guys out there in the first place. How he received 24 games at the end of last year over one of Ottawa’s more promising prospects is completely beyond me.
But that’s a story for another day. Today we have a marginal NHL player (perhaps even marginal AHL player) taking a run at a 6th overall pick, for which this organization gave up a valuable, high 3rd rounder in a rebuilding year, for no other purpose than to distinguish himself. Can you imagine if he had taken Zibanejad, our other 6th overall pick, out for the year?
Murray, cut this joker loose.