He's big, he's mean, he has 60 fights to his na..."/>

He's big, he's mean, he has 60 fights to his na..."/>

Less Is More With Francis Lessard


He’s big, he’s mean, he has 60 fights to his name in the last three years, and as far as hockey terminology goes, Francis Lessard is your classic “plug”.

With the grace of a newborn foal, Lessard spends the majority of his five minutes of average ice time skating around the rink, running into anything that can’t get out of his way in time. Ocassionally the 31-year-old native of Montreal, Que. will find himself bumping into the “tough guy” on the opposing team, at which point words are usually exchanged (in various languages), gloves are dropped and punches thrown. In 115 NHL games over his 11 year pro career, Lessard has amassed one goal, four points, and 346 penalty minutes.

On Saturday afternoon, Lessard saw his streak of 24 straight games in the Ottawa Senators line up end as he was forced to sit and watch his teammates take on the Boston Bruins. Lessard had been banned from the game for a reckless hit from behind on Tom Pyatt of the Montreal Canadiens, Thursday night. Check out the video of the hit.

While it has been suggested that Pyatt put himself in a dangerous position by turning his back at the last second, there is precious little justification for the hit. Lessard must have seen Pyatt’s numbers, but continued to veer straight toward the unsuspecting Hab at full speed. Not a smart move. Lessard received a major and automatic game ejection on the play.

The case of Lessard and his time in the NHL this season has definitely been a strange one. He was recalled from AHL affiliate Binghamton in February, a move necessitated by the exodus of roster players from Ottawa prior to the trade deadline, and has managed to stick around ever since. But how? Through 24 games with the big club more than enough evidence has suggested that Lessard is playing out of his league. At the same time, players of the same position and greater degree of talent have been uncalled upon to replace the lumbering enforcer. So what is the deal?

It is my belief that Lessard has been the benefactor of a “perfect storm” scenario. With Ottawa out of the playoffs long ago and Bingo in a dog fight to clinch their first playoff berth in six years, GM Bryan Murray was in a position where he had a number of holes to fill on the NHL team, but also didn’t want to completely empty the cupboards of the B-Sens. Under normal circumstances an NHL team is going to ice the best possible line up every time (cap permitting), but with offensively capable forwards like Corey Locke, Kaspars Daugavins and Ryan Keller left on the farm in favour of Francis Lessard, clearly normal circumstances did not apply. Whether having that one extra talented forward in favour of Lessard was a factor or not, Binghamton was able to clinch a playoff spot earlier this week  (Congratulations, Bingo!). On some level, the juggling act between the two teams must have been a success.

For his sake, I hope Lessard got the most out of his extended stint in the NHL this season, because it wasn’t pretty or particularly effective. And if his on-ice performance was any indication, the 235 pounder might find himself unplugged from the NHL, permanently.


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