When the Vancouver Canucks selected Richard Lemieux in the 3rd round, 39th overall, in the 1971 Entry Draft, there was little doubt that Lemieux (not related to Mario or Claude) was as skilled as could be.
However there were concerns about his size (just five foot eight and 155 pounds) and his durability. He was oft-injured. In fact, in his final season of junior hockey he only played in 15 contests. Yet he scored 34 points
After a rookie season split between Vancouver and the minor leagues, it looked like the gamble was starting to pay of for Vancouver. Lemieux scored 17 goals and 52 points in 78 games. Those were respectable though not great numbers, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.
Those steps stopped completely in his third year, 1973-74. He scored just 5 times in 72 games. By the conclusion of the season he was left exposed in the Expansion Draft, and was selected by the Kansas City Scouts.
"He's only 23 and we can afford to take a chance (on him)," said Scouts coach Bep Guidolin. "The kid has proven that he has the ability."
However it was also proven that he was injury prone and his body was perhaps just too small for the rough and tumble 1970s NHL. He played in all but one game in 74-75, and scored 10 goals and 30 points for the Scouts.
Depth was something that the Scouts acquired naturally as they reached season 2. After just two games in the 75-76 season the Scouts moved Lemieux to Atlanta. However Lemieux would only play in 1 game with Atlanta (plus two playoff contests) and spent the entire year in the minor leagues.
Wanting to return to major league hockey, Lemieux signed with the rebel league WHA and the Calgary Cowboys. However part way through the tough season, the Cowboys traded him to Minnesota Fighting Saints for Butch Deadmarsh. The traded was later voided as Lemieux refused to report to Minny, and instead decided to hang up the blades.