Monday, October 31, 2005

Mario Lemieux Shows Signs Of Decline

Mario Lemieux is one of the best know players in the NHL. He has twelve points in his eleven games played so far. He leads Pittsburgh's centremen in ice time. Yet, this season, he has not played at his career established levels.

If we subtract out his one best game (which is far above his other efforts this year) which came in Pittsburgh's only win this season versus Atlanta, where Lemieux scored five points, he only has seven points in ten games. That is rather average given his ice time. Mario's -6 +/- rating is tied for his team worst. This is yet another sign that he has not been dominating.

Mario Lemieux's ten power play points are tied for the league lead with Jaromir Jagr and Bryan McCabe. In fact, Lemiux only has two non-power play points. Lemieux seems to need the the man advantage to score. He is no longer fast enough to do it at even strength. This is yet another sign of decline.

One problem in Pittsburgh is Lemieux's reputation and ownership of the franchise. Coach Ed Olczyk seems unwilling to try playing Lemieux as a number two centerman (behind Sidney Crosby) which is more consistent with the way the two of them have played so far this year. Playing a centreman who is no longer able to score at even strength and is on the ice for many opposing even strength goals with first line minutes is a way to lose.

Pittsburgh needs a strong coach who is willing to sit Lemieux down in some important situations (although I cannot think of any available coaches they could hire who might do this). That might help the Penguins turn things around.

In the meantime, if Lemieux does not improve his standard of play, Team Canada in the Olympics should consider leaving Lemieux off the team. I have little faith in this occurring. In fact there is a report that Steve Yzerman will be allowed to make the decision as to whether or not he makes the team. Yzerman is even further into his decline then Lemieux. An Olympic team should be the best possible players and not have aging stars earn spots for legacy reasons.

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