How many seasons left in Mario Lemieux's career? He is still an awesome player, injury prone, but awesome nontheless. All he needs is 60/70 games and we know he'll end up scoring 90+ points, unfortunately I have many doubts on whether he'll ever be able to play 50+ games in one season. I hope he does, because #66 deserves at least another year before he finally pulls the trigger on his career for good. I'd love to see Mario Lemieux winning the Art Ross Trophy one more time, one final time, for all the years of great hockey he gave us...
I only see one downside in a healthy Lemieux, for the Penguins anyway:
After the Pens sign Kovalev, and Lemieux wins a gold medal in the World Cup, Mario will go on a scoring rampage, becoming the oldest player to win the Art Ross. Lemieux will also win the +/- award, Lester B. Pearson award, the Hart, the Rocket Richard trophy, the Lady Byng, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup. After winning these awards, this is what he will say: "I really wanted to go out on top, but I came in second in voting for the Selke, the one trophy that I've never won. So, I'm playing until it's mine." The next season, Lemieux battles injuries throughout the year, playing in only 26 games, while scoring 58 goals and 80 assists, and a +59. He also wins the Stanley Cup and wins all the awards that he can win at his position. He then retires, passing the flame to Evgeny Malkin, who goes on to win 12 straight Art Ross, 14 in total, over his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
You heard it here first, folks.
I think Lemieux will play for one more year, 2 tops.
One thing is for sure, he will leave on his own terms.
He is such a rare specimen. I know, it's kind of stating the obvious. Still, it needs to be said because in his case, age is simply not going to lead to a significant degradation of his skills. Not enough to prevent him from being great. I truly believe he'd still be effective in his mid-to-late 40s, health permitting.
However, age can lead to greater risk of injuries, long healing process, etc.
I also question his focus, commitment and attitude. Never strong points in his case and even worse since he has made his comeback.
He is an awesome player, and right now an underrated goalscorer. I would have liked to see him with better wingers the last few years.
Looking at the bigger picture, though: the sooner he leaves, the better that will be for the Penguins.
What you see is what you get. At 39 with nothing left to do other than protect his investment, the odds of Mario suddenly becoming more durable and making it through a full season are non-existant. I am guessing around half the games (tops) until he either gets an arena committment or sells the team. After that, he hangs up the skates for good.
I think Mario will be inspired to play with his buddy back on the team. Not saying he didn't play because of the team around him, but its just a feeling I have. Aches and pains go away when you are having fun.
He lead the scoring race for about 1/2 of the 02-03 season...I just don't get the people saying he should have retired years ago b/c he is past his time....it is only a matter of staying healthy. He still has the skills. When he can stay healthy, he is still a premier player in this league.
I say he will play two more seasons. If he can play a moderate chunk of games (a similar number as in 02-03), then he will challenge for the scoring title.