- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
Super Mario has played his last game. Mario Lemieux, the NHL's seventh-leading scorer, announced his retirement -- for the second time -- on Tuesday afternoon. A Hall of Fame inductee in 1997, Lemieux had come out of retirement in December 2000, bringing instant excitement to fantasy hockey and an all-time great back to the game on the ice. Now, it's an irregular heartbeat that has forced him to hang up his skates.
In fantasy, Lemieux was one of the best and the most frustrating players. A six-time 50-goal scorer and 10-time 100-point player in 16 seasons, the Penguins' captain was undoubtedly one of our game's most dominant superstars. When he notched 100 points in 1984-85, earning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, Lemieux became only the third first-year player to ever reach that plateau. He won back-to-back scoring titles in 1987-88 and 1988-89 (dethroning the great Wayne Gretzky), again in 1991-92 and 1992-93, and again in 1995-96 and 1996-97. Suffice to say that Lemieux was one of the NHL's and fantasy's top-two stars (Gretzky was the other) for more than a decade; in a 12-season span from 1984-85 to 1996-97, he averaged a plus-12 rating and 49 power-play points per year.
The latter four scoring titles were Lemieux's most remarkable. Back problems limited him to 59 games in 1989-90 and forced offseason surgery that held him to just 26 contests the following season, yet that didn't stop him from recapturing his form the next year en route to his second set of back-to-back scoring titles. Then, in January 1993, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, which limited him to 22 games in 1993-94 and caused him to sit out the 1994-95 strike-shortened season. Lemieux would bounce back with an astonishing 69 goals and 161 points in 1995-96, unheard of totals in a more defensively minded NHL at that time, then earn another scoring title the following season. He was truly the comeback kid, especially if you also count his quick recovery from a broken hand in the 1991 playoffs to lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
Tristan Cockcroft reviews the career and fantasy impact of Mario Lemieux.