The Red Wings are in first, the sun rose in the East this morning, and, as usual, Penguins center Mario Lemieux is hurt again. This time, it's a stomach virus that has plagued him for a few weeks, though it has technically only cost him two missed games. (But hey, at least he played last night.) If you own Lemieux, this has come to be an expectation since he announced his return in December of 2000. In 2003-04, Lemieux managed just 10 games played; the past three years, he has appeared in 101 total (41.1 percent of the Penguins' games during that span). And all the while he had been in there in his last four seasons, he was a fantasy stud, with 70 goals and 207 points in 144 games.
This year, however, things are different. Lemieux hasn't seemed quite his old self, perhaps the result of his injury or his 40 years of age. Whatever the cause, he has just seven goals, 20 points and a miserable minus-16 in 22 games. Did you know that not once in any season in which he played at least 15 games did Lemieux finish with worse than a point-per-game pace? I'm not betting he snaps the streak this year, but on a team as potent as Pittsburgh's -- it's deeper than its 18th ranking in goals per game (2.96) shows -- he should be a lot more productive than this. Pittsburgh might be the worst place in the league to be for plus-minus, and Lemieux is taking an unusually low 3.1 shots per game. He's proving to be much more risk than reward, and is the kind of guy you should probably pawn off if you can.