Last Stand for Long-time NHL Stars?
Here we are at a critical point in the NHL’s latest lockout, and I don’t think anyone can credibly state with any degree of certainty when it will end. In 2004-05 we lost an entire season, and with that we lost a number of NHL stars who never played another game after the lockout. Some of the Hockey Hall of Famers whos last game was in the 2003-04 season were Hockey Hall of Famers Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, and Adam Oates. Other long time NHL stars such as Vincent Damphousse, Shayne Corson, James Patrick, and Joe Juneau also played their final games that season.
Going into the new lockout, the question must be asked what future Hall of Famers may have played their last game if the lockout were to last the entire 2012-13 season. We have already seen a surefire Hall of Famer in Nicklas Lidstrom retire this off-season. However I don’t think his retirement can be seen as lockout related. There is also a good chance that we have seen Chris Pronger play his final game, but this is not lockout related either.
Now looking forward, what NHLers could see their careers end with a full season lockout though? Here are what I consider top candidates (based on their age, and their Hockey Hall of Fame Credentials) who may never have the pleasure of watching play hockey in the NHL again.
Jaromir Jagr: The 40 year old Jagr signed a one year deal with the Dallas Stars this summer. A two time Stanley Cup Champion, 5 time Scoring Champion, Former Hart Trophy winner as league MVP, and 3 time Ted Lindsay Award Winner (Best Player as voted by fellow players), Jagr has done it all in the NHL. In international play, he’s also an Olympic Gold Medallist and 2 time IIHF World Championship Gold Medalist. There is no doubt that he is a first ballot hall of famer. Jagr is the highest scoring European Player ever, holding the record for goals, assists and points. Jagr will play this season for Kladno in the Czech League, but at his age the question remains will he be back in 2013-14 if this season is lost? Either way, we’ve surely seen the last of Jagr’s famous mullet seen in the picture above, and thats hall of fame level hockey hair.
Teemu Selanne: The “Finnish Flash” is another NHL legend. He has scored 663 career goals and 1406 career points, and in the summer he signed to come back for one more year with the Anaheim Ducks. He won his long awaited Stanley Cup Championship in 2007. He’s a 3 time NHL goal scoring leader, and is tied with Alex Mogilny as the last NHLer to score 70 goals in a season scoring 76 in his incredible rookie season. On the international stage, Selanne has never won the big one, but the 3 time Olympic Medalist also holds the record for most points scored by an Olympic Men’s Hockey Player. Selanne owns virtually every record there is to own for the Anaheim Ducks franchise. He’s also a beloved player in Winnipeg and it was great to see him have an opportunity to play in front of the Jets faithful last season. Now a veteran of his third NHL lockout, lets hope we get just a few more games out of Selanne who is now 42 years old and surely close to the end of a surefire Hall of Fame career.
Daniel Alfredsson: The long time Senators Captain signed an extension this summer. The extension carries him through the 2013-14 season, but Alfredsson has even mused that the lockout may mean he has played his last game in the NHL. Alfredsson owns virtually every team record for the Senators and has been the face of that franchise and their captain for many years. With 416 goals and 1082 points in the dead puck era, Alfredsson is certainly a very good hall of fame candidate. While he is still searching for the Stanley Cup, Alfredsson does have NHL hardware in the form of both a Calder Trophy and King Clancy Trophy. He was also a member of the 2006 Swedish Olympic Team which won the Gold Medal in Torino. Turning 40 this month, the question of whether or not he has played his last game is a legitimate one given the circumstances. Ottawa fans certainly hope to see more of the NHL superstar.
Sergei Gonchar: The 38 year old defenceman has been playing this entire time as he was one of the first NHLers to sign a contract in Europe for the duration of the lockout (along with Evgeni Malkin) as he joined KHL team Metallurg Magnitogorsk. This started a trend as there are now over 200 NHLers playing on various European teams. Gonchar has been one of the premier offensive defencemen in the NHL over his 17 year NHL career, and has scored 748 career points in 1132 career games. In 2009 he signed to play with the Ottawa Senators, inking a three year deal , with the current season scheduled to be the last year of said contract. The question in the air. Will the aging Gonchar get another NHL deal for 2013-14? Will he even want one or prefer to stay in the KHL like so many other aging Russian stars have done later in their careers? Gonchar was a member of the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and after winning the big one, I’m not sure if he’ll have much motivation to remain in the NHL after his third lockout.
Martin Brodeur: Brodeur signed a two year contract with the Devils this summer, so he’s been dropped a little further down my list as I think it is likely that he plans to be back for the 2013-14 season. Still a year away from the game could lead to Brodeur deciding that the effort needed to play at a World Class level yet again may not be worth it. Brodeur is among the greatest goalies of alltime and holds the NHL records for games played, wins, and shutouts. He has 3 Stanley Cup Championships, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, A World Cup Championship, a Calder Trophy, 4 Vezinas, and 5 Jennings Trophies. His mantle has seen more gold and silver than the cast of Pawn Stars (thats a reality show on History Television, stop having dirty thoughts). This year, when many thought he was finished, he led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. It would appear there is something left in Brodeur’s tank, but given that he is now 40 years old, the question is how much? If the season is cancelled it will be interesting to watch if Brodeur decides to get in shape and try to play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships this spring. A IIHF World Championship gold medal is the only major team award that is missing from the legend’s mantle.
Ray Whitney: The 40 year old was the leading scorer for the Phoenix Coyotes last season. This past summer, he signed a 2 year deal with the Dallas Stars, but given his age the question of how a year away from the game will effect him physically must be asked. Whitney won the Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and has had a long career in the NHL, beating the odds and overcoming his diminutive size to put up points at stops in San Jose, Florida, Edmonton, Columbus, Detroit and Phoenix along the way. He was also a member of a Gold Medal Winning Team Canada at the 2003 IIHF World Championships. Whitney went over the 1000 point mark in his career late last season, and currently sits at 1003 career points. Stars fans can only hope he’ll get a chance to add to that total and will get a chance to play both this season and next. I’ve put Whitney close to the bottom of this list as I believe that even at his age he’s got quite a bit left in the tank and put his chances of retiring due to the lockout relatively low.
Saku Koivu: Yes I know, the others are all Hockey Hall of Fame candidates, and it is unlikely that Koivu fits in that category. However indulge me for a second here as Saku Koivu is one of my all time favorite players. In my opinion, Koivu’s return from cancer late in the 2001-02 season and in the 2002 playoffs was one of the most inspiring moments in recent hockey history and has been an inspiration to many, many people suffering from this terrible disease. Koivu is a former Masterton Trophy and Clancy Trophy winner, as well as a three time Olympic Medalist and a World Championship Gold Medalist.Carrying the mantle of Captain for the most storied franchise in the NHL for 10 NHL seasons, he is the second longest serving captain in team history. The 2004-05 lockout robbed him of the ability to say he was the captain for 11 seasons and the longest serving captain in Team History. Now the soon to be 38 year old Koivu can only hope that another lockout doesn’t rob him of the chance to finish his NHL career on his terms. In Koivu’s case, its not just age that has slowed him down, as he unfortunately has a long injury history on top of the battle with cancer, with the worst of those injuries being to his knees, and robbing him of some of the speed he showed in the earliest stages of his NHL career.
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