Owen Nolan Retires with San Jose Sharks, Is He a Hall of Famer?
The San Jose Sharks made three roster moves this week. Not one of them will help the team right now, but two were focused on the future and one on the past:
1. Antero Niittymaki was loaned to Syracuse of the AHL, where he will get the playing time the team needs to shop him at the trade deadline without stunting the development of the team's many prospects in net.
2. Similarly, Andrew Murray was waived to make room for the team's many young forward prospects to be showcased at the NHL level. When he cleared waivers, he was reassigned to Worcester of the AHL.
This was the only move for him. He said it was difficult to accept that the body was unable to do what the mind and heart wanted, so he retired to the place he still lives.
He earned four of his five All-Star appearances, played 568 of his 1200 NHL games, scored 451 (206 goals, 245 assists) of his 885 points (422 goals, 463 assists) and registered 934 of his 1793 penalty minutes in San Jose.
Nolan was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh on October 26, 1995. He was team captain from October of 1998 until he was traded in March of 2003, when the face of the franchise gradually became Patrick Marleau.
In the 1999-2000 season, he led the NHL in power play goals (18), finished second in goals (44) and tied for sixth in points (85). A tremendous defensive player, he led the Sharks in takeaways (70), hits (206) and shorthanded goals (four), and was the top player in the league in The Hockey News Intimidation Quotient, which considers goals and non-misconduct penalties.
Nolan is perhaps best known for a called shot in the 1997 All-Star Game in San Jose, putting his hat trick goal in the top right corner past Dominik Hasek. He had scored two goals in a record eight seconds of the middle frame prior to that goal.
He also led the Sharks past the President's Trophy-winner St. Louis Blues with five goals in those seven games that year. Two were game winners and another a centre-ice blast past Roman Turek in the waning moments of the first period in Game 7.
But he has also been a thorn in San Jose's side. He played in his 1000th game, scored his 400th goal and his 11th and final hat trick against the Sharks.
More importantly, he scored two of the three game winners against them in the 2008 playoffs as a member of the Calgary Flames, whom the Sharks host Wednesday night. (He also played for their last opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes, with the preview and recap at the respective links.)
Is all of this enough to get him into hockey's Hall of Fame?
Nolan ranks 71st in goals scored and only seven of the 70 players ahead of him have more penalty minutes. That puts him in a unique class of players who were both physical and skilled.
Despite some successful individual playoffs, he scored only 40 points in 65 playoff games, largely because he did not lead his team to enough of them in his prime. While this should not rest on one player, it will likely keep him from that greatest of career achievements.
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