One Player Each NHL Team Would Love to Bring out of Retirement for Next Season
Without question, each franchise has that name that stands out among the others and becomes a fan favorite. These are the players that fans show up each night to see and love to root for, the players that tons of fans feel that they know personally and have been lifelong friends with.
These are the guys that franchises love to have. A player that can represent what a franchise strives to be night in and night out. A guy that can draw other players in just so that they have a chance to play alongside him.
However, nothing lasts forever.
Every player at one point or another will have to hang the skates up and pass the torch off to the next generation. But what if, just for one extra season, a franchise could call back one of these types of players? Which guy would each team pick?
Although every team has several players throughout their history they would love to have back, I'll be basing the decisions off what each team needs to fill in any holes for the (hopefully) upcoming 2012-2013 season.
Anaheim Ducks: Paul Kariya
Last season was a bit of a transition for the Ducks as they had to get used to a new coaching style implemented by Bruce Boudreau once Randy Carlyle was relieved of his duties behind the bench. They enjoyed some success under Boudreau, but their deficit was too great and they were unable to make the playoffs.
One of the areas they needed some improvement in was goals for per game, in which they finished 23rd in the league with 2.45. They were also 24th in shots per game with 27.9. Someone who could have helped the team out, if he were able to come out of retirement, would be Paul Kariya.
Kariya is still the franchise leader in shots with 2,455, has the franchise best +/- in a single season with 36, and is tied with Teemu Selanne for most game winning goals in a season.
Anaheim could have greatly used a player putting up those kinds of numbers this past season during their bid for the playoffs.
Boston Bruins: Phil Esposito
Being an Original Six team with so much history and also being pretty well-rounded heading into the 2013 season, the Bruins were somewhat difficult to pick for.
The Bruins finished the season high on the goals for per game and goals against per game lists but were middle of the pack on the power play and penalty kill. If they can improve on their power play a little, they will become a very threatening team to play. Given this, Phil Esposito should be getting a call sometime soon.
Esposito was responsible for 153 power play goals and 20 shorthanded goals over his nine seasons in a Bruins sweater. He is also very much in the lead with game winning goals at 77 and holds all top five slots for most goals in a single season.
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Hasek
This one actually has a slight chance of happening, but is still highly unlikely.
Back in his prime, the "Dominator" was just what the name said: dominant. From 1992 to 2001, Hasek was in net for the Sabres and helped them enjoy some success. During that span, Hasek won two Hart Memorial Trophies, two Lester B. Pearson trophies, two William M. Jennings trophies, and six Vezinas.
In his 491 games with the Sabres, he was 234-170-60 with a 2.22 goals against average and .926 save percentage. He also had 55 shutouts during that time.
Although Ryan Miller is a solid goaltender, he slipped a little last season but was not horrible. If Buffalo could have a Miller and Hasek (in his prime) tandem in goal, then they would be way ahead of the game going into next season.
Calgary Flames: Theoren Fleury
Calgary has been trying to stave off a rebuild for a couple of seasons now, and their window to make a deep playoff run is dwindling with each passing season.
An area they need improvement in is goal scoring as they finished 24th in the league in that department in 2011-12 with 2.43 goals per game. Jarome Iginla is the indisputable face of the franchise but is still active, so Theoren Fleury would be getting the call to put the skates back on and get back to what he did best: score goals.
In 11 seasons with the Flames, Fleury scored 364 goals and had 460 assists. He broke the 50-goal plateau in the 1990-91 season, and that is the kind of production that Calgary would love to have back before having to undergo a rebuilding stage.
Carolina Hurricanes: Ulf Samulesson
Although Ulf Samuelsson never wore a Carolina Hurricanes sweater, he was a key part of the franchise when they were the Hartford Whalers.
With the 'Canes bringing in Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal this summer, having Cam Ward in net, and losing Bryan Allen to the Anaheim Ducks, defense is where they need help.
Samuelsson was a Whaler from 1984 until 1991 when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. During his time with Hartford, he scored 31 goals and had 144 assists but really racked up the penalty minutes with 1,110.
The Hurricanes could use a gritty defender to take Allen's spot. Having the goal scoring and goalkeeping, all the Hurricanes need now is a little more grit to push them deep in the playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks: Glenn Hall
Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Blackhawks seem to be set on offense and defense but not so much between the pipes.
They took a shot with Martin Brodeur during his brief free agency stint but ultimately fell short and tried other avenues. However, they are still poised to start the season with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. No doubt they would jump at the chance to go back about 40 or 50 years and get Glenn Hall to come back for another year.
Hall won the Calder Memorial trophy in 1956, played in 13 All-Star games, won the Vezina trophy three times, the Stanley Cup three times (once as a goaltending coach), and one Conn Smythe. He also holds the NHL record for consecutive games started by a goaltender with 502.
Any team in the league would like to have a goalie with that resume, especially the Blackhawks as they head into next season.
Colorado Avalanche: Ray Bourque
The Avalanche's biggest need is another top defender. Their offense is young and Semyon Varlamov shows to be promising in net for the team.
The Av's were near the middle of the pack in defensive categories last season and were near the top in shots on goal per game while, at the same time, being near the bottom in goals scored per game.
Ray Bourque is the perfect fit for what this team is looking for as they approach the new season: a defender that also knows how to put the puck in the net.
Despite being near the end of his career when he came to the Avalanche, he still managed to contribute 73 points over his two seasons. However, throughout his career, he potted 410 goals and 1,169 assists in 1,612 games.
Despite most of those numbers coming while Bourque was a Bruin, the Av's could really use a franchise player that could keep pace with those numbers.
Columbus Blue Jackets: David Vyborny
Although David Vyborny is not yet retired, the Columbus Blue Jackets do not have an extensive history, or a very prestigious one for that matter, and have not had many big-name players come through their franchise.
The team has been trying to totally reshape itself over the past few seasons and could still use help in all departments. Vyborny spent seven seasons with the Blue Jackets, in which he accrued 117 goals and 204 assists. Since the Jackets just recently sent Rick Nash to the Rangers, it was too soon to consider him for this.
Vyborny is second on the team in points, behind Nash, and was an integral part of the team that they would love to have back as they continue to rebuild.
Dallas Stars: Mike Modano
Dallas is one of those teams that would not have to go very far down their retiree list to find the guy they would want back: Mike Modano.
Having finished 22nd in goals for per game and last in power-play percentage, Dallas is already feeling the impacts of not having No. 9 in the lineup. Modano is the highest scoring American player in league history with 561 goals and 813 assists, totaling 1,374 points.
He would bring leadership to the team and a ton of playoff experience. Modano also holds the record for most playoff points by an American with 145 and he won the Stanley Cup in 1999.
Modano is largely considered the poster boy for the Stars, and the franchise, as well as the fans, would love to see "Mo" back again for one final go.
Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom
Being another one of the Original Six teams, the Red Wings have a long list of players they would love to see on the ice again, but, as the team stands right now, they would probably want their freshest retiree back in the lineup: Nicklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom has six more pictures like the one shown here and four with him holding the Stanley Cup over his head. During his 20 seasons, he only had one season with a negative +/- rating and never missed the playoffs.
With the Red Wings set on offense and in goal, they still have holes to fill in their defense and would have loved to see No. 5 come back for one more season.
Edmonton Oilers: Paul Coffey
With Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle locked up for the next six years and Nail Yakupov set to join the young offensive core, the Oilers are taken care of on offense for a while.
However, finishing 23rd in the league in goals against per game with 2.83, they could use some help on the blue line. This is where they would look to Paul Coffey to come back and help out.
Coffey had a +/- of 271 in his seven seasons with the Oilers, never once finishing in the negatives. In those seven seasons, he also contributed 209 goals and 460 assists. From the blue line, he broke the 40-goal plateau twice, recording the most as a defenseman in a season in 1985-86 with 48.
He helped the Oilers take the Stanley Cup in 1984, 1985 and 1987, and they would love it if he were able to help them do it again in 2013.
Florida Panthers: Pavel Bure
"The Russian Rocket" played his last season in Florida during the 2001-02 season before being traded to the New York Rangers, where he ended his career after the 2002-03 season.
He holds several Florida Panthers single-season records for goals with 59, points with 94, power-play goals with 19, and shots on goal with 384.
His style of play revolved around his speed, hence the nickname, and he was easily able to separate himself from opposing defenders. Combine his speed with his hands and he became a nightmare for teams to play against.
Pavel Bure is exactly what the Panthers could use for the upcoming season if they want to defend their first division title.
Los Angeles Kings: Wayne Gretzky
This list would not be complete if Wayne Gretzky was not included in it somewhere. With the Oilers having a strong, young offensive core again and the Rangers also set up front, the Kings are the former team of his that would probably need him the most.
I would list all the records that he holds but it would probably just save time to list the ones he doesn't hold. Even though the Kings won the Stanley Cup last season, that was in large part due to their defense and goalkeeping which, together, finished second in the league with 2.07 goals against per game.
However, they finished 29th in the league in goals for per game with 2.29, and Gretzky would be the perfect solution for that.
Minnesota Wild: Marian Gaborik
Being the team with the lowest amount of goals per game at 2.02, the Minnesota Wild needed to focus on that this offseason and they did by bringing in Zach Parise. But if they were able to bring back a player from their past, they would like to have Marian Gaborik back from the Rangers.
Even though Gaborik is not retired from the league, Minnesota's history is not deep enough to find a player they would rather have back instead of Gaborik. During his tenure with the Wild, he set the franchise record for most goals in a season with 42 and most points in a season with 83.
In all, Gaborik amassed 437 points in 502 games and that is the kind of production the Wild want to get out of their forwards. With names like Koivu, Heatley and Parise, however, that may just happen this coming season.
Montreal Canadiens: Guy Lafleur
This may have been the hardest team to pick for, seeing as they have possibly the deepest history of any team in the league.
Although the Canadiens finished near the middle of the pack in both goals for per game and goals against per game, they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with 78 points.
What they need going into next season is a pure point producer and so Guy Lafleur should be the guy to go to. He isn't Montreal's leading goal scorer, but he is leading the franchise in assists (728) and points (1,246). His 518 goals are nothing to scoff at, either.
Lafleur would be able to score goals when he needs to while also setting up others to do the same.
He was a key part of five Stanley Cup teams and is an experienced player that could guide the Habs back to their glory days given the chance.
Nashville Predators: Kimmo Timonen
Here's another team that doesn't quite have a long enough history to really find a retired player to bring back. However, with the departure of Ryan Suter, the Predators need to find a new, established partner to man the blue line with Shea Weber.
Who better to bring back than Kimmo Timonen? Although he still plays in the NHL (with the Flyers), Timonen holds the Predators single season record for points by a defender with 55 in 2006-07. In total, he scored 79 goals and had 222 assists for 301 points.
After taking out the Red Wings in five games in Round 1, the Predators lost to Phoenix in the same fashion in Round 2.
Since Ryan Suter left for Minnesota, the Predators have been criticized and are not expected to have as strong a season. The Music City would gladly open its doors and welcome Timonen back if the opportunity presented itself.
New Jersey Devils: Scott Niedermayer
Now without a captain since Zach Parise is with Minnesota, what better time to bring back Scott Niedermayer?
He was with the team from 1991 until 2004, serving as the captain in his final year. From the blue line, he scored 112 goals and 364 assists.
The Devils finished second in shots against per game last season, but now without a captain and a need for younger players to start entering the system, Niedermayer could be the perfect role model for those younger guys.
New York Islanders: Billy Smith
The Islanders' main area for improvement seems to be in net. With Rick DiPietro constantly injured and an aging Evgeni Nabokov, the Isles could use some help in net and would love to see Billy Smith be the man to come back and help them out.
Smith helped the Islanders win the Stanley Cup four years in a row from 1980 to 1983 and was also the first goalie to score a goal. He played 680 games, posting a 305-233-105 record with 22 shutouts.
Other notable achievements include: 19 consecutive playoff series wins, five consecutive finals appearances, a Vezina trophy in 1982, a William M. Jennings trophy in 1983, and a Conn Smythe in 1983 after sweeping the Oilers and allowing only six goals in that series.
Keep in mind that '83 Oilers team included Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey.
New York Rangers: Brian Leetch
With names like Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, and Ryan Callahan on offense and Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the Rangers really don't need any more help in those areas. So that only leaves one area. Defense.
Not to say that their defense is weak, but their offense and goaltending are just stronger. So tell the New York Rangers brass to get on the phone with Brian Leetch and offer him a spot on the blue line.
Leetch was with the Rangers from the 1987-88 season until the 2003-04 season. He holds the record for most goals and points for a Rangers defenseman with 240 goals and 981 points. He also buried 23 power-play goals during the 1993-94 season, another Rangers D-man record.
If nothing else, Leetch could impart some of his leadership ability on the younger Rangers blue liners and improve their hockey IQ for the upcoming season.
Ottawa Senators: Ron Tugnutt
Last season, the Senators had no problem putting pucks in the net as they finished fourth in the league in goals per game. Their problems came in the form of letting pucks get to, and in, their own net.
With a young defense beginning to move in around Erik Karlsson, the Sens are looking to be all right in coming seasons. However, they could use a more established goalie to come in and show youngsters Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop a thing or two.
Ron Tugnutt spent four seasons in Ottawa, posting an overall goals against average of 2.32 and .906 save percentage. He set franchise records during the 1998-99 season with a 1.79 goals against average and .925 save percentage.
If Ottawa could have that kind of ability passed down to its younger goaltenders, you can bet that they would jump at the chance.
Philadelphia Flyers: Mark Howe
This offseason has been ruthless to Philadelphia's defense. Matt Carle left to play with the Lightning, Andreas Lilja is hurt and will miss some of the next season, as will Andrej Meszaros.
Chris Pronger is still recovering from post-concussion syndrome and it is unclear when, or if, he will return, and they failed to acquire Shea Weber after offering him a gigantic offer sheet.
If only General Manager Paul Holmgren could turn back the clock and have Mark Howe back on the blue line.
Howe helped the Flyers net 138 goals and 342 assists during his time in Philly and had a single-season best +/- record of 85 in 1985-86. He also shares the record for most power-play goals by a defenseman with 39.
Flyers fans would love to see Mr. Hockey's son come back and help this team's blue line when it needs it now more than ever.
Phoenix Coyotes: Dale Hawerchuk
If Mike Smith is able to keep pace with last season, then the Coyotes are looking good in net as they prepare for 2012-13. Despite finishing 28th in the league in shots allowed per game, they still finished fifth in goals against per game.
What they would want for next season is a point-producing forward that could help back check and cut down on the amount of shots against them. The man to call in this case is Dale Hawerchuk.
In 713 games played at center, he totaled 929 points in the form of 379 goals and 550 assists. Being over a point-per-game player, the Coyotes would cherish him coming back for one more season with those kinds of numbers.
With a more potent offense and back check, this team would be suited to improve on last year's successes.
Now, if they can just persuade Shane Doan to stay in the desert.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux
Heading into next season, the Penguins have a strong offense, good defense and good goaltending. They are already being talked about as possible favorites to win the Cup, so who would they bring back from retirement if given the chance? Mario.
The Penguins' biggest need showed itself during their playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers seemed to get in their heads and force the Penguins to retaliate and take weak penalties.
Mario Lemieux only had 834 penalty minutes throughout his 17 seasons in Pittsburgh and would serve as a good role model for the younger Penguins to emulate.
If they can hold their composure more during the course of next season and into the playoffs, then they will be much better off.
San Jose Sharks: Rob Blake
The Sharks have been right on the verge of being an elite team for years now but just haven't had enough to win a championship. As their core of players start entering the waning years of their careers, the Sharks need some help now if they want to win a Cup soon.
One area where they could use some work is on the penalty kill. Last season, they finished only ahead of Columbus, only killing off 76.9 percent of their penalties.
Bringing back Rob Blake could potentially help them in this department. With a Stanley Cup and a Norris trophy to his name, Blake would be able to improve the penalty-kill system and bring some veteran leadership to the defenders.
St. Louis Blues: Brett Hull
With a goalie duo of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak, and a defense that finished first in the league in goals against per game, the St. Louis Blues already know how to keep opponents off the scoreboard. So call up the man that helped the Blues get on the board night in and night out, Brett Hull.
Hull made goal scoring seem second nature, putting up 741 throughout his career, 527 of those in a St. Louis sweater. He scored 86 of those in one season alone, doing so in 1990-91 while adding 45 assists. He also scored 12 game-winning goals in the 1989-90 season.
If Brett Hull could return to St. Louis and put up these kinds of numbers again while having the defense and goaltending they currently do, Phil Pritchard may as well just go ahead and book plane tickets to St. Louis for the upcoming spring.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Dave Andreychuk
Back during the 2001-02 season, Dave Andreychuk decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which brought in the veteran leadership that the team needed. At first the team was struggling, but Andreychuk was able to help turn things around and just two seasons later, they won the Stanley Cup.
The Lightning have hit hard times again, only making the playoffs once in the past five years and could use someone to come in and pull the team together.
Andreychuck did it once before and they won two years later, so it would be worth giving him a chance to see if he can pull the current squad together and work his magic again in 2012-13.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Turk Broda
The Maple Leafs have a couple areas they need to address with the most glaring being in net.
Jonas Gustavsson is now in Detroit with the Red Wings, which leaves them with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Reimer played 34 games last season, winning 14 of them and posting a 3.10 goals against average and .900 save percentage.
Those numbers are nothing to brag about, and when paired with Toronto finishing 29th in goals against per game with 3.16, they need improvement in goal.
If only Turk Broda was around to help them out like he did years ago.
Between 1941 and 1951, Broda helped the Leafs capture five Stanley Cups and won two Vezinas. Throughout his career, Broda was 302-224-101 with a 2.53 goals against average and 62 shutouts.
If he were available to play today, there is no question the Leafs would be calling on him to replicate those numbers.
Vancouver Canucks: Trevor Linden
This was another tough one because the Canucks were basically good all around last season. With Roberto Luongo leading many of the Canucks' goaltending categories, it would be hard to find a past goaltender to replace him despite all this trade talk involving him.
The only area that this team seems to need just a little help in is playoff production. Although they have been a force in the playoffs the past couple of seasons, they still have yet to win their first Cup.
Being the leader in playoff points to date for the franchise, Trevor Linden may be all this team needs now to bring Stanley to Vancouver. By the time he ended his career with Vancouver, he had racked up 95 playoff points for them in 118 playoff games.
Washington Capitals: Olaf Kolzig
While the Capitals have, for the most part, had stability in their roster over the past couple of seasons, they have gone through their fair share of goaltenders in recent times.
Jose Theodore, Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun, and Cristobal Huet have all been given a chance but the Caps can't seem to find a consistent starter.
In the not-too-distant past, the Caps had such a goalie that they could count on, Olaf Kolzig.
During his 16 seasons in Washington, Kolzig had a 2.70 goals against average, .906 save percentage, and 35 shutouts. He also holds the club records for most games played, wins and shutouts. He also captured the 2000 Vezina trophy.
Although Kolzig is still helping the Capitals as an associate goaltending coach, I'm sure they wish they could throw him between the pipes for a season just to get things solidified in net.
Winnipeg Jets: Ilya Kovalchuk
Being such a new team, the Winnipeg Jets have not had enough time to have any notable players retire from their franchise yet. Even their predecessor, the Atlanta Thrashers, were not a very old team, which made this pick somewhat difficult.
Even though he is not yet retired, Ilya Kovalchuck was once the captain of the Atlanta Thrashers and would have been the elite goal scorer the current Winnipeg Jets would have loved to have on their roster.
With Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane leading the way up front, Kovalchuk would have been a nice player to have in the lineup still, and one the Jets wish was still part of the franchise.