Marian Hossa's skill set is so complete that there's a belief he can do whatever he wants every time he steps on the ice.
When it comes to size, strength and speed, Hossa has all the measurables and that makes him a very difficult matchup for every opponent of the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, the man known as "Hoss" is not immune to the aging process. Hossa just passed his 35th birthday and has been playing in the NHL since the 1997-98 season, when he started his career with the Ottawa Senators.
He may look like he can go on forever, but the Slovakian star faces the same problems associated with aging that every other NHL All-Star has faced throughout their careers.
Just how much does Hossa have left in the tank? Does he have enough to play a key role for the Blackhawks as they prepare to make another Stanley Cup run in the spring?
There are a number of NHL players who have passed their 35th birthday and are still going strong. Hossa's countryman and soon-to-be teammate on the Slovakian Olympic team, Zdeno Chara, is still going strong for the Boston Bruins at the age of 36.
Martin St. Louis, 38, is still one of the most dangerous scorers in the league for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pavel Datsyuk, 35, has shown no sign of slowing down with the Detroit Red Wings and is still one of the most gifted players in the league. Daniel Alfredsson, 40, is still putting the puck in the net as he gets used to his new surroundings with the Detroit Red Wings.
However, with the exception of a very few gifted athletes, competitors start to slow down after they reach 35.
Hossa may be one of those athletes. While he scored on a hard slap shot from the point on Jan. 12—the night of his 35th birthday—he has not exceeded the 30-goal mark since the 2008-09 season with the Detroit Red Wings. He scored 40 that year, but has followed with seasons of 24, 25, 29 and 17 goals.
Hossa has already scored 17 this year and the season has just passed the halfway point. So, it seems likely that he will top 30 goals if he can come close to maintaining the same pace.
There are a few issues facing Hossa, though.
In addition to having to play through the dog days of the NHL season, Hossa will be heading over to Sochi and competing in the Olympics. How will that travel and heavy-duty competition impact his body for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs?
Hossa has suffered a series of injuries throughout his career, including a knee injury (MCL) suffered in 2008 when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The following year, while playing for the Detroit Red Wings, he suffered a neck injury that required him to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.
|Season||Games Played||Missed Games||Points|
Hossa signed with the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2009-10 season, but missed nearly the first two months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Hossa would recover and the Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season.
However, two years later, Hossa suffered a major concussion when he took a blindside hit from Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres during the 2012 playoffs. Hossa missed the remainder of the playoffs.
Hossa played in 22 of the Blackhawks' 23 playoff games last season, but reportedly suffered from an upper-body injury throughout the Stanley Cup Final. He did not appear to be at his best in that series against the Boston Bruins, as he was held to two assists in five games.
When he's at his best, Hossa is capable of scoring highlight-reel goals at key moments and carrying his team. However, his injury history in recent years is troubling and it's difficult to think of Hossa playing the rest of the season without being slowed down at one point or another.
The Blackhawks hope to become the first team since the 1997-98 Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and they will need a healthy Hossa to get there.