The Legend of Marian Hossa

Eric NaughtonCorrespondent IJune 14, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Detroit Red Wings look on during Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

One of the biggest stories of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals is Marian Hossa's departure from the Penguins in 2008 to play for the Detroit Red Wings.

In 1997, Hossa was drafted 12th overall by the Ottawa Senators.  He played a few games before being assigned to the minors where he scored 85 points in 53 games as well as WHL Rookie of the Year honors.

An injury in his team's championship run caused him to miss the beginning of the Senators' 1998-1999 season.  He returned in December an put up 30 points in 60 games.

The next three seasons showed continued improvement with a high of 80 points in the 2002-2003 season.  That year, he led the Sens with 16 points in 18 games during the playoffs which ended in the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.

Hossa signed a three-year, $18M contract with the Senators but was traded to Atlanta after the lockout.  In his first year with the Thrashers, he scored 92 points and then followed that up with a 100+ point season in 2006-2007.

Even though Atlanta won the Southeast Division, they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the first round.

In 60 games with the Thrashers during the 2007-2008 season, he scored 56 points.  He also appeared in the All-Star Game for the fourth time.  Unfortunately, it was obvious that Atlanta would not be making the playoffs.

Hossa, his contract ending and his desire to win the Stanley Cup stronger than ever, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with Pascal Dupuis.  It looked as though Hossa would be part of a championship formula.

Barely into his first game with the Pens, Hossa was injured and would sit out for several games.

During the subsequent post-season run, Hossa silenced critics who branded his past playoff performances as disappointing.  He scored 26 points in 20 games with the Penguins and nearly forced overtime in the dying seconds of what would be the Wings' Game Six clinching victory.

The events creating this year's big story then happened.  Hossa chose to turn down a huge contract with Pittsburgh in favor of giving himself the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup.  He chose Detroit.

Isn't that the phrase we hear many times during the playoffs?  "We had chances."  "Our goalie gave us the chance to win."  Et cetera.

I have claimed that Hossa took a single year contract with a great team in order to position himself for a huge, multi-year deal this summer.  With an 80+ point season and a Stanely Cup, Hossa might have been able to beat Pittsburgh's eight-year, $56M offer and get upwards of $8.5M for seven or eight years.

Now, who knows where he will end up?  Perhaps the Wings will unload some older free agents, keep Hossa and bring in younger and less expensive players?  It's possible Hossa will take a huge deal with another up-and-coming club where he can lend leadership and scoring.

Comparing 2008 to 2009, Hossa definitely disappointed many.  He scored 71 points in the regular season.  That's comparable to the points average he had with Pittsburgh in 12 games.

In the playoffs this year, he only scored 15 points while playing with a group of highly skilled and talented players.  While his production went down, Crosby and Malkin elevated their play scoring 31 and 36 points respectively compared to 27 and 22 in the 2008 playoffs.

If Hossa had signed with the Penguins last summer, I'm not convinced that they would have won the Stanley Cup this year.  His deal might have prevented many other deals.

After Hossa signed with Detroit, Pittsburgh made a slew of multi-year deals.  They signed Fleury, Malkin, Eaton, Orpik, Kennedy, and Max Talbot.  They signed Fedotenko, Satan, and Cooke during the summer.  

All of these Penguins had a big hand in the success of the Penguins in their 2009 Championship.  With $7M committed for eight years, many of these deals would have been tough to swing or wouldn't have happened at all.

A Penguins squad with Hossa in 2008-2009 would have been electrifying.  Hossa, Crosby, and Malkin may have ended up as the top three point scorers, creating even more Penguins hating throughout North America.  That may have created a Pittsburgh crew sans Malkin, Staal, and Fleury in 2009-2010.

We will never know the answers to the what-if questions.

I, for one, wish Hossa the best.  I think he is a talented guy and will continue to have a headlining career.

I hope The Legend of Marian Hossa ends with a Stanley Cup ring and a skate into the sunset.


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