The Chicago Blackhawks love to saddle up their "Big Hoss" and ride him to the promised land.
When the Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa to a then-unprecedented 12-year, $63.3 million contract prior to the 2009-10 season, they were hoping that he would bring them the kind of talent and productivity that would allow them to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960-61 season.
The assessment turned out to be correct. Hossa scored 51 points in 57 regular-season games after coming back from shoulder surgery and then added 15 points in 22 postseason tilts as Chicago won the Stanley Cup.
Three seasons later, Hossa and the Blackhawks would win their second Cup together.
As the 2014-15 season approaches, however, Hossa is no longer a young stud in the prime of his career. He will be 36 when the season reaches its midway point, and it's fair to wonder just how much Hossa has left in his gas tank.
While the Blackhawks assess all of their players on a continual basis, the question would appear to be a critical one.
After signing superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to eight-year, $84 million deals that will kick in at the start of the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks may have to make some serious adjustments to their roster.
Those adjustments could be made quickly, but they most likely won't occur until next offseason, when general manager Stan Bowman will have to make some hard decisions concerning mainstays on the Chicago roster.
It seems fairly clear that Bowman will be forced to make a decision on Hossa's future. His age suggests that he will likely offer diminishing returns and may not be the player he was in his prime.
Not all players slow down at the expected rate, though.
Hossa may very well fit into that category. Based on both the standard and advanced metrics used to assess players, Hossa had a strong 2013-14 season.
He scored 30 goals and also had 30 assists while registering a plus-28 rating in 72 games. Hossa hit the 30-goal mark for the eighth time in his career, and the first since the 2008-09 season.
He also had a relative Corsi percentage of plus-3.7. That figure placed Hossa second on the team behind Toews, and it marked the second straight year second straight year that he finished second in that key statistical category.
Since Corsi percentage is widely indicative of a team's puck possession when that player is on the ice, it's clear that the Blackhawks control more of the puck when Hossa is competing.
Despite his solid regular-season numbers, Hossa had a difficult time in the playoffs. While he scored a respectable 14 points in 19 postseason games, he potted just two goals.
Hossa was continually frustrated, as he took shot after shot that failed to get by opposing goaltenders. His painful 2.7 shooting percentage was frustrating for himself, his teammates and the Chicago coaching staff.
There was no doubt about his effort, however.
He did not let his frustrations show in his skating, playmaking or defense. Hossa is a powerful man at 6'1" and 210 pounds, and when he is skating at full speed, he is very difficult to contain.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has long been a fan of Hossa, and he told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc in January that the big forward "really takes care of himself" both during the season and as he prepares in the offseason.
So, coming off a 30-goal, 60-point season, it's fair to say that Hossa's gas tank is not even close to empty. That bodes well for the the 2014-15 season.
Nevertheless, the question may have to be revisited prior to the 2015-16 season because of the team's tight salary-cap space. Chicago currently has 15 players signed to start that campaign, but only $3.2 million to work with.
If there's any dip in Hossa's productivity, the team will have hard choices to make.