NHL News: Aging Veteran's Value Hidden Behind Quantitative Stats

Cam MailletContributor IJuly 20, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 9:  Teemu Selanne #8 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates winning the 2007 Stanley Cup during the 'Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Victory Celebration' June 9, 2007 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

This year, there are multiple aging long-time NHL veterans looking for renewed contracts or new homes this off-season.  While you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they can teach the puppies a thing or two about how the game is meant to be played.

This year’s NHL free agent list contains multiple names that will likely be seen in the Hall of Fame at some point in the near future—Kariya, Selanne, and Modano just to name a few.

Is your team looking at one of these experienced superstars? Are you concerned that they may not produce enough to warrant handing out precious salary in today’s salary cap era?  Well, players like the ones listed aren’t one-dimensional players only relied upon for their point production; they bring something that cannot be taught and must be acquired through experience.

Kariya, Selanne, and Modano have played in 989, 1186, and 1459 games respectively, which means they aren’t the new kids on the block.  They add not only on-ice leadership, but the veteran presence in the locker room that every team needs to make a deep run at the Stanley Cup

For example, this year the Boston Bruin’s Mark Recchi stepped up and called out his teammates for their inconsistent and uninspired play in the middle of a 10-game losing streak.  The following game the streak was broken, and then shortly after the Bruins moved up to sixth in the East ensuring themselves a playoff berth.

That momentum carried them into the playoffs as they tore through USA’s Olympic superstar Ryan Miller, and went up 3-0 on the Philadelphia Flyers before enduring two costly injuries and eventually imploding to lose the series in gut-wrenching style in seven games.

The point is, they were on the fast track to nowhere, likely missing the playoffs if it wasn’t for the likes of Mark Recchi and his veteran leadership and experience.  And while Recchi still put up 43 points this season, numbers no one could complain about, his real value was is in the element he adds which won’t ever show up on the score sheet.

Playoff experience, and leadership of such a caliber is hard to come by, so when I hear fans of a team like the San Jose Sharks complaining about burning cap space on a player like Modano I can’t help but to shake my head in disappointment.  They don’t see the real value behind point production.

Now I’m in no way criticizing the Sharks however, they must look in the mirror and ask themselves how acquiring large point producing players has worked out for them—players such as Thornton and Heatley

After a string of several 100-point seasons in a row, they are always followed by an early playoff exit from teams they should have beaten.  They are missing that veteran presence in the locker room and that experienced leadership on the ice.

Players like Modano, Selanne, and Kariya are just what a team like the Sharks have been missing, and may be just what the doctor ordered to avoid another playoff choke and finally hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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