NHL 2010-11: Mike Modano and Five Other Vets Hoping for Last Shot at Cup
Old dogs, wily veterans, seasoned warriors, grizzled vets, call them what you will, you'd be hard-pressed to find an NHL team that doesn't want to add at least one of them to their lineup over the summer.
Sure, most of them aren't what they used to be and can't really be counted on to carry much of load, but that's fine, that's not what their teams need.
Like ice in a cocktail, a veteran player isn't likely to define the drink, or even stir it, but take them away, and you know that something's missing.
Take Mike Modano for instance.
He's slated to center Detroit's third line and see some time on the second power play unit, not exactly marquee status.
However, having someone of Modano's experience, status, and yes, diminished, yet still significant talent on your third line is a huge plus for any team looking for scoring depth in the regular season and especially the playoffs.
The Detroit Red Wings' motivation for nabbing Modano for one year, and perhaps his last are obvious, but what about his motivation for coming to Detroit?
What was that Red Wings' owner Mike Illitch said at Modano's presser, "Cup-py, Cup-py, Cup-py"?
Of course, Modano already has his name on Lord Stanley's Cup, but ask anyone who's done it once, and they'll tell you that once most certainly isn't enough.
Modano wasn't just looking to come back for one more season in the NHL because he wants to prove to the world he can still play—he wants to win another Stanley Cup.
That alone is worth a single-year contract that pays him a fraction of what his previous annual salaries have been throughout his career.
At 40 years old, he's made all the money he needs and then some.
Modano and Detroit are hardly a rare story this summer.
Indeed, there have been other notable veterans who by all rights might do well to call it a career and enjoy the back-nine of their lives, but decided to submit to one last season of constant travel, working out, mandatory practices, not to mention getting beat up night and night out on the ice.
The proceeding five men are most likely in their final years in the NHL, and all of them are looking to make it one for the ages.
Though only one of them will, each believe they will be that one.
Sean O'Donnell: Philadelphia Flyers
O'Donnell has played 15 seasons in the NHL and won a Cup with Anaheim in 2007.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Though he was never a top-flight, first-pair defender, even in his younger days, O'Donnell had the right combination of size and grit to make him a very valuable blueline presence come playoff time.
Though he'll be 39 years old by the time the season starts, both O'Donnell and the Flyers feel he's got enough useful hockey left in him to help them make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
O'Donnell will further solidify an impressive defensive corps that includes Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, and Braydon Coburn, and his willingness to drop the gloves and play with a mean streak should make him an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia.
There are some who wonder how much of Philadelphia's improbable run to the Cup last season will be, well, improbable this season.
However, O'Donnell has been on a winner and knows what it looks like. Apparently, Philly knows a winner when they see one too.
Mark Recchi: Boston Bruins
There's not much Recchi hasn't seen or done in his 21 years in the NHL.
He's already made two successful runs to the Stanley Cup. The first with the Penguins in 1991, the last with Carolina in 2006.
It was after that last Cup win that many figured the gritty, two-way winger would call it a career; it's five years later and we're still waiting for that to happen.
On paper, the Bruins have all they need to win a Stanley Cup, as they've got dynamic offensive talent up front in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Marc Savard (at least, assuming he stays in Beantown), one of the best defenders in the league in Zdeno Chara, and a promising young goalie in Tuukka Rask (which, these days, is all you need in net to win a Cup).
With veterans like Recchi also on board, the Bruins should be able to put up one hell of a year and push for the Cup.
Recchi is also going to be a very valuable mentor to Tyler Seguin, who will presumably make the Boston squad out of camp.
The two actually got to know each other a bit during Seguin's courtship in Boston in June and learning the NHL ropes from someone as experienced and savvy as Recchi is going to be an invaluable part of his development. Especially if Seguin is with Recchi on the ice, with the Cup.
Nicklas Lidstrom: Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom has played his entire 18 year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Talk about a guy who has nothing left to prove in the NHL.
Six Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe is a combination of excellence that'd be tough to find all on one team, let alone from one player.
In addition to his phenomenal career, Lidstrom is also filthy rich. So even though he'll be making $6.2 million in what could be his final year in red and white, adding to his bottom line is hardly what convinced him to come back.
No, Lidstrom knows better than most the supreme accomplishment of winning an NHL championship, and though he's got four rings on his hand, he'd much rather complete the set with a fifth and final piece of hardware.
Like most of his Red Wings teammates, last season's injury-riddled plod through the season and into the playoffs left a bad taste in his mouth, and he's determined to wash it out with champagne poured out of the Stanley Cup.
In a sense, given all of his accomplishments, there's really no good reason for Lidstrom to play even one more game in the NHL.
But, he knows that winning a Stanley Cup is reason enough to delay retirement at least one more year.
John Madden: Minnesota Wild
If you wanna call this one a stretch, you'll get no argument from me.
When the 2011 Stanley Cup predictions start popping up all over the place in a few weeks, you probably won't find the Minnesota Wild on many, if any of those lists.
While Minnesota isn't bound to be a sexy choice for Western Conference Champions, they do have some key pieces on their roster that could surprise more than a few people this season.
Mikko Koivu is perhaps the most underrated leader in the game today, and Niklas Backstrom is capable of emerging as "the best goalie in the NHL" for long stretches during the season.
Though their blueline corps is of the "no-name" variety, guys like Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky, and Brent Burns are quality defenders who could become even better as the Wild move into their second year post-Jacques Lemaire.
And now, they've added John Madden.
While he's hardly a gamebreaker, you don't get your name stamped on the Stanley Cup three times by accident.
In fact, Madden's choice to join Minnesota, in and of itself, gives some credence to the notion that, like the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, the Minnesota Wild might just come out of nowhere and compete for NHL glory in June.
Teemu Selanne: Anaheim Ducks
Selanne scored 27 goals last year for Anaheim.
Harry How/Getty Images
True, they don't have Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger anymore, and Jonas Hiller is still getting used to being "the man" in goal, but the Ducks still have a solid team on paper and could get hot enough to make a serious push for the Stanley Cup.
Among those pushing will be a 40-year-old Selanne.
When he won the Cup for the first (and only) time in 2007, the only move that made sense for the Finnish Flash at the time seemed to be a ride off into the sunset.
As he had finally capped his brilliant career with the only piece of hardware that matters to an NHL player, there seemed to be nothing more to play for after that.
Though his decision was notoriously slow in coming, Selanne did indeed return to the Ducks the following season and, as of now, is still not ready to leave.
His passion for the game is as great, perhaps greater now, than it was as a rookie 18 years ago. It's that passion, and now, knowing the taste of victory and wanting more, that continues to propel him off and on the ice.
Given that passion, it stands to reason that Selanne would not return to a team he felt wasn't capable of capturing the Stanley Cup. Though they're certainly not as poised to do so as they were three seasons ago, the Ducks are still capable of emerging as contenders.
Just ask Selanne.
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