The Top 20 NHL Players on Their Last Legs
I've written a lot this year about the young guns of the league. Readers love to know how their prospects rank and who's living up to the hype.
On the other side of the spectrum is a collection of players who might be playing on borrowed time. Not all of the following are about to retire, but it won't be long before they take a trip down Brett Favre Street.
The desire might be there, but their body says otherwise. Whether it is wear and tear or changes in the game, these players will soon be taking a crash course in broadcasting.
I give you the top 20 players headed for retirement in the not so distant future.
20: Craig Rivet
NHL Seasons: 15
Craig Rivet has been a solid NHL defender throughout his career, but all signs are pointing to a diminished role in this league. He has been a healthy scratch a few times this year and he wears the "C"! Not good if he's expecting to remain a top four blueliner.
19: Kris Draper
NHL Seasons: 19
Arguably one of the best defensive checking forwards of his generation, Kris Draper is on his last legs as a pro. He has the benefit in playing in a great system in Detroit, but Father Time can only turn a blind eye for so long. He has started to wear down physically and I wouldn't be surprised if this was his last year in the league.
18: Doug Weight
NHL Seasons: 18
Are you surprised to see this guy is still in the league? Maybe I speak for myself, but I always seem to forget he is still playing. I'm not really sure why he's still playing given all the injuries he's suffered over the last few years. He also hasn't scored more than 10 goals since 2005 and Weight isn't exactly known for his defensive game. If he continues to play beyond this year he will be officially stealing money.
17: Mike Knuble
NHL Seasons: 13
Mike Knuble has always been one of those fly under the radar type guys, but he's had a solid NHL career. He had the benefit of playing on the high flying Caps last season and his production was quite impressive. This season has been a different story though. His production hasn't been there, but he's a durable guy and I wouldn't write him off just yet. The clock is ticking though.
16: Dwayne Roloson
NHL Seasons: 12
Normally I would recommend an NHL player to retire if he was over 40 and not named Chris Chelios, but Dwayne Roloson has actually played pretty well in his later years. He hasn't had a save percentage under .900 in years and doesn't show any sign of the usual wear and tear seen in players his age. We'll see how long this workhorse can keep on going, but he might be pushing his luck soon.
15: John Madden
NHL Seasons: 11
It's funny what a difference a year can make, huh? Last season John Madden was a key cog in the Blackhawks march to the Cup, but this year he is aging away on a Minnesota team going nowhere. He's already minus-12 on the season and there are no signs of improvement around the corner. He's had a long and successful career, but sometimes you just have to scratch your head when a player like him signs on a team like that.
14: Andrew Brunette
NHL Seasons: 14
Speaking of Minnesota, another member of this team in turmoil is Andrew Brunette. This guy has been a savvy scorer over the years and a lot of people don't really know much about him, but he has consistently provided offense to a team that desperately needs it. Like a lot of other players on this list though, Brunette's production is starting to tail off. Much like Doug Weight, when an offensive player no longer produces, he either needs to adapt or look for other work. Hopefully Brunette can recapture that scoring touch.
13: Chris Osgood
NHL Seasons: 16
I'll say this up front. I was never a Chris Osgood fan. In the years of the Red Wings/Avalanche rivalry, Osgood was consistently exposed year after year. He always benefited from playing behind a great team that didn't allow a lot of quality scoring chances. This doesn't mean he's a sieve, because he has played well enough to win the Cup. I liken him to a quarterback who "manages" a game. He's been serviceable, but never a top guy. At this point he is relegated to giving Jimmy Howard the odd night off and pretty soon he'll be hanging up the skates on a respectable career.
12: Brian Rolston
NHL Seasons: 15
Quick, name all the teams that Brian Rolston has played for. For the record he has split significant time on New Jersey (twice), Boston and Minnesota. He even had a pit stop in Colorado for a season. For the longest time Rolston was one of the best all-around players in this league. He brought grit and toughness, scoring and defensive ability. Nowadays he goes unnoticed on most nights. Given how the season has gone in New Jersey this year, he might be thinking a lot more about his future lately.
11: Nikolai Khabibulin
NHL Seasons: 14
Nikolai Khabibulin is another goaltender who has had a pretty decent career, but has begun to enter his twilight years. He's had an eventful couple of years on and off the ice recently, but he continues to be a valuable member of a young, rebuilding team. His numbers aren't great, but it's hard to blame him when you consider what's in front of him. I think he has a few more kicks at the can before he calls it quits, but injuries could begin to hit anytime now.
10: Tomas Holmstrom
NHL Seasons: 13
One member of the pre-retirement club that still brings a lot to the table is Red Wings favorite Tomas Holmstrom. With his style of play he still has a few quality years remaining, but it comes with the usual caveat. As long as he stays healthy...Holmstrom has begun to miss a bunch of games over the last few seasons and all that punishment in front of the net could be catching up with him.
9: Alex Kovalev
NHL Seasons: 17
Is there a more high profile enigma in the NHL than Alex Kovalev? It's been great watching him over the years because on many nights he displays the most skill on the ice. I say many and not most since he rarely plays with any sort of consistency. I would love to know if he has seen a sports psychologist because what goes on in his head is a complete mystery. Unless he gets traded, I think his career is pretty much done.
8: Ray Whitney
NHL Seasons: 18
One player who seems far from done is Coyotes winger Ray Whitney. He is finally getting over a hand injury from earlier in the season and he continues to produce offense despite his size and age. Whitney certainly doesn't look 38 on the ice and much like Andrew Brunette, he is a savvy scoring winger. It's doubtful that he will ever get the credit he deserves because of his quiet demeanor and history of playing on small market clubs. Despite this, his days in the league are numbered and it won't be long before he closes the book on a solid NHL career.
7: Adam Foote
NHL Season: 18
Adam Foote is a player who probably should have retired last season. He has missed a lot of this year with a concussion and everything about his game is suited for the old NHL style of play. His foot speed is not there anymore and his body is too banged up to be that fearless defender that everyone remembers. It's been a great career and he will always be remembered as a key part of those playoff battles of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he would be doing himself a disservice if he played beyond this season.
6: Daniel Alfredsson
NHL seasons: 14
Daniel Alfredsson reached some impressive milestones this season. 1000 points and 1000 games. Pretty impressive for a guy who has played his entire career on one team. I do admit that I haven't thought that highly of him over the years because he never seemed to step up when his team needed him to, but I do respect what he has accomplished in his career and his ability to produce at a high level over the course of time. The current problems in Ottawa go far beyond him, but it might also be time for him to start contemplating a trade to a contender before it's too late.
5: Martin Brodeur
NHL Seasons: 17
Martin Brodeur is a player that is high on this list, but it might not be an obvious choice. The reason is because he has stayed so healthy and played at such a high level for the bulk of his career. He has only had one major injury to date and it remains the primary reason for his record-setting path. However, like many players his age time might be catching up with him as he has battled injuries this year. It could wind up being a blip on the radar, but it could also be an indication of things to come. Keep an eye on this situation.
4: Mike Modano
NHL Seasons: 20
Mike Modano is another player who is battling injury this year and it is a running theme on this list. 40 might not be old in the grand scheme of things, but for a professional athlete it is the equivalent to old age. Detroit has had a reputation for incorporating veterans into their lineup, but only time will tell if this was a mistake or not. He wasn't playing all that well before he went on injured reserve.
3: Teemu Selanne
NHL Seasons: 17
The production that Teemu Selanne continues to bring to the Anaheim Ducks is nothing short of spectacular. I think we keep waiting to say he's done, but he continues to defy the odds. Year after year he uses his slick moves and quick shot to light the lamp and this season has been no different. Does this mean that he's coming back next year? It's tough to say, but injuries might play a role. He is currently nursing a groin injury and if he has more setbacks later in the year he might decide that it's time. Either way, he'll still be able to walk away a champion.
2: Nicklas Lidstrom
NHL Seasons: 18
Coming in at No. 2 on the list is Nicklas Lidstrom. It's not because he is over the hill or simply collecting paychecks. He's high on the list because no one has any idea if this will be his last year or not. I'm not sure even he knows that. Lidstrom is on the record as saying he will continue to play as long as he is playing at a high level. If this holds true and he can avoid injuries then we might be seeing Chris Chelios part deux. He has incredible hockey intelligence and amazing puck ability. These qualities can keep him around a while longer. The only question is, will he want to?
1: Mark Recchi
NHL Seasons: 21
Easily topping the list is the ageless wonder Mark Recchi. I still have to rub my eyes and make sure I'm really witnessing what I'm seeing when he's on the ice. Its not hard to see that he still has a love and passion for the game. Recchi continues to be a bundle of energy on the ice and is a shining example of what commitment and hard work can do for you. This is one retirement ceremony that won't be easy to watch because if he could play until he was 50, he would. A tip of the hat goes to the Boston Bruin Recching Ball.