Teemu Selanne and the Best NHL Playoff Performances by Players over 40
The Anaheim Ducks' Teemu Selanne had a great season as a forty-year-old. He followed that up with six goals in the first round of the playoffs, which lead the league.
Unfortunately, his season is over. Despite his performance, the Ducks lost their first-round series to the Nashville Predators in six games.
This made me think of other players in NHL history who made significant contributions in the playoffs at an age when their contemporaries are often retired. In no particular order this is a list of some of the best playoff performances by players who have reached their 40th birthday.
Viacheslav Fetisov D : 1998 Detroit Red Wings
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Fetisov turned 40 during the playoffs in 1998. Fetisov had a distinguished international career before he came to the NHL in 1989. He was a fast-skating, hard-rock defenseman for the Red Army team and Soviet National team.
Fetisov played a style reminiscent of NHL star Scott Stevens, except he was more defensively sound, a faster skater and not quite as violent. Dennis Potvin was another defenseman Fetisov has often been compared to.
He was a member of the famed "green unit" in the Soviet Union along with Alexei Kasatonov, Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov.
He won Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold medals and world championships, along with a world junior championship and Canada Cup.
By 1998 Fetisov was slowing down, and he had won the cup the year before with Detroit. In 1998 he played in all the Red Wings' playoff games but one. He was the sixth defenseman at this point in his career but still contributed to the Stanley Cup win. That was to be his last season in the NHL.
Gordie Howe RW : 1980 Hartford Whalers
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In his 40s, Gordie played in a couple playoff series. In 1970, at the age of 42, he and the struggling Red Wings were swept in the first round by the Bobby Hull-lead Chicago Blackhawks. He managed to score two goals.
His truly amazing playoff performance, however, was in 1980.
He returned to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers at the age of 52 and played 80 regular-season games for the Whalers. Then he followed that up by getting swept by the Montreal Canadiens in three straight games. He had a goal and an assist for the Whalers in the playoffs that year and was still a legitimate NHL player at 52.
1967 Toronto Maple Leafs
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The 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs were the last Stanley Cup Champions for the organization. They were famous or infamous as Punch Imlach's "Over the Hill Gang".
The team Punch built had a median age of 31. They were generally expected to be no match for the great young Chicago Blackhawks.
The team had two old goalies in Johnny Bower, 42 and Terry Sawchuk, 37. They alternated in the nets during the playoffs, often due to injury. Tim Horton was 37, Marcel Pronovost and George Armstrong were 36 and Leonard "Red" Kelly was in his last season as a 39-year-old.
Hall of fame defenseman Allan Stanley joined Johnny Bower as the other quadragenerian on the squad. http://www.legendsofhockey.net/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=P198103#photo
Stanley was still a standout defensive defenseman with the squad and Bower was great in the nets for them, when he was healthy enough to play.
Johnny Bucyk LW : 1976 Boston Bruins
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Johnny Bucyk was one of the all-time great Boston Bruins. As a 38-year-old, he starred for them in their 1974 cup win. At age 40, in 1976, he still had something left in the tank.
The rock solid Bucyk helped get his team into the semifinals with two goals and seven assists in 12 games. Unfortunately, the Bruins lost to Bobby Clark and the Philadelphia Flyers that year.
The Bruins had gone through a huge transition that year: Carol Vadnais and Phil Esposito were traded for Jean Ratelle and Brad Park from the hated New York Rangers. Johnny Bucyk and Ken Hodge were the best of the big, bad Bruins that were left behind.
Dave Andreychuk LW : 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning
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At age 40, Dave Andreychuk was beginning to become the answer to the question, "Who has played the most NHL games without winning a Stanley Cup?" Lucky for him and lucky for the Tampa Bay Lightning, he ended up on the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Andreychuk tied for fifth in playoff scoring for the Lightning that year with 14 points. He was mostly the set-up man for sniper Ruslan Fedotenko. He was also the team captain and provided veteran leadership on a very young cup-winning team.
Ray Bourque D : 2001 Colorado Avalanche
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Ray Bourque was the player threatening to outdo Dave Andreychuk in the category of most games played without winning a Stanley Cup. Luckily he made the trade to the Avalanche late in 2000 pay off with a Stanley Cup win in 2001.
Bourque, then 40 years old, had ten points in 21 games while playing first pair minutes for the Avalanche. He was approaching the end of his career but could still star on a defense that featured Rob Blake and Adam Foote. He played over twenty eight and a half minutes a game as those three carried the load on defense for the Avalanche.
Chris Chelios D : 2002 Detroit Red Wings
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At age 40 Chelly was still contributing in Detroit. He had 14 points in 23 games as the Red Wings beat Carolina for the Stanley Cup. He was second only to Nick Lidstrom in minutes played that year and a key to Detroit's Stanley Cup win.
Chelios had other playoff years he contributed after the age of forty, most notably in 2008, when they won again, but in 2002 he was still a key member of the team.
Tim Horton D : 1971 New York Rangers
At age 41 defensive savant Tim Horton made it to the semifinals with the New York Rangers where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. Horton played in all 13 games for New York getting three assists and proving to be a rock on defense.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia
Mark Recchi RW : 2009/10/11... Boston Bruins
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Mark Recchi is one of those 40 plus players who continues to contribute offensively at the highest level of hockey; the NHL playoffs. At age 41 he had six points in 11 playoff games for Boston, last year it was 10 points in 13 games. This year he goes into Game 6 as a 43 year old man looking to help the Bruins win a seven game series with the Montreal Canadiens. He also goes in looking for his first playoff goal this year. The time is right.
Nick Lidstrom D : 2010 Detroit Red Wings and Beyond?
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Nick Lidstrom had a great playoff last year as a newly minted 40 year old. He had 10 points in 12 games as the Red Wings got clobbered by the San Jose Sharks in five games. Is he going to have a better run this year at age 41?