NHL Free Agency 2011: The 5 Free Agents Who Should Most Consider Retirement
Athletes spend the entirety of the first few decades of their lives training to be the elite of their fraternity, and for no better reason than a complete unawareness regarding life without their craft, they often cling onto their profession too long.
Some players can actually pull off a duo of masterful seasons even into their late 30s. Hal Gill and Nick Lidstrom are proof that peak conditioning and determination can allow the body to exceed its normal limitations.
Both of these veterans approach or exceed two decades in the NHL but deliver to their teams.
Yet, considering only remarkable athletes, most are not physiological phenomenons that late into a career. While their own peers may excel, continuing to play the sport like an aging fine wine, the egos of other athletes surely cause them to carry on beyond what can be considered graceful.
Most of us...well, we just get old. Sadly, old in professional sports comes at an age far earlier than what seems psychologically fair.
Young men are senior citizens in their upper-30s, and hockey does not concern itself with senior benefits. The young guys hit the geezers just as hard.
There are a great number of aged hockey icons who cling to the false belief of a resurgent 2011, far beyond those that this article gives specific mention.
Of those, one or two players may surprise us, while a dozen others continue to struggle for vast sums of money.
Putting it into perspective, if the number of clubs a player has signed with exceeds less than the number of years covered by those signings, something is very likely to be seriously wrong.
To put it more simply, its phenomenal how many NHL players—even if for love of the game—allow themselves to be tossed about like a hacky-sack, opposed to the dignity and satisfaction that comes with the preservation of a fine career.
The following five players seriously need to consider the remarkable nature of their accomplishments and ask themselves if a respectful retirement is what's best for the game they love.
Some may, most won't and a few have already prolonged their mediocrity.
On the Fence: Will Jaromir Jagr Be a Flyer or a Cryer in Philadelphia?
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Jaromir Jagr returns to the NHL fresh from his stint with the Avongard Omsk, begging the question from fans: does he still have it?
Penguins fans seemed prepared to embrace a new ending, but his signing with rival Philadelphia ensures that Pittsburgh hockey lovers will best remember Jagr for his excuse-filled 2001 season, which saw a drop in his production and apparent fall-off in his intensity.
The Capitals remember Jagr as the athlete who was supposed to complete an, "If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em" proposition after obtaining him from the hated Pens. Jaromir missed the playoffs in his first season with Washington, and he never obtained 100 points in any season in Washington.
His most successful recent NHL stint was with the Rangers, and during this time, he set franchise records for scoring. His 123 points in 2005-06 was followed by a steady statistical drop-off.
Can the former "Mario, Jr." (Jaromir's name, letters rearranged) still get it done, or will Pens fans have an opening to showcase some animosity and call him a Philadelphia Cryer?
5) Jean Sebastian Giguere
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2003 was the statistical height of Jean Sebastian-Giguere's career, though he'd likely describe its apex as 2007.
From 2002 through 2003, the superb goaltender saw a goals per game average of less than 2.30 with a sparkling 92 percent save rate.
By 2007, though he had already won the Conn Smythe Trophy, a team was assembled around him that brought success in the form of the Stanley Cup.
Fast-forwarding to today shows that "Giggy" (or is it "Jiggy?") has had a steady statistical decline in the last few seasons.
While many would note rule changes as a reason for his higher goals against per game, his final seasons in Anaheim following the strike showcased a different trend. His average goals allowed stayed at around 2.30, though his save percentage did decline.
Could it be that a better defensive team allowed the goalie to continue to appear as strong as ever? In any case, he still performed admirably.
His final two seasons in Anaheim showed a reduction in his starts, and his save percentage (90 percent) and goals against (3.00 or greater) suffered.
In the last half-decade, Giguere's save percentage is not where it was, and he continues to allow inopportune goals at critical junctures, illustrated by a losing record.
To put it in text code, I must ask: Does JSG GTG?
4) Jason Arnott
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In 2010-11, Arnott finished with a plus/minus rating of minus-six. This is typically not alarming for his style of play, except he had not finished with a negative differential since 1997!
His former teammate, Jamie Langenbrunner, may also be on the decline. After all, he seemingly hit a wall with the Stars and Devils, accumulating 32 points in 70 games last season.
While he did have decreased ice time and power play opportunities, this does not fully explain the incredibly sharp decline in his production. It's enough to raise a curious eye toward the 35-year-old.
Arnott, however, cannot make the claim of a single year fluke.
A three year stretch shows the steady decline of a 36-year-old.
After a great career as a Devil, Arnott began his Predators legacy in similarly productive fashion. Yet, the decline started toward the end of his time in Nashville.
Last season, his ice time was cut, but only after his statistics had begun a steady decline.
3) Alexei Kovalev
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As a Penguins fan in 2001, I remember the raucous crowd that would directly precede the goal horn following one of Kovie's beautiful top shelf wrist shots.
It always happened so fast, yet his elegance felt like slow motion- taking the pass at the right circle, slowly tilting toward the net and snapping the biscuit into the basket with seeming effortlessness.
In 2011, his actions seemed to require a lot of effort. He had clearly lost a step, reminding me of how nostalgia from the past can blind the present. I'd been honestly excited for his return to Pittsburgh.
Having played in at least 74 games during every season since 2007, his point production has dropped steadily: 84-65-49-34.
His goals have plummeted in that span by almost eight per season, like clockwork. Last year, he had 16 goals, meager by the standards of a former great talent.
While he did not have the luxury of playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, his ability to provide leadership on the ice was not present whatsoever. He was utterly unable to infuse any sort of offensive energy into the team, culminating in a 1-0 shutout to end Pittsburgh's season.
While he was not surrounded by great talent, this gave him the opportunity to showcase skills from a spotlight. In seven games, he tallied one assist.
At the age of 38, it is clear Kovie's body gave him the ability to play great hockey until he was 35.
His retirement is about 18 months past due.
2) John Madden
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The fat man with the video game is safe, though his franchise could stand a facelift in order to justify that $59.99 pricetag every season.
The slim center is making like a number of his former teammates in New Jersey, unable to realize that their "day" was at the turn of the century.
In his prime, Madden was a consistent 19 to 20 minute ice time guy who always put up about 17 goals and 35 points. He was a hard-working guy who could take the reins of any line and run with it successfully.
He never misses more than two games from 2000 through 2006. Since then, he's missed less than two games only once.
A steady plus/minus player, Madden is now annually in the minus column, barely tallying 20 points per season. While the plus/minus indicator is skewed, this trend is especially alarming given his decrease in ice time, barely registering over 15 minutes per game in the last three seasons.
Frankly, it's obvious that the Wild no longer need Madden. He simply isn't the player he used to be, not even close!
The 38-year-old body in NHL time often has liver spots, nose hair and a hunch back.
Madden needs to be making like the football version and retiring!
1) Mike Modano
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Modano is set to announce his future in the coming days, and here's hoping he makes the right decision.
He played for the Stars....
...when they were in Minnesota!
From 1992 through 2002, Modano was an obvious all-star, steadily producing 80-plus points. In 1993-94, he scored 50 goals.
Perhaps his finest feat was from 1996 through 1999, a stretch of three seasons that saw the Stars win the Stanley Cup. During the team's prime, Modano had combined plus/minus differential of nearly 100!
He was pictured beside the word production in the dictionary.
Near the word production is the word pride, and perhaps that is where his mugshot is now located. It's certainly no longer listed as productive.
Maybe it's that other word, pride, that is causing the former great to hold on for as long as he can, unwilling to resign himself to the concept that he's no longer...frankly, great.
To be clear, I want Mike to resign, not re-sign!
Sure, he can get 40 points, but that's not Modano.
Modano was the superb NHL superstar who took over games, playing two-way hockey as well as any star could be expected.
Simply, if Mike Modano is no longer great, he should't prolong himself into the mediocrity destined for most accomplished players.
I hope he makes the right choice.