There can be a kind of bittersweet feeling in seeing a great hockey career come to an end; we feel glad to have witnessed greatness, while at the same time it’s kind of sad to see our heroes packing it in. If you’re a rabid hockey fan, you probably play close attention to when particular careers are wrapping up. Sometimes, players announce that their days in the league are numbered, allowing themselves a kind of victory lap, where fans can show their appreciation to players that won’t be in the league much longer. But if you’re more of a casual fan, retirements can kind of slip under your radar.
Most players see their performance decline during their final years in the league; former first line mainstays and power play weapons find themselves with radically reduced minutes, chipping in while they can but no longer essential to the team’s success. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how long a player has in him. If you had told me five years ago that Jaromir Jagr would still be playing at the age of 45, I would have told you that you were crazy. On the other hand, some players decline at an alarmingly fast rate. Three years ago, Daniel and Henrik Sedin were point-per-game players, and now they’re ostensibly third liners who barely put up any points at all, and could very well be in their last seasons. It’s a hard thing to predict. In today’s NHL, speed and agility are more important than ever, and there’s no place for lumbering geezers. Here are some NHL players that are probably playing their last seasons:
15. Jaromir Jagr
To be fair, if I had heard someone making this prediction last year, I would have agreed with it then too. However, Jagr had a pretty damn good year last year, playing in every single game and putting up just under fifty points. This year is a different story, though. He’s constantly injured, he is one of the slowest players on the ice every night, and he is barely putting up any points, having scored only one goal so far this season. It almost seems as though the Calgary Flames gave him the contract out of pity, not wanting to see his career come to an end. I don’t want to see his career come to an end either. He is third all time in points, and still has an outside shot at passing Gordie Howe for second overall. He’s a funny guy and has a great personality, and it has been fun watching him push his younger teammates around with his stick. But this is pretty much a sure thing at this point; this season has got to be Jagr’s last.
14. Daniel And Henrik Sedin
This one is no guarantee, of course. The Sedins are still only 37, which would be a fairly young retirement age for players of their caliber that haven’t had major injuries for most of their careers. And Swedish players in general seem to age gracefully. But times are changing in Vancouver. Only a few years ago, the Sedins were top line players, carrying a Canucks team that got progressively weaker after their Stanley Cup run. Now, the Canucks are starting to develop their young players, with Brock Boeser taking a crack at the Calder, and Bo Horvat centring the top line. The Canucks don’t need the Sedins, and the Sedins don’t need the money. It would be easy to see them pack it in after another disappointing season in Vancouver, thus ending their long, productive careers cupless.
13. David Booth
David Booth is only 33-years-old, which makes him one of the youngest players on this list. Booth’s NHL career started out really promising, as he put up 31 goals in only his third NHL season, and seemed poised to be an elite sniper for years to come. However, he ran into injury problems and seemed to get out of a groove. He also ran into some personal controversy. While he was a Vancouver Canuck, he came under fire in the media for hunting bears for sport, which is illegal in parts of North America. He played a year in the minors, a year in Russia, and now he’s taking another crack at the NHL, playing for the Detroit Red Wings this season. He has been playing poorly, though, and he is on a one-year contract, so it seems as though this is probably Booth’s last NHL season.
12. Matt Cullen
When some players retire, you’re sad to see them go because they didn’t accomplish enough of live up to their potential. That is absolutely not the case with Matt Cullen. He’s more like your old, sick great-grandpa, who had a great life and is suffering now and needs to be let go. Matt Cullen has been around forever. The American centre is 41, and has played over 1,400 NHL games, racking up just under 700 so far. He has won three cups! He has been an incredibly reliable and likeable hockey player for his whole career, and now he’s finishing things up in Minnesota, where he barely plays and has scored only two goals and is a minus ten so far on the year. It’s time to hang ’em up, Matt. You’ve done enough.
11. Zdeno Chara
This is admittedly a contentious one. Yes, Zdeno Chara is the captain of the Boston Bruins. Yes, he’s still a huge physical force and generally a big presence on the ice. However, his numbers have been dropping like a sack of rocks. His speed and mobility have been failing him lately, and it’s not uncommon to see him get burned by speedy, young forwards. Chara is in the last year of a long contract that paid him handsomely. If this is Chara’s last season, that likely won’t be his decision, as he has said that he thinks he has a couple more years in him. The Bruins management has said that if he wants to keep playing and seems able, they’d be willing to give him another deal. He’s 40 years old, and the years likely haven’t been kind to that massive 6’9″ frame of his. During his long NHL career, he has been an absolute force on the ice, leading the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. We wouldn’t be surprised if this year was his last, though.
10. Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa is another player where, if he decides to hang them up for good after this year, nobody will feel as though he wasn’t given a fair chance to succeed. He has been putting up points since the late ’90s. He was in three straight Stanley Cup finals, finally winning in the third one for the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, he has won two more cups with the Hawks. Including his time on the Red Wings and the Penguins, he has constantly been a contributing factor to the best teams in the league. He is one of fewer than 50 players in the history of the NHL to put up more than 500 goals in his career. Earlier this year, the Blackhawks announced that Hossa was suffering from a skin condition, and that the side effects from the medication he was taking made him unable to play hockey this year. At this rate, it’s unlikely that we’ll see him on an NHL rink again.
9. Roberto Luongo
One thing is for sure: Roberto Luongo is not going to want to retire without another shot at a cup, so if he’s kept off the ice for good after this season, it’ll be against his will. Ever since his early days with the Florida Panthers, Luongo has been one of the best goalies in the league. He faced intense media pressure in Vancouver while he played for the Canucks, and he was still able to perform, leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals, where they fell in a seventh game against the Bruins. A few weeks ago, Luongo—who is 38—suffered a nasty groin injury that is expected to keep him out of action for “an extended period of time.” For a guy at his age, that sounds pretty serious, and it seems possible that he won’t be able to recover from his. He is still under contract until 2022, which is laughable at this point.
8. Jarome Iginla
Here’s another guy that it will be sad to see retire without a cup. He came so close as the captain of the Calgary Flames, getting them all the way to the finals before they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In recent years, he has been bouncing around, trying to find a team to take him back there. He tried the Penguins, he tried the Bruins, and he tried the Kings. All of those teams have won cups in recent years, and they all seemed to be good options for Iginla, but maybe he’s cursed, or maybe his timing is just bad. He’s one of only 19 NHL players to score more than 600 goals, and he has won numerous individual and international awards. But this year nobody would sign him to a contract, which means, at this point, Iggy’s NHL days are through.
7. Chris Kunitz
Chris Kunitz has never been the star player on any of the NHL teams he’s played on, but he’s a born winner. Kind of the opposite of Iginla or Luongo, really. He has won a whopping four Stanley Cups, three of them with Pittsburgh. He was also an important member of the Canadian team that won Olympic gold in 2014. Many questioned his inclusion on the team, but he proved them wrong when he was able to gel with Sidney Crosby. Crazily enough, he has a shot at a fifth Stanley Cup this year, because he’s on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are probably the best team in the league this year. He has been putting up terrible numbers so far this year, though, so he’d be wise to hang them up after this season, hopefully on a winning note.
6. Jason Chimera
There won’t exactly be any emotional goodbyes when Jason Chimera’s career comes to an end. Don’t get me wrong, he has had a good career. He has played over a thousand games, racked up a few 20-point seasons, and generally been a reliable bottom of the lineup type guy. He has never won a cup or a major award and has spent time on four different teams. He provides a good example of the kind of player that kind of slips out of the league without most people really noticing it, which is why he has a place on this list. He’s thirty-eight, in the second of a two year deal with the Islanders, and putting up very sad numbers this year. Goodbye, Jason Chimera.
5. Joe Thornton
I am going to miss seeing that incredible beard. Ever since I can remember, Joe Thornton has been a dominant force in the league. He’s played over 1,400 games and put up over 1,400 points. He has put up over 1,000 assists, too. He’s a master of calm vision and assists, putting up over 90 assists in a season once, which is a remarkable feat. He has been an Art Ross and Hart trophy winner, and you could make the case that he was the most dominant centre in the league for a stretch of around 10 years while he was in his prime. This year, his numbers are not good, and the Sharks are OK without Big Joe producing. He is currently on a one-year contract, so it’s clear that he’s taking things year by year. It would not be surprising at all if Joe Thornton did not play another NHL game after this year.
4. Niklas Kronwall
It would be a shame if this was Niklas Kronwall’s last season. When he’s on the ice, there’s always a chance that you’re going to see a bone-crushing open ice hit or hip check. Like a lot of the players on this list, Kronwall has been pretty adamant in the press that he has a few years ahead of him in the NHL yet. After all, he is under contract for one more year after this year. However, he’s not a very effective hockey player in many ways at this point. He has had a big drop off in points lately, and his skating has suffered. He’s 36, and the Red Wings are trying to get younger and to usher in a new era centred around young talent. Kronwall may have one year left in the league, but I wouldn’t bet my life’s savings on it.
3. Ryan Miller
In hockey, like in soccer, it’s easier to get old when you’re a goalie then in other positions. Though Ryan Miller is thirty-seven—which is about as far as most forwards who aren’t named Jaromir Jagr will push it—it isn’t his age that is holding him back. There was a point, almost a decade ago by now, that Ryan Miller was constantly among the league’s best goalies. He has fallen off recently, which has been partly because he has been playing on a Vancouver Canucks team that has been at the bottom of the league. Right now, he’s on a two year contract with the Ducks that’s worth only two million dollars, a significant pay cut for Miller. He has only played nine games this year, and he has a losing record. Miller has made enough money in his career that, at this point, it’s easy to see him packing it in after this season.
2. Patrick Sharp
Damn, remember when Patrick Sharp was a good hockey player? It really wasn’t that long ago, he put up over 30 goals for Chicago only four years ago. Back then, he was kind of like a secret weapon for the Blackhawks; focus on Kane and Toews too much and he’d get you. Sharp played a couple seasons in Dallas, where he suffered some injuries and really saw his production drop off. Now he’s back in Chicago, on a one-year, $800,000 contract that feels more like an experiment than anything. And it has been a failed experiment, as he hasn’t been playing well at all. By 2018, we will likely have seen the end of Patrick Sharp in the NHL.
1. Ales Hemsky
Ales Hemsky is another guy who is too young to be on a list like this, as he’s only 34. But the NHL hasn’t been kind to him lately. There has never been any doubt of Hemsky’s skill. He was a mid-first round pick who showed flashes of brilliance with his wonderful hands, and he put together some pretty good seasons over a career that has spanned over 800 NHL games. This year, for the Montreal Canadiens, Hemsky played seven games and got zero points before getting hurt. The year before, he played only fifteen games for the Dallas Stars. He’s a Band-aid at this point, and his contract is up at the end of the season, so there is about a zero percent chance that we’ll see Ales Hemsky in the NHL after this season.
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