The first decade of the 21st century was piping with changes in the NHL. The league experienced expansion, finally settling at 30 teams. It was also the turning of a new age with a fresh generation of stars, still excelling today, such as Alex Ovechkin. Then, there was the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, which did damage to the careers of some of these stars, while for others, it was the break they needed from the NHL to return strong and note-worthy.
There was little to no social media in the 2000s to record an athlete’s every move, contributing to some of these stars essentially being forgotten, though the impact these men made surely remains in the hearts of their loyal fans. A lot of players from the so-called "dead puck era" were forgotten based on the fact that scoring in the league had reached an all time low and the game was a lot more structured than it had ever been before. It's likely these players would have been remembered more had they played in a different era.
Some might best be recognized as “one-year wonders,” while others kept a steady pace in their prime. These NHL players were big shots in the 2000s, but where are they now?
20 Jonathan Cheechoo
Jonathan Cheechoo flew under the radar in his early years but became quite the star in 2003 when his off-season training began to yield results on the ice. He reached his NHL career-high during the 2005-06 season with the San Jose Sharks, where he netted 56 goals to become the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (leading goal scorer in the NHL) recipient. However, his steady decline in goals each season landed him on waivers only five years later, leading him to be picked up briefly by the Ottawa Senators, where he was sent to the AHL without return to the NHL.
19 Olaf Kolzig
Since his retirement from the NHL in 2009, Olaf Kolzig might be overshadowed by the current NHL greats, such as Corey Crawford and Carey Price, but in his prime, he was one of the shining stars of the NHL. In addition to winning prestigious awards such as the Vezina Trophy, Olaf was recognized for and awarded the King Clancy award for leadership on and off the ice.
18 Dany Heatley
Dany Heatley excelled in his time with the NHL, and might best be remembered for the unique way he shot the puck, leading to his accomplishment as the first ever game-winning shootout goal scorer. While in the spotlight for his on-ice excellence, even earning himself the cover of EA Sport’s NHL 2004, one fatal off-ice incident took it away. Heatley went on to have several star seasons with the Ottawa Senators, but some say he never recovered mentally from the speeding incident which claimed his teammate’s life. In 2009, Dany asked for a trade after having personal issues with the new nead coach, Cory Clouston. He continued to slowly decline in productivity with his time on the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild.
17 Markus Naslund
Markus Naslund, nicknamed “Nazzy” by Canucks fans, shined for his skills as an offensive player. He was the team captain of the Vancouver Canucks for eight years, and in that time was recognized five times as the recipient of the Cyclone Taylor Trophy Award for the MVP of the team. He was also the face of ES Sport’s NHL 2005, and widely involved in various philanthropic activities, such as co-founder of Icebreakers, an organization which raised money for sick and disabled children in his home town of Vasternorrland.
16 Roman Cechmanek
Roman Cechmanek was one of those rookie athletes that you just couldn’t wait to watch excel in the future because he seemed to have that “it” factor. In his first season with the NHL, as part of the Philadelphia Flyers, Cechmanek stole the spotlight and the starting goalie position from Brian Boucher. He ended up as the runner-up to the Vezina Trophy that year. Roman continued to shine in his goaltender position again the following year, but struggled when it came time for the playoffs.
15 Donald Audette
The gritty, injury-prone Donald Audette was quite the star of the 2000-01 Atlanta Thrashers. It was there that he reached the height of his career, with 34 goals and 45 helpers, earning himself a spot on the NHL All-Star roster that year. He would move on to the Montreal Canadiens the following season but things didn't go as planned. After an almost life-revoking injury the following season, Audette failed to ever fully recuperate his NHL game, and he retired in 2004.
14 Zigmund Palffy
As a New York Islander, Zigmund “Ziggy” Palffy first rose as a star when he scored 87 points in 81 games. Due to financial burdens of the Islanders, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 2000, breaking the hearts of loyal New York fans. Though his game continued to stay consistent, a shoulder injury in 2003 set him back, and it was that he struggled with for years, never fully recovering, thus becoming a “forgotten star.”
13 Wade Redden
Those who think Redden shouldn’t be considered a star at all, due to his statistic decline after 2007, forget that he was once a star defenseman and alternate captain of the Ottawa Senators in his 11 seasons with the franchise. He was the joint recipient of the NHL Plus-Minus Award in 2006, and a career high of 50 points in one NHL season, incredible numbers for a defenseman.
12 Peter Bondra
In his 14 years in a Washington Capitals sweater, Peter Bondra racked up 472 goals and 353 assists in 961 games, and played in five All-Star games. Prior to the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, Peter was part of a devastating trade that landed him a spot on the Ottawa Senators, and hope to be back to the Capitals post-lockout, but it wasn’t possible. On December 22, 2006, as part of the Chicago Blackhawks roster, Bondra became the 37th player in the NHL to score 500 goals, and he retired from the NHL following that season.
11 Robert Lang
In 2003, at the height of Robert Lang’s NHL career, he became part of the first trade in NHL history involving a player with the lead in points out of all players in the NHL. Shortly afterward, he sustained an injury that left him out of 13 consecutive games, losing his lead as the NHL point leader, falling to the #9 spot in the league. He continued to thrive until 2008, when a steady decline in his production lead to his retirement from the NHL at the completion of the 2009-10 season.
10 Ed Jovanovski
Known as a two-way defenseman, Ed Jovanovski had a strong physical body check, but he could also effectively carry the puck and convert in an offensive manner. Though he began and ended his career on less productive notes with the Florida Panthers, he made his mark as a star athlete during his time with the Vancouver Canucks. It was there that he earned some of his top accomplishments, such as the Babe Pratt Trophy for Canucks' best defenseman, and earning a spot in five All-Star games.
9 Petr Nedved
Czechoslovakian refugee Petr Nedved fled the country to pursue his NHL dreams, but it wasn’t an easy start for him. He struggled with consistency for over eight years in the NHL, playing for teams such as the Canucks and the Penguins. It wasn’t until his trade to the New York Rangers in 1999 when he began to find a steady groove again. Losing momentum in the NHL, he headed back to the Czech Republic in 2008 to complete his hockey career, retiring in 2014.
8 Milan Hejduk
Milan Hejduk spent his NHL career in a Colorado Avalanche sweater. Though he played over 1000 games for the franchise, and “went for a swim” as part of a memorable celebration move after netting an overtime goal against the Dallas Stars in 2000, Milan is typically forgotten behind legends such as Sakic and Forsberg.
7 Glen Murray
During his 16 seasons in the NHL, Glen Murray played for the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the LA Kings. His best offensive season performance was during 2002-03, in which he recorded 92 points with the Boston Bruins. By 2008, his productivity was cut nearly in half from his best season in terms of points, and the right-winger was forced to retire, as he was not deemed healthy to keep playing.
6 Cory Stillman
Cory Stillman was one of those NHL players who could effortlessly play left or right wing, though he preferred to play left. He reached his biggest accomplishments when he became part of two different teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes) that each won the Stanley Cup, consecutively. Stillman was never considered to be a superstar, but he did enjoy some amazing seasons in the mid 2000s, with his best coming during Tampa's Stanley Cup season of 2003-04. That year, Stillman scored 25 goals and 55 assists for 80 total points. He followed that up with 76 points in Carolina's 2005-06 Cup season.
5 Vaclav Prospal
Known for his strong offensive play, Vaclav came to his NHL glory days in his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2005-2008, but was traded to the Flyers midway through the 2008-09 season. In 2009, he was named the alternate captain for the New York Rangers and had another stellar year. In 2013, he was recalled to the AHL, and it was there that he announced his retirement from the NHL.
4 Andy McDonald
Andy McDonald split his NHL career between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues. After a career high of 85 points in the season and winning the Stanley Cup as part of the 2007 Ducks roster, McDonald was traded to the St. Louis Blues to free up salary cap space. Despite fracturing his leg in 2008, he continued to play four more seasons with the Blues before announcing his retirement in 2013.
3 Cam Barker
Though he’s more of a would-be star, Cam Barker was the Chicago Blackhawks third overall draft pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. His skills were superior as a defenseman, but he struggled at the NHL level, never living up to the hype created in his early days. His best NHL contribution to date was in the 2008-09 season on the Chicago Blackhawks roster, recording six goals and 34 assists.
2 Jaroslav Modry
Though it was brief, Jaroslav Modry left his mark in the NHL. He made a solid performance in the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs as part of the L.A. Kings, and hit his career high of 13 goals two seasons later. After his time with the Kings was up, he made appearances on teams such as the Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers, but his game was slowly decreasing. In late 2008, he left the NHL to sign a two year contract with the Czech Extraliga, and played until he retired in 2012.
1 Marty Turco
One of the top goaltenders of the 2000s was Marty Turco, but he declined after that decade. Perhaps he is somewhat forgotten because he never made it to the Stanley Cup Final as a starter. In his nine outstanding seasons with the Dallas Stars, he participated in many Stanley Cup Playoff games, and broke the reigning 33-year old-record by Cesare Maniago to become the Stars’ all-time leader in games played by a goalie, with 421 games. Marty took the backup goaltender position to Corey Crawford shortly after his trade to Chicago, and finished his NHL career in 2012 as a backup goalie while Tuukka Rask suffered an injury.
Today, Marty Turco resides in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Kelly, and three children. He remains active in the Dallas community and has a strong presence on his Twitter account.
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