The start of a new NHL season is something beautiful for fans of the sport. Early on, several new faces emerge and become new dominant stars in the league without many of us even seeing it coming. Last year, Dylan Larkin shocked the Wings organization by making the team as a teen, something that seemed impossible looking at Red Wings' history and how they deal with younger players. His play has made him one of the top faces in Motown. Others went through similar types of seasons, like Artemi Panarin and Matt Murray, who came out of nowhere and led their teams to successful seasons. This year, the likes of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews looks to cement their legacies as the next future greats in the league. It truly is a young man’s game in the NHL today.
In this article, however, we flip the script and look at players who seem non-existent for other reasons. The players are older and include a variety of guys you’ll probably be thinking, “wait, when did they sign there?”
An honorable shout out goes to the former NHLer Robert Lang who sustained years and years of pulling off his magic act, by disappearing with various teams from year tp year. You didn't know he was there, but he somehow always was.
Kudos Robert, kudos!
15 James Reimer: Florida Panthers
Watching the Wings/Panthers game the other night, I couldn’t help but notice a dude smiling on the Panthers bench that looked a lot like James Reimer. After doing a quick search, the man seated on the bench was in fact the former Leafs goalie who somehow ended up with the Panthers, signing with the team this past off-season. Not only did Reims ink the deal, but he even got a tremendous five year term. He’s a good guy and deserved some stability after bouncing around like a bingo ball over the last year. Florida is Reimer’s third franchise in the last two years, spending time with the Leafs, Sharks and now Panthers.
We wish the former Leafs man nothing but the best, although his face will probably break doing all that smiling next to the hilarious Roberto Luongo.
14 Rene Bourque: Colorado Avalanche
Somehow, the 34 year old Alberta native is still cracking NHL lineups. Much to the surprise of many, Rene Bourque was successful in his tryout and ended up not only making the Avs team, but suiting up for the season opener, as well getting slotted on the third line alongside Joe Colborne and Gabriel Bourque.
We applaud Bourque for his new found success, especially when you consider how bleak things looked for him last season. Rene played 49 games with the Blue Jackets and was pretty much invisible during his time with the team. The former 20 goals scorer hasn’t reached that plateau since the 2010-11 season when he netted a career high of 27 goals with the Flames. Those days are over, but we’re glad to see Rene get another opportunity at this point in his career.
13 Dale Weise: Philadelphia Flyers
Good ol’ Dale Weise has enjoyed the highs and lows that come with being an NHLer. His top days came as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, which saw the forward absolutely thrive in an energy role for the club. Dale not only set career highs, but he became a beloved face in one of the greatest hockey markets in the world.
With the Habs fallings towards the bottom of the standings, they decided to trade away some of their veteran assets which included sending Weise to Chicago. The move turned out to be the ultimate low for Dale’s career, as he rarely played with the Hawks watching most of the games from the press box.
The failed experiment came to an end after the post-season and, thankfully for Weise, he was still able to find a home with the Flyers. Dale signed a four year deal and is currently slotted on the team’s third line.
12 Sam Gagner: Columbus Blue Jackets
Wikipedia still has his picture with the Oilers, which was the last time Sam Gagner was relevant in the NHL. Gagner had a huge ceiling when he was drafted by the Oilers as the sixth overall selection in the 2007 NHL Draft. His run with the team failed to hit the mark, although he did have an insane eight point night that tied Wayne Gretzky’s previous record for most points in a single game. Aside from that, his contributions were minimal.
He finally left Edmonton and joined the Coyotes, which saw the forward earn himself a prominent position on the team. His stock plummeted the next season when he joined the Flyers. His game suffered due to various injuries.
Which leads us to today, as Gagner was once again on the move, this time joining the Blue Jackets in August. He is currently slated as the team’s second line center. On a one year deal, Gagner has immense pressure to improve his game quickly.
11 Bryan Bickell: Carolina Hurricanes
Remember when Bryan Bickell was drafted by fantasy hockey owners at one point? Well, after signing a $16 million dollar deal for a four year term, those days came to an abrupt end. The Hawks went all in on the forward after his remarkable playoff run in 2012/13, but that was as good as it would get for Bickell. He played 25 games in his final season with Chicago and failed to score a single goal, as he spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.
His stock plummeted and the contract only made things worse. Ultimately, the Hawks were forced to deal Teemu Teravainen in a package deal that included Bickell and his awful contract.
In a surprise to many, Bickell is actually starting the season on Carolina’s main roster, managing to make the fourth line.
10 Kyle Quincey: New Jersey Devils
During his time in Detroit, Kyle Quincey was looked at as that dude who thought he was better than he truly was. Ultimately, his journey with the Wings was forgettable, as he had little to no impact on the team. After a long run as a Red Wing, the team elected to let him go via free agency in an effort to revamp their defense with some younger legs. Wings fans certainly didn’t object to the move at first, as they were starving for an upgrade on the backend (which they did not do).
As for Quincey, some fans thought he was playing overseas, although he is actually still a part of the NHL. The veteran signed a deal at the end of September, joining the Devils on a one year deal. Despite the fact that he signed so late, Kyle played with the team on opening night, joining the Devils’ third defensive pairing.
9 Josh Gorges: Buffalo Sabres
Similar to Dale Weise, Josh Gorges enjoyed better days as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. The city loved his heart and passion for not only the game, but for wearing the “bleu, blanc et rouge.” The heart and soul defenseman thrived and was rewarded with a huge deal for six years worth $3.9 million per season.
A little over two years after he signed the extension, Gorges was shipped off to the Sabres in a deal nobody saw coming. Gorges was saddened by the move and has been invisible since leaving the franchise. He is still with the Sabres and has scored two goals in his last two seasons, although goal scoring really isn’t his game. The former Hab actually holds a prominent position with Buffalo, playing on the first d-pairing alongside young stud Rasmus Ristolainen.
8 John-Michael Liles: Boston Bruins
Poor JML was another causality from the Leafs plethora of terrible contracts. Toronto awarded the d-man with an extension worth over $15 million (four year term) back in 2012. The contract was an absolute distaster and caused the team to send Liles down the next season.
After his awful Leafs run came to an end, JML bounced around the league, joining the Hurricanes and Bruins. His first year in Boston was short and uneventful, as he joined the team late in the season. Despite his short run with the team, Boston awarded the veteran with a one year deal worth $2 million.
Regardless of his age, which sees him turn 36 in November, Liles is still an asset and quarterbacks the Bruins second power play unit.
7 Scottie Upshall: St. Louis Blues
It seems like ages ago that Scottie Upshall was relevant in the NHL. He began his career with the Preds and would later bounce around the league going from west to east to west to east and back to the west. You guys still with us? Upshall has spent some time with Nashville, Philly, Arizona, Columbus, Florida and his current team the St. Louis Blues.
He joined the Blues on a successful PTO during the pre-season last year. Scottie played the majority of the year suiting up for 70 games and then extended his contract this year. He's now on the club's fourth line, playing alongside some other vets you may have forgotten about, which includes both Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reeves. If you plan on losing your hockey pool, we strongly suggest you pick up any of those three names.
6 Jack Skille: Vancouver Canucks
The Hawks had high hopes for the American born Jack Skille. The team selected the forward seventh overall in 2005 and marvelled at his potential with the team. Those hopes quickly faded away when he made his NHL debut with the team, as the forward failed to find his game and was later traded away to the Florida Panthers.
He was given plenty of changes with Florida, but failed to be consistent. He tried to find his game in Norway, only to return with to the Panthers on a lackluster note once again. His value diminished and he was later shipped off to Columbus and later Colorado.
The American forward stills finds himself as a an NHLer today, with the Canucks, earning himself a one year deal. He is yet to suit up with the team.
5 Chris Stewart: Minnesota Wild
A big hardnosed guy that can score, the Avs were thrilled when they drafted Chris Stewart 18th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, as they hoped he could be the next Claude Lemieux. That link was valid early on, as Stewart almost scored 30 in his second and third years. Following those seasons, however, his stock would plummet and he’d never be the same again. Stewart never scored more than 18 following that season and it lead the forward to being traded far too many times. The Scarborough native has spent time with St. Louis, Buffalo, Minnesota, Anaheim and has now gone back to the Wild, after signing a two year deal worth $2.3 million.
Despite his past shortcomings, he should be happy to be on a team at this point. The forward is currently slotted on the third line alongside Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter.
4 Jared Boll: Anaheim Ducks
Known for his heart and fighting abilities, Jared Boll managed to stay relevant for a while, wearing the Blue Jackets’ uniform. With the league changing and with less emphasis on fighting, his role began to diminish and he was later put on waivers after spending more than a decade with the team. It's a cruel league at times, but the players understand that it’s a business as well.
Several fans probably thought, and still think, his playing days were done, but that’s not the case. Boll signed a two-year deal with the Ducks, extending his career despite the fact that he plays an outdated role. With Randy Carlyle back at the helm, however, you can expect Boll to play a useful role. As of now, he has suited up for every game thus far on their fourth line.
3 Ryan White: Arizona Coyotes
Similar to Jared Boll, Ryan White’s type of play seems to be no longer relevant in today’s game, which is dominated by speed and skill. Unlike Boll, however, White does possess some upside in terms of offensive contributions, as last season he put up a career high of 11 goals. Although the number does seem low, it’s pretty impressive when you consider the amount of time he plays per game, along with the type of game he plays every night as an energy guy.
Despite his career year, the Flyers let him walk this summer. He signed a deal with the Arizona Coyotes on July 1st, a deal which seems to have went unnoticed. White is currently playing the wing on the team’s fourth unit, which includes Laurent Dauphin and Lawson Crouse.
2 Jonas Gustavsson: Edmonton Oilers
From joining the Leafs to heart problems, the career of Jonas Gustavsson has pretty much had it all. The veteran goalie joined the Leafs after he enjoyed an MVP season over in Sweden. Leafs fans once again over-estimated his potential and were left disappointed with his run in Toronto. His most noteworthy memory with the team was a bad one, after the goalie experienced a heart condition during a game and many thought his career was over at that point.
Not only was it not the end of his career, but The Monster has managed to thrive in a backup role, enjoying successful stints with two Original Six teams, the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
The journeyman was once again on the move this past season, signing a deal with Connor McDavid and the Oilers.
1 Devin Setoguchi: Los Angeles Kings
If you’re a sucker for heart warming stories, we’ve got one for you with Devin Setoguchi. The former 30 goal-getter enjoyed the prime of his career far too early when he netted 30 in his first full season in the NHL. He continued to put up solid numbers until he was shipped off to the Wild. From then on, his contributions would diminish and he’d spend time all over the place, from playing in the ECHL to stints with Winnipeg, Calgary and the AHL’s Adirondack Flames.
During his fall, Devin was struggling with alcoholic addiction behind the scenes, which caused him to lose his way. Set to get back in the NHL, Setoguchi joined HC Davos overseas and revitalized his career with the intent of coming back to the NHL.
On October 11th, just before the season began, his fantastic journey was complete after signing a deal with the Kings after a successful tryout.
What a story.