When you consider he probably could have successfully sold any number of NHL teams a bill of goods, you have to give Peter Forsberg high marks for honesty.
Lord knows, there were certainly enough suckers out there willing to take another chance on one of the most broken-down and overrated players to come around in a long while.
But Forsberg’s agent’s admission Monday that it’s “highly unlikely” he will play in the NHL this season, allows everyone to move on and not risk making an incredibly expensive mistake.
Ever since this saga began it seems like, oh, about a hundred years ago, there has been this bizarre Greta Garbo-like fascination with Forsberg from GMs who are under the illusion they’d be scoring the coup of the century if they could persuade Forsberg to join their team.
Some of them wasted good money flying to Sweden to try the ritualistic mating dance with him, but most of them wasted their time with visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their heads, with Forsberg showing the way.
A nice thought, if not totally misguided.
Five years ago? Sure, Forsberg would have been worth the effort, but now any team that would sign a player with Forsberg’s history of injuries would be courting disaster. There are a myriad of problems with Forsberg, not the least of which is the fact he cannot be counted on literally from one game to the next.
Teams that have Forsberg just start to get used to the contribution he can make before his foot swells up, or he tweaks his back, or gets hit by space junk and the team that once had such high hopes finds itself with a sizeable hole in its lineup.
And even if Forsberg can stay healthy long enough to play a stretch of good games, the Peter Forsberg teams would be getting in 2008 isn’t even close to the one they would have received a decade earlier.
Even without his foot problems, Forsberg is as broken down as any player could possibly be and he is a very old 34. Once a physical force, Forsberg has been forced to play much of his game on the periphery. And while he can still make mind-boggling passes from there, he is simply not the feared player he once was.
There was a time when Forsberg ran over people instead of going around them, but teams figured out pretty quickly one way to neutralize Forsberg in recent years was to go right after him themselves.
And thirdly, I’m not convinced even at his best, Forsberg is the mega-superstar some portray him to be. When surrounded by players just as talented as he was, there is little doubt Forsberg was a great player. But when he was counted on to lead a team, the results were much less impressive. Note the lack of playoff achievements his teams attained in his two seasons since the lockout with Philly and Nashville.
Recently, a professional colleague and friend whose opinion I value expressed shock and outrage at the fact that in our book, The Top 60 Since 1967, Adam Proteau and I had Brett Hull ranked ahead of Forsberg, with Hull at No. 22 and Forsberg at No. 24.
I went back and compared the two, only to realize Hull had almost 500 more goals than Forsberg did over the course of his career. Almost 500 goals! That’s a Hall of Fame career worth of goals between the two players.
Then my learned friend claimed Hull may have piled up the goal totals, but he almost never scored big ones during his career. Oh, is that so? Well, I guess scoring in overtime of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup final to clinch a championship isn’t considered a very big goal.
And the last time I checked my history books, Forsberg wasn’t even in the lineup for the Stanley Cup final the last time the Colorado Avalanche won it because – in a shocking development – he was out with an injury.
I don’t want it to seem as though I’m dumping on Forsberg. In his prime, he was truly a spectacular player and deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in a few years.
Things, perhaps, have been colored by the ongoing will-he-or-won’t-he melodrama and the fact supposedly sharp hockey men have been seemingly tripping over themselves to get him to sign a contract.
But now, to his credit, Forsberg has saved all of them the trouble of making a huge gaffe. That’s because if Forsberg had signed, there’s no way he would have signed a contract just for the balance of this season. He wanted multiple years and he would have gotten them, judging by the speculation the Minnesota Wild was apparently considering offering him a three-year deal.
Three years for Peter Forsberg at this stage of his career? You might as well throw your money, salary cap space and Stanley Cup dreams down the sewer.
Ken Campbell, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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