A Hall of Famer and a co-worker got me thinking about legacies.
Sam McCaig, esteemed staff member here at The Hockey News, pointed out recently that if Joe Thornton is going to win a Stanley Cup before he’s 30, it’d have to be this season. Big Joe hits the big 3-0 on July 2, 2009.
In hockey terms, a player is likely smack in the middle of his career when he exits his 20s. Usually, a player’s late 20s and early 30s are his most productive years.
But as much as a player has likely reached his full potential by the time he turns 30, the perception of that player can still drastically change between that milestone birthday and the end of his career.
Take Steve Yzerman, for example.
Had Yzerman’s career been cut short by an unfortunate injury before his first Cup in 1997, he’d be remembered as an excellent offensive player who never got his team over the hump. Instead, after leading the Wings to their first championship in more than 40 years at age 32, Yzerman went on to carve out a reputation as one of the game’s all-time great captains over the second half of his career.
All this got me wondering which players will turn 30 this year still in search of a little silver in their life. As it turns out, some big names still have unfulfilled dreams.
Olli Jokinen, Phoenix – Forget Stanley Cups, Jokinen will still be a playoff virgin when he turns 30 on Dec. 5. While the Coyotes have an outside chance of making the post-season this year, Jokinen will have to make a big decision after the 2009-10 season when he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. If young ’Yotes Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller have become stars by then, his best bet may be to stick it out in the desert and see what happens.
Marian Hossa, Detroit – This could be a big, big year for Big Hoss. When he blows out the candles on Jan. 12, he’ll be wishing for another Red Wings parade come June. Not exactly a far-fetched notion. And even if Hossa’s birthday haul doesn’t include a Cup, his 30s will still be pretty sweet after he signs a new UFA deal in July worth somewhere around $65 million over eight years.
Brenden Morrow, Dallas – Of the players on this list, Morrow is the one who just now really seems to be hitting his stride. Quite simply, he’s become one of the best power forwards in the game. When he turns 30 on Jan. 16, Morrow can feel good about the chances Act Two of his career will include a special moment (or two) involving a handshake with the commissioner. And how good will that first Cup feel for Morrow given the fact Dallas lost in the Cup final during his rookie season of 1999-2000?
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver – Like Jokinen, Luongo left Florida without a playoff game to his credit, but got his first taste of post-season action with Vancouver. Now, as he enters Year 3 with the Canucks, the west coast is probably feeling a lot like South Beach did: nice scenery, no scoring. Luongo will turn 30 on April 4, just before this season’s playoffs begin. If the Canucks aren’t part of the spring festivities, it won’t help their cause in trying to secure Luongo to a long-term deal before he becomes a UFA in 2010.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
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