I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t want to see Peter Forsberg return to the NHL.
This whole line of thinking that an aged player should just walk away instead of returning because he’d “make a fool of himself” is silly – and it runs directly against how any one of us would approach anything we wanted to keep doing, even if we knew our best before date had passed.
If the guy wants to play in the NHL and is fully capable of still competing at that level, all the power to him. Who are any of us to run down the desire of one of the best offensive players from an era where offense barely existed?
Considering Forsberg played mostly during the Dead Puck Era, it’s amazing he never scored at a pace worse than a point-per-game prior to the lockout. Other prolific scorers of the day, such as Joe Sakic and Jaromir Jagr, had at least one season below that average.
Injuries no doubt conspired against Forsberg during his career, but that’s no reason to rob him of another return. From his sophomore season in 1995-96 to the NHL lockout in 2005, only Joe Sakic (six) and Jaromir Jagr (seven) appeared in the top 10 in NHL scoring more often than Forsberg (five). And don’t forget injuries held ‘Foppa’ out of the top 10 a few times: he played only 49 games in 1999-00, zero games in 2001-02 and 39 games in 2003-04. Had he been healthy, there’s reason to believe Forsberg would have appeared in the most top 10s. Heck, in 2003-04 he was on pace for more than 110 points in a year when Martin St-Louis topped the charts with 94.
And while Forsberg didn’t do it with goals, I’m not someone who will detract from the importance of an excellent playmaker. Milan Hejduk had by far his best season in 2002-03 playing alongside Forsberg, who won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy despite not even reaching 30 goals. The following season, which Forsberg missed half of, Hejduk’s production dropped by 15 goals and 23 points.
Aside from being a terrific playmaker, Forsberg could control the puck as well as anyone out there. The way he maneuvered in tight spots and protected the puck was just uncanny, even though that specific skill is probably diminished now that his ankle is a liability.
Say what you will about his injuries, but when Forsberg was healthy enough to play he would jump right back into top-line duties as if he never left. When he missed the entire 2001-02 season he returned to Colorado’s lineup in the post-season and promptly scored 27 points in 20 games. Then the following season he loaded up on NHL hardware.
In 2007-08, Forsberg returned with only nine games left in the season to the same predictable calls for him to stay away and not tear his legacy – he put up 14 points in nine games, then a productive five points in seven playoff games.
And while there’s no denying he was a part of some strong teams, you can’t say Forsberg’s career was defined by the great players around him. He led the Avalanche in scoring four times (to Sakic’s five) and when he was moved to the Philadelphia Flyers as a 32-year-old he was their most effective scorer two seasons in a row, until he was dealt off the sinking ship in 2006-07, while still posting 40 points in 40 games for one of the NHL’s worst teams.
So who doesn’t want to see this guy return? If Sakic came out tomorrow and said he’d like to come back I’d mark his return date down on the calendar. Heck, if Bobby Orr miraculously decided he could come back and made some NHL team, who wouldn’t be in line to buy a ticket?
This whole idea that Forsberg will make a fool of himself is just nonsense. As one of the greats of a slow era who played through injury after injury and returned from setbacks time and again, Forsberg deserves nothing but the admiration of all hockey fans who have ever asked their NHL stars to play just for the love of the game.
At this point in his career, after all he’s accomplished and overcome, who would deny Forsberg’s thirst for the NHL? Who would rob him and his fans of a chance for another surprise performance that could perhaps enhance his credentials?
And, even if he isn’t a monster producer, who would rob those who thoroughly enjoyed Forsberg’s presence of one last chance to see him at the highest level before time finally ticks against him and he’s really gone for good?
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His blog appears Tuesdays only on THN.com.
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