It’s a young man’s world, they say – especially when ‘they’ are young.
But no matter what your vantage point, there’s no denying youth rules the NHL these days. As of Thursday morning, none of the top three point-getters or goal-scorers in the league were born before 1984. That means they should be envied not only for their wily hockey talents, but also because they have virtually no memory of the atrocious fashion and pop culture crimes committed during the ’80s.
But not every thriving NHLer crashed on the scene with the recent youth wave. In fact, there are a couple greybeards greeting the night with all the rage of Terry O’Reilly tearing after a Hab.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Rob Blake, born in the winter of ‘69, turned 39 on Wednesday. Two years ago, when he signed with Los Angeles prior to the 2006-07 season, it was viewed as a veteran player returning to his point of origin to teach the next generation. Typically, when things come full circle, it’s a good indication a career is about to end.
So, when the Sharks signed him as part of a blueline rebuild before this season, there were all kinds of questions about what he could realistically contribute.
How does the second-best point total of his NHL career sound?
Blake’s five goals and 21 points through 27 games put him on pace for a 63-point campaign. You need to punch 1993-94 into the DeLorean to find the one season Blake put up numbers better than that. That year he scored 20 goals and 68 points for the Kings, the one and only time he exceeded the 60-point barrier in his career.
Not to be outdone, 37-year-old Islanders center Doug Weight is tracking the best season of his career since he stopped roaming the rink in northern Alberta.
Weight, who has 15 points in his past 15 games, has six goals and 26 points through 28 contests overall. That projects to a 76-point season, which would be the highest total he has posted since a 90-point effort in 2000-01, his final season with the Edmonton Oilers.
Now, as a former THN colleague was fond of saying, somebody always scores on a bad team. But Weight deserves a ton of credit for proving he can still do the heavy lifting as a squad’s top center. I certainly didn’t see that coming and have to believe many others are caught off guard by his success, too.
The question, naturally, is whether these old dogs can keep mushing through the winter and into the spring. I hope so, if only to show these young bucks they don’t have exclusive run of the league just yet.
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 appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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