NHL Lockout: These Ten Players May Not Return Next Season
Ten Probable Retirements
Let’s face it, we’re all sick and tired of this lockout.
You know who else is sick of the lockout? Players who probably won’t be coming back next season. They’re the guys hitting or closing in on the magical age of 40-something who were maybe hoping to use this season as their farewell tour of the NHL (and by farewell, I don’t mean acting like Cher or KISS and extending it for three years). These guys know twilight is creeping on their careers, and not being able to share the last 82+ games they’ll ever play professionally has to be frustrating, to put it mildly. They’re not going to get the season that Niklas Lidstrom had or have the chance to sign a one-day contract and come full circle like Mike Modano did with the Dallas Stars.
Instead, they’ll end their time on the ice in Europe, away from the NHL and the fans who’ve supported them, or they’ll putter around in North America hoping the lockout ends soon. It’ll be a sad chapter in the lives of these guys, and there’s no rewrite to this book. In a perfect world, we’d be able to send them off properly, but we’ll probably just get a ceremony before a game next season and the eventual jersey retirement. That’s a real letdown. They deserve better than that.
These next ten players may never grace NHL ice with their presence after this season. It’s a shame and a sin, because regardless of team affiliation, we all deserve to see them end their careers the right way – with respect and admiration.
Draft year: 1994
Alfredsson turns 40 on December 11 and really had to think about coming back for one more season. He’d recovered nicely from offseason back surgery last year but was felled for five games by a concussion for the first time in his career in October. He’s the face of a team he’s known for his entire career. In a year when Ottawa Senators fans should be celebrating the team’s 20th anniversary, they would also be mixing in a nice goodbye to Alfredsson at their last home game.
Draft year: 1993
Brunette’s been with six teams in his career, and the Chicago Blackhawks thought they’d use him for experience and endurance, both of which he brought to their game last season. Unfortunately, he experienced career lows in everything, even when he seemed to magically trigger a Blackhawks win when he’d score a goal. When he was interviewed during the team’s exit meeting day in April, he seemed incredibly dejected and suggested that he might’ve played his last season ever.
Draft year: 1990
Jagr ranks up there with Martin Brodeur and Dwayne Roloson as someone who’s lived through all three lockouts, and he didn’t waste a moment in heading to the Czech Republic to play for the team which he also owns. He was supposed to start with the Dallas Stars this season, which seems like the safe thing to do if this should his last year in the NHL. Pittsburgh Penguins fans probably wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms if he announced his retirement, but they’d surely welcome his departure.
Draft year: 1992
Khabibulin is in the last year of his four-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers, and this will probably be his last season with or without a lockout. Numerous injuries kept him from the net during last season, and even though he was third star of the month for October 2011, his numbers were terrible, which just made the Oilers’ miserable season worse. If the season is lost, it will just be one of numerous reasons for him to leave the sport.
Draft year: 1993
Mayers has been a journeyman player with stops in Calgary, Toronto, St. Louis and San Jose before settling in with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s also been one of the players who has voiced his opinion about the lockout, having lived through the last one. Blackhawks fans love him and were happy that he’d re-signed with the team, but he’s hinted that a canceled season may be the straw that breaks his back and forces him to call it a career.
Draft year: 1994
Nabokov caused a scene in 2011 when he refused to play with the New York Islanders after they’d picked him up on waivers. After sitting out half the 2010-11 season and being allowed clearance to play in the 2011 IIHF World Championships in exchange for not contesting an extension of his contract for the next season, he went to training camp and ended up playing 42 games. He was supposed to play once again for the Islanders, but he may decide against it if the situation changes.
Draft year: 1991
Like Mayers, O’Donnell’s journeyman career brought him to the Chicago Blackhawks via six teams and a Stanley Cup, and he was added mainly as a mentor to the younger players. When he was on the ice in his 51 games during the 2011-12 season, his play was flat and unproductive, and he only registered seven points for the entire season, all of them assists. If he retires, and he most likely will, it’ll be a pretty anticlimactic end to his career.
Draft year: undrafted
Roloson’s the oldest active player in the NHL and was traded from Edmonton to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011, getting as far the Eastern Conference Finals. But his future is really uncertain at this point – the Lightning have a new goalie in Anders Lindback, and there’s not much of a market for goaltenders at this time. Even if the perfect situation were to arise, he’d be a backup at best. He may just decide it’s not worth it to stay in the game.
Draft year: 1988
I’m sorry, but this is where I would draw the line at my dislike and loathing of Gary Bettman and cross into pure hatred. If he allows the season to be lost, it won’t be just Anaheim Ducks fans who will be robbed of the chance to send off Selanne in the manner he deserves. Fans worldwide will have no closure to the storied career of such an amazing athlete who commands respect from everyone. If Selanne isn’t given a proper farewell, fans will never forgive Bettman for the ultimate insult.
Draft year: 1994
Thomas had it all – a Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the accolades of Boston Bruins fans. But when it came time for President Obama to honor the team at the White House, he opted out of the meeting for stupid ideological reasons. Now he’s on a leave of absence from the team while hockey fans still ridicule him for his snub, and he didn’t hint at even being ready for the 2014 Winter Olympics. It makes fans wonder if he’ll return or just exercise his rights as an individual and hang up the blocker and mitt.