Golden oldies: The best seasons for players above the age of 35

Thumbnail image for gordiehowe.jpgI discussed NHL.com’s list of the best teenage debuts yesterday, so it only makes sense that the site’s master historian/genius filler creator John Kreiser came up with the polar opposite post today. He listed the best seasons for players above the age of 35, something that player agents may someday want to point to when people assume a player won’t play into his 40s.

(Not to oversimplify the reasons behind why Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract was rejected, of course.)

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of another great summertime diversion from the league’s official Web site.

100 POINTS

Gordie Howe, 1968-69 (age 41)
Johnny Bucyk, 1970-71 (age 35)
Wayne Gretzky, 1995-96 (age 35)
Joe Sakic, 2006-07 (age 37)

No athlete in the history of North American professional sports is comparable to Gordie Howe. “Mr. Hockey” was a great player when he was young and when he was old enough (almost) to be the father of some of his teammates. But his best NHL season, in terms of points, was in 1968-69. One day before his 41st birthday, Howe scored a goal in Detroit’s 9-5 loss to Chicago (the Red Wings’ 76th of 78 games) to reach the 100-point mark for the first (and only) time in his NHL career.

The coolest part of the Howe legacy is that he managed to play high-end hockey in his mid-40s, with his sons in the World Hockey Association. Whatever a naysayer might say about diluted competition, it’s still astounding that he compiled 100, 102, 99 and 96 point seasons at ages that go well beyond the 43-year-old mark Kovalchuk’s rejected contract would have expired at.

joesakic100.jpgKreiser points out that Gretzky managed to hit that 100-point mark at age 35, the last time he would accomplish that goal in his ridiculously storied career. Kreiser also points out how unexpected Joe Sakic’s 100 point season was in 2006-07 as the great goal scorer hadn’t hit that mark since the 2000-01 campaign. Finally in the forward group, Kreiser points out that Johnny Bucyk was the only 35-plus hockey player to hit the 50-goal plateau in the 70-71 season.

He moves on to Norris Trophy winners over the age of 35, mentioning Doug Harvey, one of those historic game-changers whose impact couldn’t properly be measured by statistics. He then mentions a player who may very well have been the best player of the ’00s.

Nicklas Lidstrom, 2005-06 (age 35); 2006-07 (age 36); 2007-08 (age 37)

Who was the best position player in the first decade of the 21st century? It’s hard to argue with Lidstrom, who won the Norris Trophy in 2001, 2002 and 2003, missed in 2004, then came back and won three more in a row after turning 35 before finishing third in 2009. He didn’t make the final three in 2010, but that may have been a reflection of the injuries that decimated Detroit more than any slippage in his play.

martinbrodeurglance.jpgFinally, Kreiser mentioned the Vezina Trophy winners beyond the age of 36. Dominik Hasek made up for lost time (he didn’t become a full-time start until he was around 30) while Martin Brodeur has been quite possibly the most consistent goalie ever despite an insane amount of mileage throughout his record breaking career.

Though Brodeur sustained the first major injury of his career (a torn biceps tendon) in 2008-09, it’s not unthinkable that he could win another Vezina — after all, he led all goaltenders in wins (45) and shutouts (9) in 2009-10 and was a finalist for the award.

Read on for full summaries of the great golden-oldies seasons in the NHL, from those previously mentioned players and categories as well as guys who were named to First All-Star Teams at such an advanced age.

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    Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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    The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

    Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

    Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

    The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

    The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

    Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

    Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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    The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

    The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

    Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

    It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

    Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

    In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

    That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

    Well, that was fast.

    The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

    If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

    Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

    Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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    The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

    It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

    This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

    Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

    It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

    Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

    The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

    Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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    Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

    The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

    Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

    You can watch the play by clicking here.

    Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

    The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.