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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    Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

    His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

    As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    “He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

    Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

    At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

    He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

    Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

    Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

    Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

    But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

    “I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

    “I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”

    Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

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    The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

    After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.

    The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.

    Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.

    But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.

    As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.

    After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.

    Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.

    Video: Sharks’ Polak snaps, Blues make him pay on the power play

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    San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.

    In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.

    The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.

    The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.