Hossa’s age just one of the challenges facing Blackhawks

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Did you know that Marian Hossa is the second-oldest forward still playing in these playoffs?

It’s true — only Martin St. Louis, 39, is older.

In the playoffs, Hossa, 36, has been the fifth-oldest forward overall. During the regular season, only 17 forwards in the entire league were older than he was.

Why are we bringing this up? Because Hossa only played 14:44 last night in Anaheim, his lowest ice time in these playoffs.

So, is he hurt? Or, is he just tired?  

Yesterday, an article in the Chicago Sun-Times questioned whether all the “marathons” the Blackhawks have played this postseason were taking a toll:

Hossa as much as any Hawk gives it all he’s got. You can see the determination in his game. But the reality is that after 17 seasons in the NHL, he is challenged more than most to maintain his level of impact as the minutes pile up. 

To be sure, Hossa remains a very effective player. He has 11 points in 15 playoff games, and his possession stats are among the best on the Blackhawks. But his age is a factor, whether fans like it or not. It’s the same thing in Boston with Zdeno Chara and Detroit with Pavel Datsyuk.

Hossa may not get the accolades those two do, possibly because so much attention is given to teammates Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. But he’s been vitally important in the Blackhawks’ two championship runs in the last five years. There aren’t many, if any, wingers who play such a strong two-way game.

Hossa isn’t going anywhere. He still has six seasons left on his front-loaded, 12-year contract — the kind of contract they don’t allow anymore. There could be a cap-recapture issue down the line.

But for the Blackhawks to remain contenders over the next few years, it’ll be up to youngsters like Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin to step up and offset the decline in Hossa’s play — a decline that happens to even the greatest players as they get older.