Friday, September 7, 2007

Mixed decisions for three veterans' careers

If you've been following the National Hockey League as a fan for over 20 years as I have, then you've seen the professional careers of Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick and Scott Niedermayer evolve into what have been very accomplished ones to date.

Turgeon decided two days ago to officially retire as a player after playing 19 seasons in the NHL. I remember earlier this summer some hints he was going to call it quits, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he did so. It seemed that the last few years have been forgettable ones and only played 17 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season due to leg injuries. When I'd see #77 on his sweater, I would only think of maybe two players. One of them being Turgeon. I remember him breaking into the league with the Buffalo Sabres donning the blue and gold. Then I recall the boarding incident on Long Island where Washington Capitals forward Dale Hunter three a vicious cheapshot check on Turgeon into the sideboards during a 1993 playoff game. This was done after Turgeon scored a memorable goal in an Islanders victory. Another big moment of his career I can think of immediately was when he carried a symbolic torch for the Montreal Canadiens when that team played their last game at the Forum and then their first at Bell Centre. While he played well for his next team in the St. Louis Blues, he didn't exactly put up the kind of numbers I was used to seeing as a member of the Dallas Stars and then his final team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Montreal-area native scored 515 goals and had recorded 812 assists for 1,327 points in 1,294 games in his career. Not too shabby to say the least. Is he a Hall of Fame candidate? It remains to be seen, but I'm sure we'll find sooner or later.

Despite reports indicating he was retiring, Jeremy Roenick decided to play at least one more season and go for that elusive 500-goal plateau. Two straight forgettable campaigns since the lockout have had observers thinking he was done. J.R. had just 20 goals in his 128 games played. Los Angeles Kings fans will probably remember him more for his dancing on the ice during one game than anything else. I remember the gushing optimism coming from him after making a return to Phoenix last summer and being pumped up to rejuvenate himself and the fans. It obviously didn't pan out for him. The Coyotes are in their worst period in club history and rebuilding. They had no plans for him to return for another season, especially with his incident in Vancouver last December where he left General Motors Place in the middle of a game to go eat dinner and also for his lack of production on a bad team. At least he went out on a good note where he scored an empty-netter in his final game as a Coyote. Where is Roenick now? He signed a one-year contract worth $500,000 to play for the division rival San Jose Sharks. J.R. sure wants that ring, doesn't he? Can't blame him for trying.

But the most frustrating decision (or lack thereof here) is what Scott Niedermayer wants to do. Does he retire on a high note with his fourth Stanley Cup ring after winning one with the Anaheim Ducks back in June? Or does he still want to go for a repeat? He had a media conference call yesterday to take questions about his thoughts on what he wants to do. Turned out to be a waste of time as he is still undecided. I certainly don't want to see this as a distraction at training camp for the Ducks and if this is the case for any other NHL team, who needs it? That's all we'll hear throughout training camp and into the preseason as reporters ask the coaching staff or players... "Is Niedermayer coming back? Is Selanne coming back? Heard anything?" I can see that now. Teemu Selanne hasn't made up his mind either as his decision apparently hinges on what Niedermayer decides to do. Ugh, just decide already so the Ducks can move on with or without you. They are either way, but where general manage Brian Burke goes from here remains to be seen. But if both retire, he can lean on safety net replacements in Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi. This should get interesting for how much longer Niedermayer and Selanne everyone waiting.

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