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Bits: For Modano, Weight, familiar endings loom

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Hard to let that thrill go, I suspect.
Hard to let that thrill go, I suspect.

Neither Doug Weight nor Mike Modano have announced their retirement, but certainly signs point to "yes." Each has talked about it in recent months with the needle pointing toward "empty" for these USA Olympians, part of the star crew that won the 1996 World Cup.

I'm the type who never, ever says, "That guy should just retire already." Maybe that stems from a life spent loving and playing this sport (at meaningless levels) and experiencing the void when injuries hinder you or take you off the ice. To me, you've got one life, one health, one window -- so as long as you have the opportunity to play, you take it until you decide it's over. I figure that's what Weight's decision-making process has been about.

That said, this earned right of the player makes for tough endings for fans, in a "back of the hockey card" sense. Think of what the back of Mike Bossy's hockey card would have looked like had he struggled on through three more seasons truncated by back injuries. Or think of the bottom of Modano's card, which now tails off from 57 points, to 46, to 30 and then finally this awkward 15 in the funny red uniform.

As fans, we like tidy narratives that end well, "legacy" intact. Scenes like Willie Mays as a Met are forgotten. We like Dave Andreychuk to go out a storied Cup winner (finally!) in Tampa Bay, not as the guy who held on for one more year and retires mid-stream. More Lanny MacDonald or Jim Brown, less Brett Favre or Mark Messier.

But it's not our call. We can all see the writing on the wall. We can all hope our team doesn't make too big a bet on the health of an aging star. But it's hard to begrudge a guy for giving it every last try to play this child's game on its biggest stage. Sometimes it turns up roses. Usually it turns up Nieuwendyk.

And it's a familiar drill: For Weight -- who when healthy these last few years has looked better than Modano -- the end comes through a series of injuries (shoulder, back) that short-circuit every "best shape of my life" start. Worse for Modano, whose earnest attempt at a diminished role on a contender this season was sabotaged by a freak skate cut injury. Modano's been a healthy scratch these playoffs. For captain Weight, it never got that low.

So it went for Steve Yzerman (34 points in 2005-06 "on one knee"), for Keith Tkachuk (32 in 2009-10, with a major facial injury altering his final months) and so many others.

Bill Guerin lucked out both with health and in that his final seasons were spent on the wing of the league's top center, on a team that tried to use wingers on a budget. On any other team, Guerin doesn't pot 21 goals each of his final two seasons (combined minus-21), as underlined by his very end, when he wasn't re-signed and tried to land a training camp job in Philadelphia.

It can be painful to watch and easy to forget. But I don't blame these guys one bit.

 

Links

John Tavares on HNIC Radio

Tavares scored in Canada's shootout win over the U.S. (Conklin, not Montoya). [FanShot]

Meanwhile, in host Slovakia's game against their next-door rivals, history has never ever seen a more accurate headline, full stop.

The Coyotes live another year.

Sean Bergenheim joins a wonderful list of clutch unlikely playoff scorers. Patrick Flatley is a curious mention there (and is rightly labeled "not a surprise in retrospect"). Seeing Jim Campbell on there (no relation to the current villain) made me throw up. Eddie Johnston's quote on Dave Lowry is classic.

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NHL and Such:

Remember: Just because you're not Czech doesn't mean you can't be perfect, too.