It used to be that the veteran players were the leaders on any given NHL team, however times are changing. Many NHL players see their peak performance before the age of 27 these days. By the time a player gets to age 37, he is a good 10 years past his prime. In fact the NHL had just 18 players over 36 years of age last season. Only six of those players (Craig Adams, Martin St. Louis, Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Marek Zidlicky) appeared in 70 or more games. Clearly father time takes a toll of these players, however they can still provide value not only in the dressing room but on the ice as well.
One way to determine a player’s overall impact on a team relies on two key statistics, everyone’s favorite Corsi (shot attempts) and a relative newcomer (courtesy of war-on-ice.com) High Danger Scoring Chances. The Shot Attempts statistic tells us how much time a player spends in the offensive zone relative to his teammates. The High Danger Scoring Chance statistic gives us an idea of how dangerous a player’s line is while in the offensive zone. All the puck possession in the world won’t help if you are not able to generate high percentage scoring chances.
The below table shows the Corsi and Higher Danger Scoring Chances for relative added together (CHSimp). The players are then ranked by their overall impact on their team. Only six players had an overall positive impact in these areas including Shane Doan (Coyotes), Lubomir Visnovsky (Islanders), Marek Zidlicky (Devils/Red Wings), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Dan Boyle (Rangers) and Jaromir Jagr (Devils/Panthers).
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A number of these players will be bidding adieu to the NHL this off season and a new crop of grey beards will follow in their footsteps. The hardest part for any professional athlete is knowing when to step away from the game while they still have something left to contribute. For the likes of Jagr and Chara, they still have a great deal left in the tank and will be integral to their respective team’s success this coming season. Can they continue to defy the aging process and remain valuable NHLer’s? Only time will tell, but that’s the one thing that is working against them the most.