With Pavel Bure’s number set to be retired by the Vancouver Canucks, it’s the perfect time to day dream about him once again in a Canucks uniform. There have been a number of semi-retired players returning (or attempting to return in Dominik Hasek’s case) to the NHL in recent years, as well as some older players sticking it out for just “one more season”. As a Canucks fan, one can’t help but wonder if the most prolific scorer in team history could still make an impact if he laced up again. The best way I can come up with to measure Bure’s possible success in today’s NHL is by comparing him with some other recently returned or still active older players in the NHL. While there is no direct correlation between two players in the same league, we can still draw inferences regarding their on-ice productivity, injuries, and how they succeed in playing the game.
Jaromir Jagr returned from a 4 year hiatus and put up 54 points with the Flyers. Alright, so he was playing with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux, but it’s still impressive nontheless.
54 points – 20 on the PP
How he Succeeded:
Traditionally a run-and-gun player, Jagr looked more like a meat truck this season. The majority of the success he found on the ice came from being a big body with old man strength and having an unbelievable understanding of the game.
Jagr only missed 9 games to injury this season. Jagr has always been a fairly healthy player, playing three consecutive 82 game seasons prior to initially retiring.
Teemu is nothing short of a Nordic god. He has actively played in the NHL for 20 years and won a Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim ducks on the back of a 94 point season.
Last year alone, Selanne put up 66 points and the year before that, 80.
How he Succeeded:
Teemu entered the league as a pure speedster, but has changed strategy significantly since his rookie days. He now tends to clean up points on the power play from the slot and relies on his vicious wrister to get the better of goaltenders.
Last year was Selanne’s first full season since 06′-07. He has suffered a variety of injuries during his NHL tenure, although the worse stint has run over the past 4 years (from the age of 38-42).
Gauging Bure’s productivity in today’s NHL can’t be done solely on where he was at when he retired – ten years is a long time in the past for any hockey player. Still, Bure has always been a tremendous athlete with a buttery set of hands – both of which would remain a factor in his on-ice abilities.
Towards the end of his career in Florida and New York, Bure was still roughly a point per game player. in 2001 he had 69 points in 56 games, and in 2002 he had 30 points in 39 games. Not too shabby Mr. Bure.
Bure’s biggest issue has always been a bubonic plague of injuries. While there is no guarantee they could keep Pavel Bure healthy for 82 games, with today’s sports medicine they would have a much better shot of getting him on the ice consistently then when he retired 10 years ago. They could also treat his knee injuries far more effectively than in his playing days as arthroscopic surgery is now far less intrusive and heals much quicker than traditional surgery. This precedent for older athletes to be able to cope physically is shown by Jagr and Selanne, who have both managed to put up seasons with very few games missed.
How he Would Succeed:
If Bure tried to rely solely on his footspeed that made him so dangerous, there is no doubt that he would fall flat. However, if he adapted his game like Selanne and Jagr have and used his natural athleticism and understanding of the game, he would still be deadly on the ice.
Absolutely. Bure is an extremely talented player and has always been in great shape even after retirement – in fact, he’s in better shape than some active players who are going a little heavy on the cheeseburgers (see Byfuglien, Dustin).
The main point of contention for Bure would be ensuring that he is kept healthy. While this is no easy task, sports medicine and nutrition are miles ahead of when Bure last laced up 10 years ago.
In today’s NHL, so long as he can keep injuries in check, Pavel Bure would still stand out as an unbelievable talent. Just like Jagr and Selanne, Bure would be capable of playing as a top 6 forward on nearly any team in the league.