Peter Forsberg last played in the NHL at the end of the 2007-08 season with Colorado. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Remember that fantastic Dana Carvey character from Saturday Night Live? No, not ‘The Church Lady.’ I’m talking about ‘The Grumpy Old Man,' who redefined the word “cantankerous” before John Tortorella provided the definitive redefinition a few years thereafter.
Carvey’s character was satirizing the romanticizing of the past that, for many people, always accompanies the passage of time; indeed, for The Grumpy Old Man, no aspect of the modern world could ever compare to the glory days of his youth.
Why am I bringing this up?
Because Peter Forsberg’s hockey career appears to be enjoying yet another fist-through-the-dirt episode a la the classic horror film Carrie.
Because, slowly but surely, the whispers of another NHL comeback from him are growing louder.
And mainly because I don’t want any more NHL fan bases to suffer through another high-risk/low-reward saga that has been Forsberg’s hallmark since 2006.
Prior to that, there was no doubt the Swede deserved to be recognized as one of the game’s all-time greats. He was as fearless and fearsome as Eric Lindros, without the menacing physical frame (or the willingness to drive Bob Clarke to an early grave) of the man he once was traded for.
In terms of on-ice creativity and bred-in-the-bone determination, Forsberg had few peers. Anyone who watched him emerge as arguably the planet’s most electrifying playmaker during his halcyon days in Colorado knows full well how much more dominant he would have been if he spent his 20s in today’s more talent-friendly NHL.
Unfortunately, that kind of conjecture isn’t worth the breath or brainwaves spent on it, because the reality is Forsberg’s career arc peaked during a period where his opponents were permitted to do everything short of mace-ing and maiming him on the ice.
And his willingness to absorb huge amounts of punishment took a merciless toll on his 6-foot frame; if you check out his injury report – just since the turn of the century – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an entire expansion franchise’s history of medical maladies.
Which brings us back to the present – and Forsberg’s umpteenth attempt at an NHL return.
I’m not contending he should be forced to retire once and for all. If Forsberg wants to continue to play in Sweden, or accept a king’s ransom in Russian rubles by playing in the Kontinental League, he can do so for the next 10 years and I’d never utter a peep in protest.
However, any NHL franchise tempted to clear out cap space and a roster spot for him should be immediately audited for an outbreak of Mad ‘Now!’ Disease – a virus many teams are infected with around trade deadline time, when GMs and owners become convinced they’re just one key player away from a Stanley Cup championship run.
I don’t know about you, but if I were a GM, I’d much rather see how a young player on my roster would perform in a highly-pressured post-season situation – and have him learn from it for subsequent Cup chases – than take a chance on a 36-year-old who has played only 144 NHL games since the 2004-05 lockout ended.
Ask the Nashville Predators if they still would trade away Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall, a first round draft pick and a third-rounder for Forsberg, as they did in 2007. After they drop the standard platitudes about hindsight and 20/20, they’d have to admit the 22-game gamble wasn’t worth it.
Forsberg’s surname forever will be associated with on-ice brilliance. But only a Grumpy Old Man and his endless paeans to the past would assume there’s a solid chance Forsberg’s history will be repeated.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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