Age is a funny thing in professional sports. Now that I’m on the wrong side of 35, I am downright flabbergasted when I see an athlete about my age, or, god forbid, even older. While I spend every day reminding myself that I’m not THAT old, and I make an art form out of raging against the dying of the light, when I see a pro athlete who is no longer a twentysomething, I almost instinctively regard them as a washed-up shell to be treated with suspicion and/or pity, and only in rare cases with respect or admiration for past accomplishments and the ability to overcome the inevitable ravages of time.
The Ducks are a team managing to have both ends of that spectrum, and as fans of a team with an aging core already showing signs of decline, Hawks fans should take note. Who are the washed-up shells? Trade-deadline-acquisition Chris Kelly would have to be at the top of that list. I mean, really, what in the fuck was that all about? Did Bob Murray really think his Olympics performance would make up for being out of the league all season? I know Kelly scored the winning goal in the bronze medal game but it was against a bunch of literal nobodies from the Czech Republic (seriously, Martin Erat was on their team).
The Senators walked away from Kelly before the season started and no one, not even the Oilers, were willing to take this guy for their bottom six. But sure, there can’t be anyone in the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, or at a men’s league somewhere in Irvine for fuck’s sake, who could be had cheaply for the playoff push.
Next would have to be Jason Chimera, who has gone through the looking glass to become the literal embodiment of his name, i.e., a thing that is hoped for that is impossible to make a reality. Chimera’s possession numbers have never been good, and he’s managed a meager two goals all season. He scored 20 goals in his last two seasons with the Islanders and the Capitals, which is the truly shocking thing here. His evaporation back into nothingness is not the surprise—it’s that any team trying to squeeze into the playoffs would waste any energy on him.
Ryan Kesler’s injury isn’t something to be pinned on Murray or the rest of the Ducks organ-I-zation, but it’s emblematic of what comes with an aging team. And Kesler is an example of a guy (33 years old) who isn’t actually a senior citizen in sports terms or otherwise but now seems as good as one with his busted-up hip, that scourge of grandparents everywhere.
On the other side of this nursing home bingo game are guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Despite having his face pulverized earlier this season, Getzlaf is second in points on the team (although not especially prolific goal-wise). He’s been streaky, but his shooting percentage is a healthy 9.5, his possession numbers are solid (53.1 CF% and a 5.1 CF Rel), and did I mention he’s second in points even though he was out for about six weeks?
Granted, that stat says more about the rest of the Ducks and their scoring malaise than it does about Getzlaf, but you can’t deny he’s making himself useful. Corey Perry is doing the same and is right behind Getzlaf in points, but that is literally the only mildly positive thing I can say about this asshat, so let’s just leave it at that.
The Ducks aren’t the oldest team in the league (haha Red Wings); in fact, they’re the seventh-oldest. But given the uneven nature of older players’ performance and health—not to mention their asinine roster moves making it worse—they’ll need to finally accept that where physical skill is concerned, maturity and experience will not always beat youth and enthusiasm.
Game #66 Preview