Monday, February 14, 2011

Forsberg calls it quits

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The second NHL comeback of former superstar Peter Forsberg is over after just two games.

Forsberg, the 37-year-old Swede who hooked on with the Avalanche last week, made it official on Monday afternoon.

"The time has finally come, I am retiring from the game of ice hockey,” said Forsberg.  “I’ve played hockey all my life but I’ve come to the decision that I’ve played my final game.  It is perfect for me to announce my retirement here in Denver, as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.”

The news comes as a shock, with Colorado in the midst of a seven- game losing streak that has seen the club tumble to 14th in the Western Conference.

Once the sixth-overall pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1991 draft, “Foppa” eventually came back home for a 100-game stint from 2005-07.

Forsberg announced his intentions of attempting a comeback last month. The former league MVP had been hindered by foot/ankle problems as far back as his time with the Flyers, but after skating with the Avalanche for a couple weeks last month, he pronounced himself healthy and signed a contract with the club on February 6 for the remainder of the season. Visa issues then kept him out of the lineup until this past weekend.

Nearly three years removed from his last NHL action, Forsberg made his season debut Friday at Columbus. He also played Saturday as Colorado closed out a four-game road trip in Nashville, but was held pointless in both contests and finished with a minus-4 rating.

It was a far cry from his initial return to the game, a nine-game trial with a veteran-laden Avalanche club at the tail end of the 2007-08 campaign. Forsberg tallied one goal and 13 assists in nine regular-season appearances, then added five points in seven playoff games.

Aided by the likes of Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny, the Avalanche topped Dallas in the first round but a sudden rash of injuries derailed the team against rival Detroit in a four-game sweep to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

Forsberg then returned home to Sweden, but, hampered by those same foot/ankle issues, only played in 26 games over the next two seasons in the Elite League with his hometown club MoDo Ornskoldsvik.

The Avalanche organization will retire Forsberg’s #21 jersey during a special ceremony next season. Details of that event will be announced in the coming months.

“We were proud to offer him the opportunity to come back and play for the Avalanche and certainly respect his decision,” said Avalanche General Manager and Executive Vice President Greg Sherman. “We wish him all the best.”

It is the end of a journey for the slick centerman who made his reputation in the NHL almost single-handedly attempting to dispel all negative stereotypes about European-trained players.

Just as likely to burn a defenseman with a deke or pass as he was to take one on in the corners, Forsberg’s career was shortened and his impact on the game muted by his litany of injuries.

Arriving in Quebec City in a package deal after the blockbuster 1992 trade for Eric Lindros, Forsberg burst onto the international scene by scoring the game-winning shootout goal over Canada in the Gold Medal game at Lillehammer against Team Canada.

He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in the lockout-shortened 1995 season, posting 50 points in 47 games for the Nordiques in their final season of existence.

In 1996, Forsberg was a key cog in the first of two Avalanche Stanley Cup titles, notching 116 points in the regular season and scoring a hat trick in Game 2 of the Finals against Florida. Though he remained an offensive force, Forsberg never again played a full NHL season for the rest of his North American tenure.

He missed 17 games in 1996-97, and then 33 games in 1999-2000. A ruptured spleen caused him to miss the final two rounds of the Avs’ 2001 Cup run, and multiple issues wiped out the entire following regular season.

After a successful 2002 playoffs, Forsberg tallied a league-high 106 points in 2002-03 and took home the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, but more injuries caused a total of 43 absences the very next year.
Philadelphia finally welcomed Forsberg prior to the start of the 2005-06 campaign, but foot and ankle problems and subsequent surgeries, limited him to 60 games. Though he totaled 75 points, the Flyers bowed to Buffalo in the first round.

After just forty games of the next season, Forsberg was dealt to Nashville in a deal which eventually netted the club Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent. The Predators fell to San Jose in the first round and Forsberg began to contemplate his place in the game, eventually returning in March, 2008 to Denver.

Nonetheless, he had a positive impact on the career of Simon Gagne, who recorded career-bests in goals during the 05-06 and 06-07 seasons while playing as a winger on the top line with Forsberg.

Over 708 regular-season games, Forsberg accumulated 249 goals and 885 points and was a plus-238. In 151 playoff appearances, he racked up 64 goals and 171 points.

He departs as the fourth-highest scoring Swedish-born player in NHL history.  Only Mats Sundin (1,349), Nicklas Lidstrom (1,090) and Daniel Alfredsson (1,023) have posted more points.

No comments: