With the news coming out about Theoren Fleury attempting to comeback to the NHL, coupled with Claude Lemieux's indifferent attempt this past season to come back; it makes you wonder what kind of epidemic this will create for past players who still think they have something left in the tank. While Lemieux's return seemed to be completely random, Fleury wanted to come back after playing semi-pro and got a trainer to help him out with getting back into shape, apparently.
While Fleury still has some hurdles to get past in order to get reinstated from his indefinite suspension for substance abuse, but with his new lifestyle of sobriety, I don't think that should be too much of a total problem. If those issues are behind him, the question for Theo becomes can he do it?? The question that will be reoccuring is who's next??
While Theo could be able to get himself into shape, he could be the exception to the rule. The more common case is like that of Claude Lemieux, where the heart and will is there, but the body as a whole is going to be the real struggling point to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the NHL style of play. With these two making it well known they are coming back, will this be the start of something that will become ridiculous in the next few seasons??
Let's be honest, both Fleury and Lemieux had nothing more to prove. Both had solid playing careers, both had Stanley Cup rings to their names-- so what was the point?? Was it to show people that they could do it like a hockey version of Jack LaLanne?? It seems a bit questionable as to why they are doing it. Sure, the end of both Lemieux and Fleury's careers were unceremonious at best, but it happened. Could this be a case of unfinished business at hand that both of them had to overcome in order to have closure?? Could this be a cheap way for Fleury to plug his autobiography....probably not, but I'm going for every angle right now.
Just who will take a chance on Fleury, especially in a cap era?? While his salary demands may be a slight bit more than league minimum, is there a team confident enough to sign Fleury and hope for the best?? While it may be early in the season, the old antics of Fleury may linger in some people's heads. Plus, who is to say that his playing style will be the same it was, minus the rage. If he can fit the mold of some teams plans, then it could be something worth watching, but I'm not so sure that there are teams with the space and the game plan to fit in Fleury.
Yet with Fleury's intentions out there, we look to see who could be the next old-timer to come out of their retirement and try their hand at the NHL ranks again. It's doubtful that Joe Sakic, Teppo Numminen, or Jeremy Roenick will come back. Both went out on their own terms and both don't have much to prove, though Roenick may want that ring-- it's doubtful a contender will give him a shot. Could we see Eddie Belfour pull a swerve and use his new gig as a goaltending consultant to get back into the NHL, even as a back-up. Hell, rumors of Ken Klee's retirement could be premature....or he could retire, then unretire within the hour and be the latest comeback story, though without the pomp and circumstances.
We will definitely have to see if this is going to become a big trend in the next few years. For one, I hope it's not because it's a little sad to see a once great player ruining their legacy in order to milk a paycheck or two to end out their careers. It'll be one thing for them to actually get onto a roster, but it's another thing for them to actually succeed in doing so by contributing to the greater good and not looking like a buffon out on the ice.