by Mike Chen on 10/06/08 at 03:42 PM ET
We’re in the stretch run now of this countdown, which means that regular-season hockey (erm, at least played on North American ice) is just a few days away. Today’s player, when healthy, was an utter force on the ice that could play any style possible. Perhaps that’s why ESPN Magazine once deemed him as The Ultimate Player back in the late 90s. Presenting #3: Peter Forsberg.
He may not have had the highest goal totals and he might not have been the healthiest player but when he hit the ice, you knew Peter Forsberg was there. A barrage of injuries and weird skate issues have derailed a career that should have made him one of the game’s greatest players (that’s a debate for another time). Ten years ago, however, Peter Forsberg was The Hockey News’s #3 player. And even considering his health problems—which admittedly hadn’t taken over his career yet at that point since he “only” missed 10 games in 97-98 and 17 games in 96-97—you could have argued that Forsberg was the best player in the league during that time.
What made Forsberg so great? Pretty much the same stuff that we saw during his brief flash with the Colorado Avalanche last season (note his high 1.56 points-per-game in his return): crisp passing, creative vision and playmaking, and the ability to control the puck—and hang onto it—like few in league history could have. The younger Forsberg wasn’t afraid to play a little dirty, with 94 PIMs in the 97-98 season. And his playoff performances were forces to be reckoned with. Case in point: then-Florida Panther coach Doug Maclean said that while the press was fawning over Joe Sakic in the 96 Cup Final, he was terrified of what Forsberg could do.
Of couse, Forsberg’s career took some strange turns in the decade since then. A removed spleen, a season sabbatical, a brief stop in Nashville, and a strange foot issue that just won’t go away have all chipped away at an otherwise brilliant career. There aren’t too many guys who can miss the whole season only to lead the league in playoff scoring. Still, when healthy and on the ice, Forsberg still brings it like few others can. While his health is more of a liability and distraction now, there are few teams out there that won’t at least give Foppa a cursory look if and when he says he’s healthy again.
Forsberg’s 2008 counterpart is fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg, a player who brings equal amounts of skill and hockey sense (though not the PIMs) to the table. Just like 98 Forsberg, it’s even possible to argue that Zetterberg should be #2 or #1 (and that’s not a knock on Ovechkin or Crosby). Zetterberg’s career points-per-game won’t ever match up to Forsberg’s, but his durability and defensive strength—as in single-handedly killing off a Pittsburgh 5-on-3 in a critical game—even up this skillset comparison.
Be the first to comment.
Add a Comment
Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.