“He’s too slow…”
“His production will take a hit once he hits 30 years old…”
“He’ll break down.. They all break down…”
The usual sentiments from the “experts” when they speak of your prototypical NHL calibre power-forward. And, well – It is hard to argue in certain cases. But when you take a look at the previous crop of power-forwards…The Big picture – Yes, understanding that it was a different era – you’ll notice something that isn’t so different from your average NHL professional athlete.
Now let me preface this – I am by no means comparing Anders Lee directly to any of these players, as it wouldn’t be a fair assessment. Anders longevity hasn’t come to fruition yet, and some of these comparisons I’m about to present are from what I consider future Hall Of Famers. Hopefully, someday, he will be there with the Islanders crest on. But, as history has shown – there are no guarantees at the National league level.
But I digress…
At 6’2 235lbs in his heyday, I think we all can agree Keith was your stereo-typical power forward in his 20 year NHL career. Yes, you read that correctly… 20 years. Fourteen of those, he managed to bury 25 or more goals…Doing that five-times after his 30th birthday. Majority of the time, while taking a beating in front of the net.
“But he’s a Hall-Of-Famer!”… Well, American Hockey Hall of Fame, and yes – he’ll probably be honored at some point in the NHL… But see my preface above.
A more current version of a power-forward seeing how Jarome was still playing at 40 years old… According to QuantHockey in 2013, the average career last only about 5 seasons, with only 4% of players dressing for 1000-plus games. With the game changing immensely since 2013, you can make arguments for both sides on whether it’s easier or harder to last longer now-a-days. In his 21 years of NHL hockey, Jarome had put up 25-plus goals in 15 of those. And with 6 of those 21 years coming after his 30th birthday…
Ok, ok, ok… I could go on and cite numerous examples of successes. There is, of course, the other side of the coin. What if Anders gets hurt (a la Cam Neely or Eric Lindros)? What if he does indeed “hit the wall”, like what it looks is happening to a guy like Milan Lucic? My response to that would be, “Well, that’s a whole-lot of ‘what-ifs’…” Player performances are NEVER a given, in ANY sport. It wasn’t a given that Michael Jordan would become one of (if not the) greatest NBA player of all time. Sam Bowie was drafted in front of him for crying-out-loud, and how did his professional career go?!… But history does prove, that when a player does put up above average numbers, it’s a rarity (barring injury of course) for them to just completely fall off the map in their “prime” athletic years.
Throwing out his first two years, because he played 2 and 22 games respectively – Anders Lee has played 4 full-seasons thusfar. In the greatest hockey league on the planet, the kid has put up 25, 15, 34, and finally 40 goals respectively. He’s 27 years old, arguably not even in his prime yet. In today’s era, what do you think a guy who has that kind of production is worth on the open market?
I haven’t even touched upon his intangibles… Long time Islanders writer, Arthur Staple, in one of his recent TheAthletic.com articles was quoted as stating – “…with Tavares gone, and Lee is one of the first names that jump out when you consider the nest Isles captain. He’s a natural leader”. He enjoys playing for the franchise – we all know how that’s a touchy subject these days. Arthur Staple stated in the same article “Despite Tavares bolting the Island, Lee [is] happy here and there seems to be no desire to wait and see from [the] player’s camp…” Yes, I know – we heard that one before. But the good news is I’m yet to find any Anders Lee pajama pictures after my hours of scouring the internet. So, they have that going for them.
So what does Lamoriello and company do?
That would depend on what the Islanders long-term plan is. Is Lou going full-rebuild mode? Or, is he staying with what was originally put out via his numerous interviews, that everything is “fixable” with his famous ever-morphing 5-year’ish plan. It’s been said before, but I don’t see a guy like Barry Trotz coming aboard for an all-out rebuild. Unfortunately, if Lou’s tight lipped history stays consistent as it always has – we’re not going to know until it happens.
With all that being said, I see the Islanders attempting to lock up Anders long-term. Granted, it will certainly be on Lamoriello’s terms. I’m sure it will test Lee’s willingness to take some sort of home-team discount, given what his worth would be on the open market. I’ve read numerous talking-heads say his worth would be anywhere from $7-8m per year on the open market. It’s probably safe to assume Lee would want 7 years or so. As it currently stands, Lee is tied up to make $5m this year, with only a $3.75m cap hit in his last year before becoming an unrestricted free agent. I cannot see tacking on an additional $2-3m to that as being an issue – but stranger things have happened.
With the “5-year plan” theory, that would put Anders at only 32 years old, and a contract going until his 34th birthday if they agree on a 7 year term – because math (proudly done with only my fingers). As shown above, elite power-forwards are still putting up solid offensive numbers passed their 30th birthday. A question would be (and probably one that Lou will be asking himself throughout this upcoming season), is Anders Lee an “elite power-forward”? The numbers are there, the attitude is there, and the work-ethic is there.
Only time will tell. I side on the opinion of, especially with what this franchise has been through over this summer, a decision more sooner than later would benefit both the Islanders cap, and their fan-base.
Follow/bash me on Twitter – @brasqo