High-priced, highly skilled players ... still no Cup
Perhaps it was once the Dan Marino syndrome.
It probably now belongs, most famously, to Alex Rodriguez, who moves on to the postseason griddle again tonight as baseball's wealthiest player, but also a player still without his name included on a championship roster.
Rodriguez, 31, might change all that this month as the Yankees pursue a 27th World Series title, but for now, he is identified primarily as an extremely rich player and an extremely accomplished player in terms of individual statistics.
But still no ring. No title. No history of glorious fall achievement.
There are many players in all the major team sports, of course, who compete at an elite level for years yet can't win that elusive title, and hockey is no exception.
Some players are happy to get that problem out of the way early in their careers. Gary Roberts, still going strong for Florida at age 40, celebrated his one and only Stanley Cup triumph just past his 23rd birthday with the Calgary Flames.
Some win late. Ray Bourque, most notably, played 22 seasons before tasting champagne, the longest wait for a player in Stanley Cup history.
Then, there are the Marinos and Rodriguezes of the stick-and-puck set, players who accomplish a great deal, far more than the majority of players who ever don an NHL uniform, and accumulate great wealth, but are stymied by the immortality that goes with being a champion.
Some -- Pavel Bure, and most recently Keith Primeau and Steve Konowalchuk -- were done in by injuries. For others, it just never happens. Michel Goulet scored 548 goals, but never played for the Cup, only lifting it as an assistant coach with the 2001 Colorado Avalanche.
Some get within a game or a period.
Others, either because of their own failing or those of their teams or organizations, never even get close.
More than a dozen very prominent NHLers, all 30 or older, all with at least 650 career games, begin the 2006-07 season hoping against hope that this will finally be the year their personal Cup drought ends. For most or all of them, however, it will continue.
Here's the list:
• Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres, age 38
• Priceline: $2.6 million, 1,235 games, 591 points
For years, a reliable, multitalented and honest worker, Numminen came close to at least reaching the Cup finals last season when he and the Buffalo Sabres were stopped in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
• Jeremy Roenick, Phoenix Coyotes, age 36
• Priceline: $1.2 million, 1,182 games, 1,142 points
The chatty one got to the Cup finals with Chicago back in '92, but he and his Blackhawks were swept by Pittsburgh.
• Tony Amonte, Calgary Flames, age 36
• Priceline: $1.85 million, 1,093 games, 870 points.
He's been agonizingly close. He was dealt at the 1994 trading deadline by the Rangers to Chicago, and then watched from a distance as the Rangers ended a 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
• Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs, age 35
• Priceline: $7.6 million, 1,156 games, 1,167 points
The elegant center has won a world title with Sweden and captained his country to Olympic gold earlier this year in Torino. The No. 1 pick of the 1989 draft has twice been to a conference final with the Maple Leafs, but lost both times.
• Petr Nedved, Philadelphia Flyers, age 34
• Priceline: $2.4 million, 942 games, 705 points
A poster boy for career underachievement, which is one reason he's played for seven different teams. Nedved has participated in only six playoff games since 1997.
• Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues, age 34
• Priceline: $3.8 million, 897 games, 868 points
The winger won the World Cup with Team USA in 1996, but as an NHLer in pursuit of the Cup hasn't come within shouting distance. Throughout the '90s, he was part of the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise that is still looking for its first playoff round win since 1987.
• Owen Nolan, Phoenix Coyotes, age 34
• Priceline: $1.225 million, 915 games, 735 points
Like Amonte, Nolan was traded by an eventual Cup winner, exiting Colorado midway through the 1995-96 season, then watching the Avalanche go on to win the Cup. The only player picked ahead of Nedved in the 1990 draft, Nolan has been on teams that have missed the playoffs seven times.
• Eric Lindros, Dallas Stars, age 33
• Priceline: $1.55 million, 711 games, 839 points
With the Flyers, he was part of the group that was swept in 1997 final by Detroit. He won Olympic gold in 2002 with Team Canada, but has appeared in only 50 NHL playoff games over his 13-year career.
• Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators, age 33
• Priceline: $4.7 million, 706 games, 671 points
The Senators captain was victimized last spring on the shorthanded game-winning goal that helped Buffalo upset Ottawa in the playoffs. In his last two postseasons, Alfredsson has managed a total of three goals.
• Alexei Yashin, New York Islanders, age 32
• Priceline: $7.6 million, 792 games, 731 points
The Russian center has never played beyond the second round and has participated in only 43 playoff games in seven visits to the spring tournament. In three of those postseasons, he failed to score a goal.
• Michael Peca, Toronto Maple Leafs, age 32
• Priceline: $2.5 million, 693 games, 394 points
The two-way pivot has twice been to the Stanley Cup finals (with Buffalo in 1999, Edmonton in 2006) and has twice been a bridesmaid. After a career spent with teams handcuffed by economic restraints, he now joins the Leafs at a time when the salary cap has made the big spenders just faces in the crowd.
• Paul Kariya, Nashville Predators, age 31
• Priceline: $4.5 million, 739 games, 790 points
He was part of the Anaheim team that lost in Game 7 of the Cup finals to New Jersey in 2003, absorbing a fearsome Scott Stevens hit and then scoring a dramatic goal in the sixth game. Other than that spring, however, he has played in only 20 playoff games.
• Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks, age 31
• Priceline: $6.25 million, 802 games, 456 points
The 6-foot-6 rearguard joined Peca and the rest of the Oilers in their surprise trip to the Cup finals last year, losing in the seventh game. He's been in 109 playoff games, and last spring became the first defenseman to score on a penalty shot in the finals.
• Todd Bertuzzi, Florida Panthers, age 31
• Priceline: $5.3 million, 710 games, 529 points
Like Yashin, Bertuzzi has never played beyond the second round. A rookie in 1995, he didn't play his first playoff game until 2001 and has only six career postseason goals.
• Saku Koivu, Montreal Canadiens, age 31
• Priceline: $4.75 million, 569 games, 460 points
He won a world title as captain of Team Finland, but has been past the first round of the playoffs just twice in his 10-year career. He suffered a season-ending eye injury in the spring against Carolina, and without him, the Habs blew a 2-0 series lead.
• Ryan Smyth, Edmonton Oilers, age 30
• Priceline: $3.5 million, 717 games, 496 points
Nicknamed Captain Canada for the countless times he has played internationally for his country, Smyth has won Olympic gold, a World Cup title and a world championship title. He got to the Cup finals for the first time with Edmonton in the spring and saw his dream ended in the seventh and deciding game.
Damien Cox, a columnist for The Toronto Star, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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