An old adios

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

With apologies to Dave Andreychuk, Ziggy Palffy, Brett Hull and the others who have recently stepped away from the NHL, the zenith of retirement hype was reached when Mario Lemieux called it quits for the final time this week.

Repeatedly sidelined due to a multitude of health problems, Lemieux drew the curtains on his 17-year career. He had made the decision to remove his name from the Torino discussions late in 2005.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the team was rebuilding and with his protege Sidney Crosby currently following an Evelyn Wood-type plan to superstardom, Lemieux's presence was desired, but he could no longer serve as the driving force.

The lengthy NHL lockout took a toll on players like Lemieux, among others, who were of the age in which their talents were diminishing, but could still serve a purpose in a leadership role.

And while it's possible that others could follow in the footsteps of those that have left before the end of the season, let's have a look at a few active players that may call it a career before the start of the 2006-07 season:

- Jeremy Roenick has just turned 36 and finds himself at a crossroads. The situation seems distressing when you realize that the feisty forward only has 13 points this season and 11 recorded concussions in his career -- the last occurring during an exhibition game in September of 2005. Currently plagued by a slow-healing broken finger, the productivity within the rest of J.R's season remains uncertain. The trade of Roenick to the Kings seemed like an optimal fit, given his outlandish and outspoken personality. It's possible he wished to stay on as a professional, in order to land a roster spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Roenick was visibly disappointed when he was left off the squad. J.R. will have networks fighting tooth-and-nail for the opportunity to represent them as an analyst. It will just be a question of when Jeremy has decided that the injuries have taken enough of a toll on his life.

- Chris Chelios turned 44 years old this past Wednesday, and takes a lot of pride in maintaining his well-conditioned physique. With the reduction of his offensive output came the decision to reserve his top echelon of play and energy for the playoffs. But with the loss of both Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Fischer on the blueline, Chelios' role has changed. Originally slated to the third defensive pairing that would have garnered less than 10 minutes per game, Detroit has now become dependent on Chelios to help carry the load as a top-four defenceman. This new responsibility, combined with the Olympic schedule and a march towards the playoffs will put an additional strain on the veteran. Whether Chelios can keep up the pace remains to be seen.

- Tie Domi's role with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been established over many years -- notoriously gritty, and capable of changing the tone of any game by dropping the gloves. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Domi seems to have lost his way. Offensive production isn't the issue.

Domi is on pace for 21 points this year, which isn't far off from his usual statistics. But when the Leafs look to their forceful forward to stir things up, he hasn't delivered on a regular basis.

Domi has dropped the gloves only five times this season, including his tilt with Chris Neil last Saturday. He's barely averaging one battle a month, and when he does feel the need to scrap, he rarely wins the bout.

The Leafs have been fighting accusations of soft play for months. Toronto needs Tie to serve his full purpose if that opinion is to change.

Whether their career hinges on production, health or overall purpose, don't be surprised to see another handful of players call it a day within the next eight or nine months.

TKACHUNK: The Tampa Bay Lightning held their rookie dinner in Los Angeles this week, and the young players were stuck with a $24,000 tab. The rookies should feel fortunate that Keith Tkachuk isn't on the squad. That kind of cash wouldn't cover his appetizers.

GOON GOALIE: How often have you paid attention to the goalie races that take place mid-intermission at the SBP? Based on the multiple meltdowns J.S. Giguere had during the Edmonton-Anaheim game on Wednesday, don't you think he would make a great contestant?

ERIN NICKS IS AN OTTAWA-BASED FREELANCE COLUMNIST. CONTACT HER AT ERINNICKS@YAHOO.CA


Photos