Matt Cullen has referred to as it a profession after 21 seasons within the NHL. The 42-year-old, who received three Stanley Cups, scored seven targets and 20 factors with the Penguins final season. Matt Cullen|Joe Sargent/NHLI through Getty Photographs“Till the 42-year-old really says he’s retired, we’re going to imagine he’s coming again for at the very least yet another 12 months.”
That was what we stated about Matt Cullen Tuesday earlier than praising him as one of many prime free agent facilities nonetheless accessible, however because it seems he’s not part of that class in spite of everything and that we want assume not: after greater than 1,500 video games within the NHL, throughout which he performed for eight franchises together with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild, the 21-season veteran is asking it a profession.
And what a very attention-grabbing profession it was.
Throughout a big-league tenure that spanned half of his time on this earth, Cullen pieced collectively a formidable resume and carved out a distinct segment for himself. As he closes this chapter, he does so with 1,516 video games performed within the NHL, good for the 19th-most in league historical past and making him one in every of solely 20 gamers to exceed the 1,500-game plateau. However what stands out most about Cullen’s video games performed complete is that he’s a vastly totally different participant than the Brendan Shanahans and Steve Yzermans and Mike Modanos who encompass him on the all-time record. Not like these gamers, who have been true stars and standouts and every of whom at the moment are Corridor of Famers, Cullen earned his preserve as a Swiss Military Knife of kinds.
Positive, he may rating. He had a pair of 20-goal campaigns, a number of 40-plus level seasons and wrapped up his profession with 285 targets and 789 factors to his identify. However greater than produce, Cullen was a disciplined, devoted, two-way participant, usually a fixture on the penalty kill for whichever crew he performed and normally a contributor on the facility play, as properly. He was a coach’s favourite, a dependable hand and received the Stanley Cup not as soon as, not twice, however 3 times. The ultimate two got here in back-to-back style with the Penguins, via whom he introduced his retirement after spending three of his previous 4 seasons in Pittsburgh.
However by no means, not as soon as, was Cullen an all-star, both on the end-of-season crew or on the showcase spectacle. By no means, not as soon as, did Cullen win an end-of-season award. In truth, the closest he ever got here was when he acquired three first-place and three second-place votes for the Girl Byng Trophy. That got here in 2015-16, when he additionally acquired fourth- and fifth-place votes for the Selke Trophy. It was sufficient to complete 34th in voting for the most effective defensive-forward award, tops in his profession. And by no means, not as soon as, did Cullen exceed 25 targets or 40 assists or 50 factors.
Regardless of that, Cullen was capable of do what few gamers of his ilk have, which is stay a helpful middle-six piece at a time when the sport is getting youthful and sooner. Whereas there are others who’ve performed into their 40s within the fashionable period – the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara have stood out in recent times – Cullen was reduce from a distinct fabric. He was by no means a star, most actually by no means as celebrity, and he wasn’t top-line scorer of yesteryear or former franchise cornerstone who was taking part in out his last days. He was a task participant. He had been for a lot of his profession. And he remained that into his 40s whereas additionally persevering with to be productive. He scored seven targets and 20 factors in 71 video games with the Penguins final season. In accordance with Hockey-Reference, that’s the 14th-best level complete by any participant of their age 42 season in NHL historical past.
Cullen is likely one of the few gamers who’ve been capable of cling to middle-six NHL work properly previous their primes, too. In truth, since 1998-99, when the league started monitoring game-by-game ice time statistics, there are solely 70 gamers who’ve skated in additional than 700 video games whereas averaging fewer than 16 minutes per outing. (Cullen would seemingly fall beneath the 15-minute common have been his numbers not goosed by a stint within the top-six throughout his early-30s.) Of these 70 gamers, Cullen is likely one of the absolute best. His 1,455 video games are unmatched, his 704 factors are second to solely Scott Hartnell and Cullen is the help chief with 444, yet another than the 443 registered by Andrew Brunette.
The place he ranks among the many nice position gamers of this technology – the Brunettes and Tomas Holmstroms and Scott Hartnells – is up for debate. What isn’t is whether or not Cullen is likely one of the absolute best of that bunch.
Tags: anaheim geese, carolina hurricanes, florida panthers, minnesota wild, nashville predators, the big apple rangers, ottawa senators, pittsburgh penguinsConnect: Concerning the AuthorJared ClintonJared Clinton is a author and net editor with The Hockey Information. He is been with the crew since 2014. He was born, raised and resides in Winnipeg, the place he may be discovered lacking the web on out of doors rinks throughout city.