|Ray Whitney, #13 Phoenix Coyotes|
So we all know who Ray Whitney is, and we all are finally realizing that he is good, but how good is he? Whitney was a name that was seldom mentioned even just a few years ago. Somehow he has managed to remain one of the most underrated players in the NHL over the last decade or so, and despite the fact that he is 40 years old, he is still putting up great numbers late in his career.
Success in hockey came early for the Canadian-born Whitney. In his third year playing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he lead the league with 185 points and helped the Chiefs win the 1991 Memorial Cup. He was drafted 23rd overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1991, however his NHL career didn't start off as well as he would have liked. Whitney played the better part of two season in the International Hockey League (IHL). After four partial seasons with the Sharks, Whitney was sent down and split time in the American Hockey League (AHL) and IHL. It was only in the 1997-98 season, when Whitney was already 25 years old, that he started to play complete seasons and put up points just shy of a point per game.
On March 31st, Whitney became the 79th player in history to reach 1000 points in the NHL. He had 77 points in the regular season this year, and since the lockout has put up 468 points in 529 games. In total, he has 1003 points in 1229 NHL games. He also helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in the year following the lockout season. Despite the good numbers, and the ability to do so year after year, he rarely seemed to be mentioned in a conversation of top players in the league. In fact, in the last twenty years that he has played in the NHL he has never made more than $3.55M per season.
At age 40, most players who haven't already retired, would seriously be considering it, as I would assume Whitney is. But his stats over the past few seasons prove that he still has what it takes to not only manage to get the job done, but be a very good asset to whomever he plays for. If Whitney decides to continue for another year or two in the NHL and can put up numbers comparable to what he has done in the past few seasons, he may be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame. His numbers are already pretty good, and comparable to several players that are already in the hall, including Henri Richard, who amassed 1046 points in 1256 games. Although the fact that Whitney didn't win 11 Stanley Cups like the 'Pocket Rocket' makes it a tough comparison, the stats are very similar and worth considering.
At the end of the day, when Ray Whitney decides to retire from playing hockey, he will go down in history as one of the most underrated players in the league, who quietly played almost twenty years in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.