Hockey at the NHL level is a sport for the young, right? Well ... not always.
The number of young impact players in the NHL seems to rise every year, but that doesn't mean there's no place for guys whose playoff beards include more than a little gray. Though the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the decision by Tim Thomas to take a year off have thinned the NHL's brigade of oldies-but-goodies, there are still a number of players 35 and older who are more than capable of keeping up with the kids.
Using the NHL's postseason All-Star team format, here's a look at the best of the over-35 crowd:
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
After arguably the worst season of Brodeur's career -- he finished 2010-11 with a sub-.500 record (23-26-3) for the first time and his 2.45 goals-against average was his highest since 2005-06 -- he showed last season that he's anything but washed up. Not only did Brodeur go 31-21-4 while leading the Devils back to the playoffs, the NHL's winningest goaltender ramped up his play in the postseason, leading New Jersey to its first Stanley Cup Final since 2003. He'll be back for more after signing a two-year deal this summer.
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Boston's captain appears to be getting better as he gets older. All Chara did in the season in which he turned 35 was put up a career high in points (52) and go plus-33 for the second straight season. He was named a Second-Team All-Star for the second year in a row and enters this season as one of the NHL's top defensemen -- an offensive threat, a defensive force, and the leader of one of the League's top teams.
Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
Boyle isn't flashy, but he's still consistently productive. After overcoming the effects of an early-season injury, he finished eighth in scoring among defensemen with 48 points for the Sharks last season -- he's averaged 53 points in his four seasons with San Jose. Despite never being drafted and not becoming an NHL regular until after he turned 24, Boyle has played more than 800 games, scored 125 goals and surpassed 500 career points.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Perhaps the biggest reason Steven Stamkos became a 60-goal scorer was that he had St. Louis on his line. At 37, the former University of Vermont star is still one of the NHL's best passers and has developed tremendous chemistry that has helped turn Stamkos into the NHL's top gun. Despite missing some time in December after taking a puck to the face during a morning skate, St. Louis finished with 74 points in 77 games and has averaged better than a point per game for his past nine seasons.
Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars
All Whitney did as a 39-year-old was have a career year with 24 goals and 77 points, join the NHL's 1,000-point club, help the Phoenix Coyotes to their first division title and the best playoff run in franchise history -- and earn Second-Team All-Star honors. That's pretty good for a guy who broke into hockey as a stick boy for his hometown Edmonton Oilers, was the second player picked by the San Jose Sharks in their first draft, and survived enough demotions, cuts and buyouts to fill a transaction column. His NHL odyssey will continue in Dallas, where he signed a two-year deal this summer.
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
Much to the delight of the Ducks and their fans, Selanne decided to return for another season. And why not -- as a 41-year-old, he led the team in scoring with 66 points and was third with 26 goals, including a dozen on the power play. More amazing, perhaps, was that he averaged nearly 18 minutes of ice time while playing all 82 games. He'll never score 76 goals as he did in his rookie season, but Selanne is still an offensive force -- and a hockey icon in Orange County.
Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins
The perception was that Vokoun's season with the Washington Capitals was a disappointment. The reality was that expectations may have been too high for a team that underachieved during the regular season. Vokoun went 25-17-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 48 games for the Caps before injuries ended his season -- continuing a consistent career that has seen him put up a GAA between 2.40 and 2.68 and a save percentage between .917 and .926 every year since 2005-06. He's 13 wins away from 300 and signed with Pittsburgh this summer.
Honorable mention: Johan Hedberg (New Jersey Devils), 39; Evgeni Nabokov (New York Islanders), 36
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers
Timonen has been one of the NHL's most consistent defensemen during his five seasons with the Flyers, putting up from 37 to 44 points (he had 43 in 2011-12), playing more than 20 minutes a game (21:14 last season), and missing just 21 games in his past eight seasons. He's been the focal point around whom coach Peter Laviolette has been able to build his defense.
Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators
Gonchar's second season in Ottawa was considerably better than his first. Not only did he stay healthier (74 games played, up from 67), his points jumped from 27 to 37 and he went from minus-15 to minus-4. Gonchar isn't the offensive force he was in his prime, but he's still someone to be reckoned with, especially on the power play.
Honorable mention: Sami Salo (Tampa Bay Lightning), 37; Lubomir Visnovsky (New York Islanders), 35; Willie Mitchell (Los Angeles Kings), 35; Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey Devils), 35
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
The highest-scoring European-born player in NHL history returned to North America last season after three years in Russia and showed he hadn't lost his scoring touch. Not only did Jagr score 19 times and add 35 assists for 54 points in 73 games (despite battling some groin issues), he proved to be a stabilizing influence in the Philadelphia Flyers dressing room and an excellent mentor for Claude Giroux. Jagr will take on a new challenge this fall when he plays for a Western Conference team for the first time after signing with Dallas.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
The greatest player in Flames history turned 35 this summer, but his age hasn't stopped him from putting the puck in the net. Iginla scored 32 times last season, giving him 11 consecutive seasons with 30 or more goals, and he passed the 1,000-point and 500-goal barriers in consecutive seasons. He's a prototypical power forward, the face of the franchise -- and still its best player.
Patrik Elias, New Jersey
The leading scorer in the history of the Devils' franchise just keeps on putting up points -- 78 of them last season, the most he's had since 2003-04. Elias has very quietly amassed 361 goals and 894 points and shows no signs of slowing down -- he finished the regular season with eight points in his last five games and added five goals and eight points during the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Honorable mention: Shane Doan, 35; Saku Koivu, 37; Jason Arnott, 37; Vinny Prospal, 37; Daniel Alfredsson, 39
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist