Milan Lucic reaches 1,000 NHL games
Photo credit:Candice Ward/USA Today Sports
By Ryan Pike1 year ago
On Oct. 5, 2007, a 19-year-old Western Hockey League product named Milan Lucic made his National Hockey League debut playing for the Boston Bruins against the Dallas Stars. Now 13 and a half years later, Lucic will appear in his 1,000th game, playing for the Calgary Flames against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A product of scenic Vancouver, Lucic played minor hockey in the area and came up in junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He was a second round pick by the Boston Bruins in the 2006 NHL Draft, and his two full WHL seasons saw him play in two Memorial Cup tournaments – once as WHL champion, once as host.
In his draft+2 season, the burly Lucic made his NHL debut for the Bruins (and he’s played full-time in the NHL ever since, generally avoiding serious injury despite playing a physical style of game). He played eight seasons for Boston, scoring more than 20 goals on three occasions and hitting an offensive peak of 62 points in 2010-11. He was a big part of a Bruins club that won a Stanley Cup in 2011, ironically beating his hometown Canucks in the Cup Final.
Lucic’s time in Boston drew to a close at the 2015 NHL Draft, though. With a year left on his contract and the Bruins facing a cap crunch, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Colin Miller, Martin Jones and a first round pick in 2015. (Jones was subsequently traded to the San Jose Sharks.) Lucic scored 20 goals for the Kings under head coach Darryl Sutter before leaving that summer as a free agent.
Lucic stayed in the Western Conference, landing in the spot most different weather-wise from California: Edmonton. An energetic Oilers club needed some veteran leadership and credibility, so Lucic seemed to fit like a glove. He scored 23 goals in 2016-17 in his first season with the Oilers, but his offensive game tailed off in the next two seasons that saw him combine for 16 goals (off seasons of 10 and 6 goals, respectively) and both Lucic and the Oilers seemed to have buyer’s remorse. The $6 million cap hit seemed too rich for what Lucic could do offensively, while the top six role Lucic was being asked to play both didn’t fit his style of play and didn’t fit the skill-set of his younger linemates.
With the Flames facing similar challenges with James Neal, the Flames and Oilers made their third-ever trade in 2019, swapping Lucic and Neal. After some initial growing pains, Lucic found a home on the Flames’ third line alongside Derek Ryan and Dillon Dube – at one point contemplating retirement, Lucic noted on an episode of After Hours on CBC that Dube’s arrival re-energized him, while then-coach Geoff Ward was able to give Lucic a well-defined role and let him do his thing.
Now a 32-year-old veteran, Lucic has become a big part of the Flames’ locker room mix. He’s the only player on the roster with a Stanley Cup ring, and he’s found a nice balance of physicality and finesse while playing a well-defined role in the team’s bottom six. He’s quietly having a solid offensive season and he can routinely be counted among the team’s better performers on a game-by-game basis. He’s under contract for two more seasons, with his deal expiring after the 2022-23 season (and the Oilers paying a chunk of his salary until then).
Lucic becomes the first player to play their 1,000th NHL game in a Flames jersey since Matt Stajan did so back in the 2017-18 season.
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