The last game I ever saw Sergei Samsonov play in a Boston Bruins uniform was April 19th, 2004. The Boston Bruins had dropped a 3-1 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens and suffered their third straight first round exit. Not long after, the NHL battled with the NHLPA resulting in an entire season being lost to a lockout. I never did return to hockey. Disheartened by 5 straight seasons of disappointment by the Boston Bruins, I simply walked away from watching. From the first game I had watched on February 21, 2000 to April 19, 2004, one of my favorite players was Sergei Samsonov.
His speed, wrist shot, accuracy, and overall style of play was fantastic to watch. Only standing 5’8 and weighing 188 lbs, Samsonov was a wonder to the eye. Nicknamed “Mighty Mouse”, what Samsonov lacked up in size he made up in his game. From his rookie campaign in 1997-98 to his last full season in 2001-02 he registered 20+ goals four times and logged two 70+ point seasons. But 8 games into the 2002-03 season, Samsonov suffered a broken wrist. This injury would cause him to miss the remaining 74 games in the season and it changed the course of his career forever. Samsonov’s skill came in one department, his wrist shot. When a player suffers any type of significant wrist injury it greatly affects their snap/wrist shot. For Samsonov however, it was pretty much the nail in the coffin for his career. Although he came back from the injury he was never the same. The Boston Bruins dealt their former Calder Trophy winner in 2006 for Yan Stastny, Marty Reasoner, and a 2nd Round Pick that turned into Milan Lucic. Samsonov then bounced around from Edmonton to Montreal and Chicago before finally landing with the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2007-08 season. It seemed like things were finally turning around for the once touted Russian, in his 4 seasons with the Hurricanes he scored 10+ goals consistently while recording 138 total in points in 249 total games between (2008 – 2011). While it seemed he had finally been rejuvenated with the Canes, they obviously didn’t think so. After registering only 26 points in 55 games, the Hurricanes traded Samsonov to the Florida Panthers where he recorded 14 points in 20 games before walking to free agency at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Samsonov would sit in free agency for the entire 2011-12 season. The 34 year old winger’s career was effectively over, after winning the 1998 Calder Memorial Trophy, nearly winning the Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 2006, and almost regaining his old spark. Much like his former Bruins teammates Sean O’Donnell and Brian Rolston he retired during the 2012-13 lockout after sitting in free agency. I became aware of this while trying to look through the full list of free agents on CapGeek for possible depth the Bruins could sign, I decided to go see if Samsonov was still kicking around in Free Agency of had he possibly gone to Russia. His name wasn’t listed, and in a Bullet New Niagara article about Bobby Hull‘s involvement in a charity hockey game, Samsonov is listed under the many retired hockey players who are joining Hull. Having already lost my all time favorite hockey player in Brian Rolston to the lockout, it’s even worse losing someone who definitely seemed like they still had some left in the tank. I never got to see Samsonov’s last games in a Bruins uniform in 2006, I never got to see him compete for the Stanley Cup, I never got to see him find his game again in the Hurricanes uniform.
Ever since returning to watching hockey and looking back through the years of stats, highlights, games, etc. of what I’ve missed between 2004 – 2011; I sometimes ask myself.. what if? What if Samsonov never broke his wrist? What if Byron DaFoe never broke his knee or was held out of the 1999-2000 season? What if the Bruins never traded for Bill Guerin? What if Jason Allison was never traded? What if we never let Dmitri Khristich walk? What would this team be like? It’s strange things to think about considering the many up and down years after the 1998-99 season of success the Bruins had. But the one thing that sticks with me about all of this, was that the Bruins brought back Brian Rolston in the 2011-12 season and while he definitely provided offense for the team in a way that Samsonov more than likely couldn’t, to me it was a fitting exit for Brian Rolston to be able to play one last time with the team he had the best years of his career with. It certainly would have been nice for Samsonov to retire in black and gold even if he just played 1 game.
So thank you Sergei, despite the 4-5 up and down years, you kept me watching through it all.