Once upon a time, Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals in a single NHL season. He won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy and was considered one of the most dangerous snipers in the league. That was a long, long time ago. A lot has changed since Cheechoo's phenomenal 2005-06 campaign.
The latest twist in Cheechoo's strange career will take him to the KHL. Multiple reports indicate Cheechoo will sign a deal with Medveščak Zagreb, a Croatian team in the KHL.
It's probably safe to close the door on the possibility of Cheechoo making a comeback in the NHL. Set to turn 33 on July 15th, Cheechoo's last NHL appearance was during the 2009-10 season with the Ottawa Senators. Since then he has bounced around the AHL before heading to the KHL for the 2013-14 season.
Let's take a quick look at Cheechoo's fascinating career.
We all remember his 56-goal 2005-06 season with San Jose. However, it's important to recognize his 28-goal 2003-04, his 37-goal 2006-07 and his 23-goal 2007-08. Obviously his 56-goal campaign sticks out the most, but he had several strong years with the Sharks. His statistical decline was obvious, but plenty of players would be thrilled with four consecutive seasons with 20+ goals.
The 2008-09 season is where the wheels fell off the wagon. Cheechoo's 12 goals in 66 games inspired the Sharks to trade him to the Ottawa Senators in 2009. Cheechoo notched just five goals in 61 games for Ottawa, forcing the club to send him down to the AHL.
Over the past four years, Cheechoo has skated with the Binghampton Senators, Worcester Sharks, Peoria Rivermen and the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.
So, why are we discussing Cheechoo's move to the KHL when he hasn't been relevant in the NHL for quite some time? Two reasons: It feels like Cheechoo's NHL career is officially over and we're all hoping to see another "Train, Train, Cheechoo Train" video now that he's with a new team.
You see, the best aspect of Cheechoo's career (excluding his 56-goal effort) have been the odd, yet awesome videos made by one incredibly loyal fan. As Cheechoo shifts teams, said fan makes a new video, expressing his love for Cheechoo. We can't wait for the one discussing his move to Medveščak Zagreb.
In a lot of ways, Cheechoo's NHL career could be compared to a one-hit wonder. It's oddly appropriate that there's a catchy song so closely tied to his rather strange career. Ironically, as Cheechoo's career has declined, the tribute song just keeps getting better and better.
San Jose Sharks
Oklahoma City Barons
Coming soon. We hope.
Photo courtesy of Tend the Farm.