I never thought I would ever have mixed feelings about a player that means as much as Patrik Elias does to the Devils' franchise potentially returning to their lineup. Then again, I also never thought that the only thing to get excited about with 19 games remaining would be the possibility of a 40 year old lacing up his wheels in an NHL game for the first time all season, so I guess I should get acclimated to this previously unchartered territory.
The truth is that my heart wants to see Patrik Elias play again, but my mind is (hardly) wiser to how much better that idea seems in theory. By all accounts, the Devils' all-time leading point getter would essentially be the professional equivalent of the guy that shows up to the beer league game juuuuust when you had thought he finally hung up his skates for good. He's basically the uncommitted dude on the last branch of the telephone tree that only gets the call when you might not have enough guys to play. That's a crazy thing to say about someone whose name and number will eventually grace the rafters, but that's the vibe I have gotten from his sporadic, mid-season quotes that have reeked of uncertainty.
I don't blame him at all, but he's quite obviously unsure about playing and I have my doubts as to whether that mindset lends itself to competing at a competent level. Watching him take the Prudential Center ice in the jersey he helped make relevant would be so nostalgic that it would give my feels the feels, but if it's going to be followed by a performance that has even a slightly negative impact on my forever glorified view of his career then I would be happy to wait until the next alumni game.
If this is being done to add veteran savvy and skillful nuance to a team that wouldn't know the importance of those intangibles if they became tangible, grabbed them up the ears, and screamed "pay attention to detail you assholes!" then I'm all for it. If it's being done to distract the fanbase from another awful finish by parading a legend around in front of them like they are toddlers staring in bewilderment at a set of car keys then I'll probably fall for it, but I sure as shit won't feel good about it.
Considering his last game - whether he's officially played it or not - will be completely and utterly meaningless, Patrik Elias already got a (relatively) flawless sendoff. If they are going to ruin that then it better be to add some experience to the locker room and not to simply guarantee themselves some cheap applause to round out another year of flatlining early.