It’s a name that hasn’t been heard in the NHL in a few years, and now never will again. Former two-way specialist and long-time Calgary Flames center Matthew Lombardi announced his retirement from pro hockey this weekend at the age of 34. The defensive forward has played the past three seasons with Geneve-Servette HC in the Swiss National League A.
Lombardi was once a rising star in the NHL. A third-round pick by the Flames in 2002, fresh off of a 130-point season for the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres, Lombardi quickly became a highly regarded NHL prospect. He made his league debut in 2003-04, garnering Calder consideration as he scored 29 points and quickly established himself as a complete, defensively responsible player. In 2006-07, Lombardi put together his first 20-goal season as part of a 46-point effort. Altogether, Lombardi had 167 points in 347 games with the Flames and led the team in shorthanded time on ice and shorthanded goals during that span. However, by the NHL Trade Deadline in 2009, Lombardi had not progressed the way that Calgary had hoped. In need of more talent down the middle, the Flames traded Lombardi along with Brandon Prust and a first-round pick that would become Brandon Gormley to the Phoenix Coyotes for Olli Jokinen. Ironically, in the 2008-09 season split between Calgary and Phoenix, Lombardi matched his career high of 46 points and then topped it in his 2009-10 season in the desert with 53 points. Meanwhile, Jokinen performed worse on a point-per-game basis in the latter half of 2008-09 than Lombardi and had just 50 points in 2009-10 and was traded out of Calgary. Unfortunately, Lombardi was unable to keep besting his career bests. After signing a three-year, $10.5MM deal with the Nashville Predators in 2010, Lombardi suffered a concussion in just the second game of the season and missed the entire 2010-11 campaign. He would never suit up for the Predators again, as they traded he and Cody Franson to the Toronto Maple Leafs the following summer. Lombardi struggled to return to his pre-concussion performance level in Toronto, scoring just 18 points to the tune of -19 in 2011-12. Even when traded back to Arizona, where he had enjoyed the best year of his career, Lombardi struggled, scoring just eight points in 21 games as a part-time player for the Coyotes before being traded yet again, this time to the Anaheim Ducks.
Looking for a jump start to a career that had grown cold, Lombardi headed overseas to Switzerland in 2013 to play with the NLA’s Geneve-Servette. In his first year, Lombardi became a fan-favorite with a team-best 50 points in 46 games. However, injuries have slowed him down the past two years as he’s played in just 53 games. Yet, Lombardi continued to play with a scoring touch and a dominant defensive edge when active and was a leader for the team. Unsure about his future, Lombardi took the summer to decide on his commitment to hockey before calling it a career this weekend. Although he may not be as recognizable a name as some, Lombardi played a strong all-around game and had the potential to be ever better. Although that ceiling was never reached, Lombardi should be remembered for the success he did have and admired for always striving to be better.