Maybe it was just a bad year, or one bad game, but the perception comes almost instantly and universally:
The star athlete is old, his reflexes aren't what they were and he has lost a step.
In some ways it seems there is an almost perverse eagerness to push the venerable into history.
Hextall, 31, is in his 10th season. When the Flyers' Stanley Cup VTC chances are considered, he is the one viewed as the weak link. He is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and he has played in 505 NHL games, winning 242 of them. And he is the weak link, the question one of wear and tear.
Fuhr is 33 and the question is even more pressing. He hasn't played a full season in three years. He has five Stanley Cup rings from his days with the Edmonton Oilers, but what has he done lately?
When coach Mike Keenan positioned him as the Blues' No. 1 goalie, the comment heard most was: "What does Keenan see that no one else does?"
"For growth you have to take risks," Keenan said. "I think Grant needed an opportunity and probably a little push at this stage in his career. Over the last two weeks, he's been playing like Stanley Cup-winning Grant Fuhr. If he can't play goal, I'll be surprised."
But others won't. They'll be surprised if Fuhr comes through and if Hextall holds up. And because of last season and the way he has started this one, there are many who will be surprised if Roy can reclaim his glory days.
The Montreal goalie turned 30 last week. Montreal coach Jacques Demers "refuses to believe" Roy is finished at 30.
For 10 of Roy's 12 years in Montreal, he has been worthy. Two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, three Vezina Trophies.
Only last year, in his 11th year, did he slip. No one expected him to do it again now. He was angry about his 17-20-6 record, and that the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.
But when Roy allowed five goals to Philadelphia in a 7-1 loss and then gave up six more in a 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, he became suspect.
Going into last night's 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay, his 8.05 goals-against average was the worst in the league. Even a win there would not have wiped the slate.
Roy and Hextall and Fuhr will need the results of an entire season to do that. They are aging stars, the ones so many are so eager to push into history.
Washington right wing Peter Bondra, the NHL's leading goal-scorer last season, and center Michal Pivonka, the Capitals' third-leading scorer, remain unsigned and the situation appears to be a two-headed monster.
The question: Can Caps general manager David Poile sign Bondra without signing Pivonka?
"I think Pivonka is the stumbling block," Philadelphia GM Bobby Clarke said Wednesday. "I think they'd sign Bondra in a minute."
Poile said he believed Bondra's and Pivonka's agent, Rich Winter, would deny it's both or neither, and Winter said yesterday, "I think one can be signed without signing both of them."
But when Winter talks about the latest proposal he made to Poile yesterday, he does not really differentiate between the two. It's "I faxed a proposal" that "will pay them" less in the first two years than the Caps were proposing, and "we made some concessions."
Both sides have been inching toward the other, but there is a lot of ground to cover. Bondra wants $7.5 million plus bonuses over four years; Pivonka, $7.5 million over five years. The Caps have offered five-year deals to both worth $6.25 million and $4.5 million, respectively.
"We're looking for solutions," said Poile, adding he will talk to Winter again today.