As we inch our way through the NHL playoffs and draw closer to the appearance of the Stanley Cup, we’ve reached the point when we can get started on one of hockey’s most cherished springtime traditions: It’s time to start hunting OGWACs.
That stands for “Old Guy Without a Cup,” the beloved specimen of hockey player who finally finds himself on the verge of his first championship after a long career. Fans love OGWACs. Their teammates love them, too; they’re often the first guy to get their hands on the Cup when it’s passed around. The greatest OGWAC story ever told is that of Ray Bourque back in 2001, when he finally lifted the Cup in his very last NHL game after 22 Hall of Fame seasons. Other memorable OGWACs include Teemu Selanne in 2007 and Lanny McDonald in 1989; just about every team that wins a Cup has one or two.
But which of this year’s OGWACs should fans be rooting for? Let’s take a look at all the players still left in the playoffs who are (a) over 30 years old, (b) in at least their 10th NHL season, (c) playing a regular role for their team, and (d) lacking a Cup ring. By my count, that gives us 12 guys to consider. And while any of them would make for a good story, some would be better than others.
Antoine Vermette, Blackhawks
Experience: At 32, he’s finishing up his 11th NHL season.
Near miss: He was a kid on the 2007 Senators team that made it to the final. He was also part of the 2012 Coyotes team that made a surprise run to a conference final.
Sympathy factor: If you’re a Hawks fan? Not high. Vermette was the team’s big trade-deadline acquisition, and he’s been a bust so far.
OGWAC rating: 1/10. Wait, how is it that Antoine Vermette is 32 years old but still looks exactly the same as he did in his rookie year?
Tomas Fleischmann, Ducks
Experience: The 10-year veteran turned 31 on Saturday. Happy birthday, Tomas!
Near miss: Fleischmann was a member of those Washington Capital teams that suffered playoff collapses in 2009 and 2010, then was shipped out as part of the misguided shakeup that followed.
Sympathy factor: He suffered a blood clot in 2009 that threatened to derail his career, but recovered.
OGWAC rating: 2/10. Fleischmann is a likable enough player. But he’s been a Duck only since the trade deadline, so even if Anaheim wins he’s going to have to wait at the back of the line for his Cup handoff.
Matt Carle, Lightning
Experience: He’s 30 and finishing off his 10th NHL season.
Near miss: He was part of the 2010 Flyers team that made a surprise run to the final, then lost on an overtime goal by a former no. 1 overall pick that they would have drafted if they hadn’t lost the lottery three years earlier. I feel like we don’t make a big enough deal out of that one when we’re talking about brutal losses in recent sports history.
Sympathy factor: He wants to win a Stanley Cup, but he’s spent most of his career with the Sharks and Flyers.
OGWAC rating: 3/10. Should we be at all concerned that the Lightning apparently looked at their leaky blue line and thought, You know what would fix this? Ex-Flyers!
Braydon Coburn, Lightning
Experience: He’s 30 and in his 10th season.
Near miss: He was a teammate of Carle’s on that 2010 Flyers team.
Sympathy factor: Ideally, you’d like an OGWAC to have overcome some sort of personal adversity at some point in their career. In Coburn’s case, he was drafted by the Thrashers.
OGWAC rating: 2/10. He’s only 30. Give him a few more years and he’d be a decent pick.
Kevin Klein, Rangers
Experience: He’s 30 years old and in his 10th NHL season.
Near miss: Like many of this year’s Rangers, his closest call came last season when New York made it to the final before losing to the Kings in five. He also had a couple of trips past the first round with the Predators.
Sympathy factor: He had to recover from a broken arm to make it back into the Rangers’ lineup last round. There’s also this, via Wikipedia: “On December 9, 2014, Klein lost part of his left ear on a high stick in the first period of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had it stitched back on, came back to play, then scored the game-winning goal in overtime.”
OGWAC rating: 4/10. How can you root against a guy who’s basically the NHL’s Mick Foley?