Monday, April 15, 2019

The 2019 OGWAC rankings

OK,​ kids. Hike up​ your​ pants​ around​ your​ armpits,​ hang an​ onion from your​ belt and park​ your​ walker over by​​ rotary phone, because it’s time for the annual OGWAC rankings.

For you newbies, an OGWAC is that beloved species of hockey player whose story everyone loves to hear during the playoffs: the Old Guy Without a Cup. He’s the grizzled veteran who’s been around forever and has probably come agonizingly close a time or two, but he doesn’t have a ring and he’s running out of time. Everyone’s rooting for him, and if his team does win it all, he usually gets the honor of being the first in line for the Cup handoff.

The greatest OGWAC story of all-time is Ray Bourque in 2001, one that still makes the toughest hockey fan you know cry a little. Others include Teemu Selanne in 2007, Lanny McDonald in 1989 and Kimmo Timonen in 2015. Last season’s OGWAC story was Alexander Ovechkin, who was a little young for the honor but has somehow had grey hair for five years, so we’ll allow it.

I’ve been breaking down the annual OGWAC rankings going back to the Grantland days and the format hasn’t changed much. It doesn’t need to, because the OGWAC is timeless. Or so I thought. Because this year, I’m starting to wonder if we don’t need something new.

I think we might need to introduce the OGWACWIT: The Old Guy With a Cup Who Isn’t Thornton.

After all, there isn’t really a ton of suspense about the top spot in these rankings. Joe Thornton has emerged as one of the league’s most lovable characters and will be a no-questions-asked Hall-of-Famer as soon as he’s eligible. But he’s about to turn 40 and has battled injuries in recent years. He’s almost at the end of the road and still doesn’t have his ring. He’s pretty much the archetypal OGWAC right now.

Even as wait to see if last night’s high hit on Tomas Nosek gets him suspended, Thornton is going to rank at the top of our list. Sorry for the spoiler. But there are plenty of other guys who are worth a mention too. Let’s count down the best stories of the Cupless guys who a.) are at least 33 years old; b.) have played at least ten seasons; c.) are in the playoffs and either playing or at least have a chance to at some point.

With the criteria set, let’s get to the rankings. We’re going to need a top 15 this time, because for reasons I’m not quite clear on, there are just a ton of great OGWAC candidates this year. And even a few OGWACWITs.

15. Dan Hamhuis, Predators

Hamhuis is a nice starting point because he’s basically the classic OGWAC story. He’s 36, has played 15 seasons and won’t have too many more shots at this. And of course, he had an agonizing near-miss in 2011 with the Canucks. That loss was especially tough for Hamhuis, since he was hurt in the first game of the final and didn’t play again. He hasn’t won a playoff round since.

This year’s Predators are an especially loaded OGWAC team, as we’ll see a little bit further down. That hurts Hamhuis’s standing just a bit, but he’s still worthy of a spot on our list.

14. Matt Hendricks, Jets

Hendricks is a bit of a tricky call. On the one hand, he’s a 37-year-old role player and his teammates love him. And unlike some of the other players on this list, this really does seem like his last shot at a Cup. On the other, there’s a good chance we won’t see him suit up for the Jets during this run – he barely played down the stretch and is really here to be a veteran leader as opposed to an on-ice contributor. In terms of the Jets who matter during this postseason, Hendricks doesn’t rank that high.

Still, it’s a long way to a Stanley Cup, and if the Jets can get past the Blues and go deep, you never know who they might need. And if Hendricks was in the lineup for a Cup win, he’d be close to a guaranteed first handoff. We’ll rank him here and hope against hope that his case gets stronger in the weeks to come.

13. Blake Comeau, Stars

Comeau’s the youngest player on our list, having just turned 33 in February. But he’s had the classic journeyman career that can make for a great OGWAC story, playing 13 seasons for six teams and never having seen the second round of the playoffs. In fact, he’s only ever been part of six playoff wins, including Game 1 against the Predators.

We can’t rank him too high since he’s presumably got more runway left than most of the other guys on this list. But let’s consider him an OGWAC prospect to keep an eye on.

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