Monday, November 9, 2020

Which team makes the best current lineup out of ex-players?

Have you ever had an ex that, for whatever reason, you had to move on from, but then you find out that they’re doing well in their new life without you and you feel genuinely happy for them?

No, of course you haven’t, nobody wants that. Seeing an ex go on to bigger and better things is miserable. And that’s especially true for hockey fans, who hate to see a player that used to be part of their favorite team go on to success somewhere else.

So today, let’s all feel that misery together, as we try to answer the question: Which team could build the best six-man starting lineup of players who used to play for them?

But first, a few ground rules:

– Let’s be clear on something important: We’re trying to make teams that are good right now. Imagine we’re trying to build the best team for a single season played this year. If a player was an elite superstar years ago but no longer is, he won’t be a strong choice. (Call this the Joe Thornton rule.) And it should go without saying, anyone who’s retired or otherwise inactive isn’t an option, because this isn’t an all-time team. (Call that the Jaromir Jagr rule.)

– We want three forwards, two defenseman and a goalie, and a team has to have a decent option at all six spots to qualify. But otherwise, we don’t care about specific positions.

– Players who’ve changed teams during this offseason count, but free agents who remain unsigned do not. You’re not officially an ex until you’ve found a new home. That’s the Zdeno Chara rule.

– Players that were traded away as prospects count, even if they never played a game for the team. But we’re not including players who were drafted with picks a team traded away. Your rights have to have belonged to the team at some point before you can be an ex.

As always, I’ll try to cover about half the league, then turn it over to you in the comments to fill in the rest, improve on my choices, and tell me about which obvious player from one team I forgot that will ruin my whole day. And we’ll start with a team that seems like it could be the favorite…

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Matt Duchene

Defense: Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara

Goalie: Robin Lehner

Man, the last few years have done a number.

The Senators were probably one of the first teams you thought of when you saw the premise, and rightly so – they’ve executed a full-scale rebuild, which means they’ve parted with a lot of good players. The forward line is stacked, and they could even run out a Jean-Gabriel Pageau/Mike Hoffman/Ryan Dzingel second line. They might want to trade one of those guys for a defenseman, because a 43-year-old Chara is the only thing close to a weak spot here (but still good enough to beat out Cody Ceci and Mark Borowiecki).

It’s a very good lineup, as you probably expected. Can anyone beat it? Let’s try a few division rivals and find out.

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis

Defense: Tyler Myers, Marco Scandella

Goalie: Robin Lehner

O’Reilly is the big name, based on a disastrous trade that still aggravates Sabres fans. Ennis narrowly beats out Conor Sheary as the third forward, and I went with Scandella over Zach Bogosian and Andrej Sekera as the second blueliner based on where he is right now. Meanwhile, Lehner beats out Ryan Miller to already make a second appearance on the list, reminding us that he’s somehow already on his fifth NHL team.

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Max Pacioretty, Max Domi, Alex Radulov

Defense: Ryan McDonagh, P.K. Subban

Goalie: Jaroslav Halak

That’s not a bad lineup, although it would have looked better a few years ago when the blueline would have been a major strength. McDonagh’s status has dipped, but he’s still a solid player, while Subban has seen his stock plunge. If you wanted to make the argument that Jordie Benn would be a better choice at this exact moment, it might not be completely crazy.

Speaking of Subban and stacked bluelines, let’s head to the Western Conference…

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