Thursday, February 10, 2022

Remember Some Guys: We built a roster made up of the the best ex-NHL players in Beijing

When the NHL bailed on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, you had your choice of two doors.

The first was an exit. No NHL players, no dice. Fair enough. The second — the product of hundreds of roster spots opened across 12 teams — was a lot more fun.

The men’s hockey tournament, you see, is now filled with Guys. Guys you’ve probably heard of. Guys you probably remember.

Thusly, The Athletic’s chief Guy Rememberer and his American understudy got together to build the best possible roster (outside of the Canadian and American teams, because we’ve talked about them enough) of players who a) were good enough to make some sort of impression in the NHL and b) are no longer good enough to hold down an NHL roster spot themselves.

The rules are simple enough; they had to play NHL games, but they couldn’t have been that good. We invoked that rule once.

Most of all, they were available. They are now Olympians. You probably remember them. Let’s go.


Gentille: The Finns took as hard a hit as any team when NHL participation went out the window — no Aleksander Barkov, no Sebastian Aho, no Juuse Saros — but they’re still a pre-tournament favorite for a few reasons; part of that comes from the system they play and the culture they’ve built. “The Pesky Finns” is a moniker for a reason, and their recent history of international success speaks for itself.

Beyond that, they were able to reshape a roster that would’ve been top-to-bottom NHL players with some guys who, not long ago, were in the big league themselves. Valtteri Filppula and Sami Vatanen had been roster staples for most of this century. Leo Komarov was close enough. Mikko Lehtonen played for the Leafs, so he’s automatically important.

There are other forwards that could help. Markus Granlund had a 19-goal season with the Canucks in 2016-17, and he’s Finland’s first-line center. Teemu Hartikainen, after years of failing to stick with the Oilers, has become a point-per-game guy in the KHL and is playing on Finland’s wing. We’ve got options here

The question here, I guess, is whether Filppula and Vatanen transcend Remember That Guy status.

McIndoe: First of all, put some respect on Leo Komarov’s name. That’s “former Maple Leafs representative at the all-star game because of the one-player-per-team rule” Leo Komarov to you.

Also, I can’t wait to go “Wait, isn’t he on the Predators right now?” every time Markus Granlund’s name is mentioned throughout this entire tournament. So, maybe twice.

Gentille: I thought both brothers played for the Wild at some point. Nope — just Mikael. That’s a That Guy.

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