Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The 2022 Old Guy Without a Cup rankings

It’s time for our annual celebration of the OGWACs.

The OGWAC is, of course, the Old Guy Without A Cup. He’s a cherished hockey narrative at this time of year, a figure of both admiration and pity. He’s been in the league for a while, maybe even forever, but he’s never won it all. This could be his last chance. He wants it so bad. But there’s probably another OGWAC story on the team he’s up against, which means somebody is getting their heart broken. At the end of it, if we’re lucky, somebody will finally get their moment to hold the Cup, tears running down their grizzled face.

The greatest OGWAC arc of all time ended with Ray Bourque lifting the Cup in 2001, and that one may never be topped. Lanny McDonald in 1989 and Teemu Selanne in 2007 are also on the Mount Rushmore. Kimmo Timonen and Jay Bouwmeester were solid OGWACs, and Dominik Hasek was the rare goalie story in 2002.

The last few years have been rough on OGWAC fans, as the Lightning only really had Braydon Coburn in 2020 and nobody at all for their repeat in 2021. Let’s hope the hockey gods serve up something better this year. And if they need a nudge in that direction, let’s provide one with our annual OGWAC ranking.

If you’re new to this, we define an “old guy” as being 33 or older (which isn’t especially old in real life but definitely is in today’s NHL) with the added requirement of at least ten years of NHL experience. We’re also looking for guys who are healthy and contributing to their team, or have a reasonable chance to be by the final, because nothing’s sadder than an OGWAC watching the clinching game from the press box.

Beyond that, we prefer guys who’ve had a near-miss or two before; the more agonizingly close, the better. Overcoming some other adversity is also good. The player doesn’t need to be a superstar, at least not any more, but name value matters. And of course, the older the OG, the better.

One last thing: Everyone whose team is still alive in the playoffs is eligible, but we’re weighting the higher rankings towards guys with a more realistic shot at actually winning.

By my count, there are 30 players who qualify for OGWAC status this year; we’ll go with the traditional top 20 here, but mention as many as we can.

#20. Riley Nash, Lightning
You might assume Tampa won’t have any OGWACs, especially after going without last year. But they’ve actually got a few candidates. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has actually only played eight seasons, but at 37 I feel like he deserves at least a mention. Brian Elliott is also an option, although he may not see the ice all postseason. That leaves Nash, who’s been an honest player for 11 years and helpfully turned 33 this week.

#19. Erik Johnson, Avalanche
The Avs are a surprisingly deep OGWAC team, which maybe shouldn’t shock us since that was their GM handing the Cup to Bourque. Johnson is only 34 but already in his 14th season, and has never been out of the second round.

#18. Mikael Backlund, Flames
For me, Backlund is a classic guy where you could tell me he was anywhere from like 25 to 37 and I’d believe you. He’s actually 33, and this is his 14th season. Bonus points for spending his entire career with the Flames, for whom he’s now the only OGWAC.

#17. Nick Foligno, Bruins
He’s the only Bruins OGWAC because Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were around for the 2011 Cup, Craig Smith isn’t quite old enough, and Taylor Hall is somehow only 30 years old despite being in his 35th season. Did I rank both Foligno and Nash lower than they deserve because they were on last year’s Leafs playoff roster? No further questions.

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