Thursday, April 27, 2023

The 2023 Old Guy Without a Cup rankings

It’s getting late in the first round. Do you know where your OGWAC is?

Probably at home, rubbing Ben Gay all over their body and making weird noises when they try to get out of a chair. That’s good. That’s what we want.

For those of you who are new to this, an OGWAC is that most cherished of playoff tropes: The Old Guy Without a Cup. He’s been around a while, or maybe forever, but despite some agonizing near-misses he’s never been able to get this ring. Now he’s running out of time, and it’s almost impossible not to cheer him on. And when an OGWAC does finally win, the Cup handoff is often epic.

Think Ray Bourque in 2001, which is basically the platonic ideal of an OGWAC story. There was also Teemu Selanne in 2007, and Lanny McDonald in 1989. Last year, Erik Johnson got the first handoff from Gabriel Landeskog after 14 seasons and over a decade in Colorado. It was pretty great.

Every year, I like to check in on the OGWACs. We’ll do this as a ranking, but this is really about celebrating each guy.

The rules: We consider a guy “old” if he’s been in the league for a decade or more and is at least 33 by the time the final ends, but the older the better. Ideally we want players on legitimate contenders, since they have a better chance of winning. We also prefer guys that are healthy and playing a regular role, since an OGWAC in a suit is always just kind of a bummer. And we give bonus points for near-misses, overcoming adversity, and just generally being an easy-to-root-for story.

It's been a tough year for the OGWAC community, as we had to say goodbye to our patron saint, Joe Thornton. His exit from the league after 24 seasons was a reminder that there’s no guarantee of a happy ending on these stories, which should make the chase all the more poignant for those that remain. Let’s count down a top 20.

20. Brad Hunt, Avalanche

We always want to cover as many teams as possible, so we’ll find room for Hunt, our only option on an Avalanche team where almost everyone else has rings from last year. The 34-year-old Hunt doesn’t, so he should be hungry when he gets into the lineup. If he does.

19. Jaroslav Halak, Rangers

I never really know what to do with goalies, let alone backup goalies. If you’re not a Rangers fan, it’s possible you’re just now finding out who their backup even is, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they win the Cup without Igor Shesterkin playing just about every minutes. Still, Halak is in his 17th season, and he gave the team 24 starts this year, so it’s not like he’s riding coattails. Now on his seventh team, he single-handedly dragged the Habs to the conference final in 2010 and was one game away from a ring with the Bruins in 2019, so he’s earned a spot on our list.

18. Brendan Smith, Devils

He’s 34, he’s in his 12th season, and is on his fourth team. Could you pick him out of a lineup? Maybe not, but he’s oldest guy on a very young team. He’s also a defensive defenseman who didn’t have a goal all year, and you know what team means: He’s scoring at some point this postseason. (Assuming he gets back into the lineup first.)

17. Wayne Simmonds, Maple Leafs

We haven’t seen Simmonds yet in the first round, and it’s possible we won’t at all. That hurts his case, but the 15-year veteran is still the sort of heart-and-soul guy that can turn into a great story if he manages to crack the lineup. And unlike most of the names on this list, it feels like this run might be it for the 34-year-old Simmonds, who’s on his sixth and maybe final team.

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