Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Who wins, a roster of players who won the Cup in their first year or their last?

We’re going to build some rosters today, and we’re going to start with a simple question that feels appropriate given the stakes of tonight's game: Who’s better, a team of guys who won the Stanley Cup in their first year in the NHL, or guys who won it in their last year?

That’s it. I don’t even feel like I need some long preamble breaking down how the question works. You get it. But as per DGB by-laws, we do need to say: But first, a few ground rules™.

  • The important one: Once he’s on the roster, you get credit for a player’s entire career, not just what they did in that Cup-winning season. We’re dealing with rookies and old guys, those rosters would be pretty bad.
  • That said, a player has to have appeared in at least one playoff game for the winning team to qualify. Anyone who has traded, waived or in the press box doesn’t fit the spirit of the thing.
  • We’ll start the clock at the Original Six era, which prevents us from having to deal with old-timey players you’ve never heard of, not to mention guys whose “rookie NHL season” came well into their pro career after the arrived from other leagues.
  • First and last year means the years they played their first or last NHL game – no WHA or other leagues count – which is not the same as full seasons. Note that a player’s first year isn’t necessarily their rookie season, because they can maintain that eligibility for multiple years. Everyone only gets one first or last season.
  • Active players can count for the first year team, but (obviously) not for the last. Also, anyone who won a Cup in both their first and their last year is ineligible for both teams. And also, let’s just say it, kind of greedy.
  • We’re building a full roster, featuring two goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards, but won’t worry about position beyond that.

I’m kind of interested to see where this goes, and I’ve already gone back and forth on which teams I think will win. My first thought is that Team Last Year will take it, because of the Ray Bourque factor –legends who want to go out on a high note and retire immediately after winning a Cup. Then again, the Ray Bourque story is great in part because it’s relatively rare, so maybe there aren’t as many of those guys as you’d think.

As for Team First Year, we know that there won’t be any top draft picks on the team, since those players go to bad teams and have to wait at least a few years for their Cups. So no Mario Lemieux, no Sidney Crosby, not Alexander Ovechkin. But we should still be able to find enough talent to fill out a roster, even if it may not have the elite-level guys that Team Last Year has.

Let’s find out. As always, we’ll start in goal and build from there.


Team First Year starts off with a pair of agonizing near misses. Patrick Roy won the Cup and the Conn Smythe as a rookie in 1986, but he played a single game with the 1984-85 Habs, so he’s out. We also can’t use Ken Dryden, who memorably won the Cup a year before winning the Calder, because he doubles up by also winning in his last year.

That said, we can still find a Canadiens’ Hall-of-Famer in the criminally underrated Bill Durnan, who was winning everything as the league’s best netminder as soon as he arrived in 1943-44. He’ll be capably backed up by Cam Ward from the 2006 Carolina run, with Jordan Binnington on speed dial if we need depth and/or someone to throw water bottles around.

There’s a lot less to choose from in Team Last Year, partly because old goalies often stick around forever. Luckily, we only need one starter, and we can find that in Dominik Hasek, who didn’t play much for the 2007-08 Red Wings, but still qualifies for the team. That saves us from total disaster, because believe it or not I’m pretty sure our only other option is Cristobal Huet of the 2010 Blackhawks.

So far, Team First Year has better depth while Team Last Year has higher star power. Let’s see if that continues on the blueline.

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1 comment:

  1. They also don't engage in bad communication habits such as sarcasm