No Stanley For Old Men: 2019 Edition

Time is Running Out for These Veteran NHL Players to Win the Stanley Cup

Even if the song “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band was before your time, you still probably recall the first line of the song: 

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future…

Time gets away from us, and the next thing you know, the young first-round draft pick you cheered for is now a grizzled old veteran, vying for one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup. Such players, known as “Old Men Without a Cup,” are making perhaps their last attempt at winning a Stanley Cup Championship before calling it a career. 

Here is a look at the oldest player from every 2019 playoff-bound team who has not won a Stanley Cup Championship. In our hearts, we’d like to see all of them win, but in the end, only one will. Who on this list are you pulling for? 

One quick note, though. None of the new players on the Washington Capitals are over 30. Thus, no Capitals on this list, since calling 28-year olds Nic Dowd and Nick Jensen “old men” seems unfair. 

Players Age 30 to 34

Sure, being an NHL player in this age range doesn’t seem that old. But keep in mind that the NHL today is a speed game, and this is around the time that players begin to lose a step. 

Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Age: 31
Year in NHL: 12th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Foligno has been a solid player for 12 seasons, and as team captain for the Blue Jackets, he would get to hoist the Cup first should the Blue Jackets win. His father, Mike, played 15 years in the NHL during the 1980s and 1990s, but never won a Cup. And his brother Marcus has played eight years in the NHL thus far. So if Nick Foligno wins it all this year, it will be the first Cup for the Foligno family. 

Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins

Age: 32
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 4
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why Want to See Him Win: Poor Jack Johnson. He was a first round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, but was still playing college hockey in 2006 when they won the Stanley Cup. Then Johnson was traded to the Kings, but was shipped to the Blue Jackets right before the 2012 playoffs — when the Kings won the Cup without him. Then his parents spent all his money and bankrupted him. It would be nice to see something nice happen to Jack Johnson for a change. 

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

Age: 33
Year in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 2
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Greiss was drafted in 2004, and for a while it looked like that he wasn’t going to stick around in the NHL. He bounced between the minors and Europe, playing NHL games here and there until 2013, when he finally cemented his status as an NHL backup. Since then, he has become the starting goalie for the Islanders, and it is always a great story when a goalie who seemingly couldn’t catch a break succeeds at hockey’s highest level and wins the Cup, such as Tim Thomas in 2011. 

Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche

Age: 33
Year in NHL: 7th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Soderberg had to overcome a lot in his hockey career. He was drafted in 2003, and tried to play in the AHL in 2006, but was homesick and went back to Sweden. Later, he had a serious eye injury. Finally, he made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season at the age of 27. Soderberg has played less years in the NHL than anyone else on this list. 

David Backes, Boston Bruins

Age: 34
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 8
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Backes has played 13 years in the NHL, and made it to the Stanley Cup semifinals only once, in 2016, when  he was the captain of the St. Louis Blues. Plus, he adopted two homeless dogs from Sochi when he played in the 2014 Winter Olympics, and then set up an organization that helps homeless pets. We like guys who help dogs. Honorable mention goes to teammate Jaroslav Halak, who is 33 and has not won the Stanley Cup either. 

Brian Boyle, Nashville Predators

Age: 34
Year in NHL: 12th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 8
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 2 (2014, Rangers & 2015 Lightning)
Why We Want to See Him Win: You know what sucks more than losing in the Stanley Cup Finals? Losing in the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row. Boyle was on the wrong side of history when the Rangers lost to the Kings in 2014, and again when the Lightning lost to the Blackhawks in 2015. Two years later, Boyle was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent treatment. As of the start of this season, his cancer is in full remission. It would be a really emotional moment for hockey fans to see Boyle win the Cup — not only because he lost it twice, but because he had to overcome a serious illness. 

Braydon Coburn, Tampa Bay Lightning

Age: 34
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 9
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 2 (2010, Flyers & 2015, Lightning)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Coburn is another player who has been to the Finals twice and lost twice; both times were to the Chicago Blackhawks. Coburn has been a steady defenseman for his 14-year career; not an all-star, but a reliable d-man who has averaged 16:07 of ice time per night for the Lightning this year, and 19:38 per game over his career. It is guys like Coburn, who are the backbone of any great team, that you really feel happy for when they win the Cup. Honorable mentions to teammates Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan, who are both 34 years old and were on losing Cup teams one time each.

Players Age 35 to 39

Players in this category can count with one hand how many seasons — and how many remaining chances to win the Stanley Cup — they have left. We probably want to see guys in this age range win a little more than the players mentioned above, just because 2019 could realistically be the last NHL season for any of these men. 

Jay Bouwmeester, St. Louis Blues

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 16th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: It feels like Bouwmeester has been in the NHL forever. He broke into the league in 2002 at age 20. Bouwmeester spent the first nine years of his career on teams that didn’t make the playoffs, and didn’t see postseason play until he joined the Blues in 2013. The veteran defenseman still averages over 20 minutes a game, and can probably play another five seasons in the NHL, but his window to win the Cup is closing. Honorable mention to his two teammates, Alexander Steen and Chris Thorburn, who are also 35; Bouwmeester gets top “old guy” status because he’s been in the league four years longer than either of them. 

Curtis McElhinney, Carolina Hurricanes

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 11th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 2
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: The dude is a journeyman goaltender who has played for seven different teams over 11 seasons. The first five years of his career were more or less as the team’s third-string goalie, then he morphed into a reliable backup before becoming the Hurricane’s defacto number one goalie this season. McElhinney has been a great story for the ‘Canes, and we’d love to see this journeymen goalie finally get his time in the limelight — and maybe his only shot to win it all. 

Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 16th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 9
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2007, Senators)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Spezza is talented. He scored 915 points in the regular season and another 65 points in the playoffs. He’s not the first line guy that he used to be, but it is always a shame of a player of his caliber doesn’t win a Cup. He came close in 2007 with the Ottawa Senators, but the Ducks were just a little too “mighty” that year. 

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Age: 36
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 7
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2017, Predators)
Why We Want to See Him Win: OK, I had to pick two Nashville Predators for this article: Brian Boyle and Pekka Rinne. Considering Boyle’s past two Cup losses and overcoming cancer, I couldn’t omit him. And I also must mention Rinne, who is two years older than Boyle and lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017; perhaps losing in the Finals hurts a bit more when you are the losing team’s goalie. Rinne has enjoyed personal success, winning the Vezina in 2018 and being named to the First and Second All-Star Teams once each during his career. The Preds finished this season atop the Central Division standings, so perhaps this will be the year for the six-foot-five Finn. 

Deryk Engelland, Las Vegas Golden Knights

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2018, Golden Knights)
Why We Want to See Him Win: For the longest time, it appeared that Engelland wouldn’t make it to the NHL. He was drafted in 2000, and played three more years of junior hockey, followed by seven seasons split between the ECHL and the AHL. He finally made his NHL debut in 2009 at age 27. We all love to see those “long shot” players, who had long odds to make it but persevered, win the Cup. Engelland came close last year, but he won’t have many chances after this season. 

Matt Hendricks, Winnipeg Jets

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 11th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Hendricks is another late bloomer who didn’t make it to the NHL until he was 27. He was drafted in 2000, but played four years of college hockey, followed by five in the minors, before finally making his NHL debut in 2009. So it isn’t like Hendricks had as many opportunities to win the Stanley Cup as other players on this list. 

Mike Smith, Calgary Flames

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 2
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Smith has been a really good goalie on some really bad teams, and as a result has only been in the postseason twice over the past 12 years. Smith is in the last year of his contract with the Flames, and will probably sign a contract for next season, but not necessarily with Calgary. That said, aging goalies don’t always have the opportunity to sign with contending teams in the twilight of their career, so Smith’s time to win has to be now. Honorable mention to teammate and Flames team captain Mark Giordano, who is 35 and has also been to the NHL postseason twice. 

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs

Age: 39
Year in NHL: 21st season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 18
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2016, Sharks)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Marleau is one of the few players from the 1990s that is still in the NHL today. He has achieved a high level of personal success, scoring over 500 goals and over 1,100 points in his 21-year NHL career, plus another 125 playoff points. Marleau has one season left on his contract, so it seems reasonable that he might get a shot next season, too. But after that, it is unlikely that the Leafs or another NHL team would want to sign a 40-year old forward; just ask Jarome Iginla. Realistically, this may be Marleau’s last serious shot at the Cup. 

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Age: 39
Year in NHL: 21st season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 16
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2016, Sharks)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Like Marleau, Thornton also made his NHL debut in 1997-98, and is one of the oldest players in the league. He has enjoyed much personal success in his career, winning the Hart and Art Ross Trophies, and scoring over 400 goals and 1,000(!) assists in the regular season. Thornton is a shoe-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he finally retires and becomes eligible three years later. But the one thing that has eluded Jumbo Joe over all these years is the Stanley Cup. Unless your team loses to the Sharks in the Finals, I think we’d all love to see Thornton, his beard wet with champagne, guzzling from the Stanley Cup and then calling it a career. 

Assuming that your favorite team doesn’t win the Stanley Cup this year, which of these Old Men Without a Cup would you like to see become an Old Man WITH a Cup? 

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

One thought on “No Stanley For Old Men: 2019 Edition”

  1. I think Marleau and Thornton are the obvious consensus choices here; if not for longevity alone but for their career stats and various accolades. I just wish they could still be playing on the same team and have a shot to win together. That would be something to see. Can we just have Jumbo’s Beard win the Cup, independent of the Sharks?

    Not necessarily for a hockey reason but I would like to see Deryk Engelland win one because he’s just a genuinely good guy. He really is.

    Everyone loves a good storyline and the Brian Boyle saga would be must see tv. I would watch that (of course we wouldn’t have a choice because it would be the lead in story of all Cup media coverage).

    BUT…although I don’t want to see Dallas necessarily win, it is my personal opinion that Jason Spezza needs a Cup the most. Everyone has a good case to make here but Speeza has been in the league for over 1000 games, over 900 career points, the playoffs too many times with nothing to show for it, and when healthy, has played his whole career turned up to 11. He was a stalwart in Ottawa and even tried to stick around long-term when they were rebuilding (the last time around). He saw star player after star player move on (for various reasons) but stayed committed to that team until Brian Murray basically forced him to all but ask to be traded. He gets vilified a lot by the Toronto media but ask any teammate he had back then (except maybe Dany Heatley but thats another story) and you will get the same answer. He loved playing in Ottawa and wanted to be a part of any rebuild that would have made them a contender. Murray saw it differently though.

    Although he has taken some criticism in Dallas over the past couple seasons, he is still a leader on that team at age 35. Despite injuries, he has still averaged almost 76 games per season with the Stars and about 45 points per season. That’s not bad for a guy who is no longer fast enough to be on the top line. I think the system in Dallas was more the issue last season than it was Spezza but let’s face it, coach clashing is never a good thing, especially for the silver foxes looking for a contract extension. I don’t think Dallas is going to give him another chance next year and I’m not sure if testing free agency will yield an offer from another contender. Assuming he doesn’t continue to be a healthy scratch through the playoffs, he needs a shot to win now.

    All I can say is just pull some highlights of the Supernova line with Seguin and Benn and you’ll see the impact this guy has had.

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