No Stanley For Old Men: 2020 Edition

Which Grey Beard in the “Playoff Bubble” Do You Want to See Win the Stanley Cup? 

It took what felt like forever, but Round One of the 2020 NHL Playoffs is finally underway. (And yes, this blog post is two days late; I’m working on “Quarantine Time” here, so bear with me.) After a four-and-a-half month pause, followed by Round Robin and Qualifying Round games, we have our 16 playoff teams, ready to put it all on the line to be winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Championship. 

But with the playoffs, the inevitable questions are always raised:

What player hasn’t yet won the Stanley Cup yet during their career?

What grizzled old vet will retire at season’s end without ever hoisting the Stanley Cup? 

What all-time will never get to sip champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup?

And considering the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t think any NHL player is going to want to drink from the Stanley Cup this October. Regardless, there are players who play for nearly two decades who will never have the opportunity to drink from the Cup then think better of it. 

Every year, playoff teams are chock-full of young, eager players who have seemingly all the time in the world to win the toughest championship trophy to win in all of sports. But every team also has some more experienced players who know that they don’t have all the time in the world, or even a wily old veteran that has stuck around to give it one more go before hanging ’em up. 

Here is a look at the oldest player on each 2020 Stanley Cup playoff team and why we’re hoping for each one of them to win, even if we don’t like the team they play on. 

Players Age 29 to 33

While 29 to 33 doesn’t even seem that old in the grander scheme of things, some NHLers are around this age and have already played for what felt like an eternity. Perhaps it is at this point that players start to realize that they have to make the most of every opportunity they have. 

Ryan Carpenter, Chicago Blackhawks

Age: 29
Year in NHL: 5th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 1
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2018, Vegas Golden Knights)
Why We Want to See Him Win: It is totally unfair to put Ryan Carpenter on a list of “old men.” And even though he’s 29, he’s only in his fifth season in the NHL, so it isn’t like he’s been around that long. But he’s the oldest active Blackhawks player to not win the Stanley Cup. (Teammate Zack Smith, 31, had back surgery and missed the rest of the season and playoffs; otherwise, he’s be in Carpenter’s place on this list.) Carpenter is the kind of success story we like: an undrafted guy who toiled in the minors, played on a two-way contract, was put on waivers, then finally got a shot to be a full-time NHLer. Carpenter came close to winning the Stanley Cup with the Golden Knights in 2018, so it would be great for him to get another shot and win it this time in 2020. 

Marco Scandella, St. Louis Blues

Age: 30
Year in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Marco Scandella is the oldest “new” Blues player who was not a part of their 2019 Stanley Cup Championship. He spent the majority of his career on middling teams like the Minnesota Wild and the Buffalo Sabres, so playing for last year’s champs is the first legitimate shot he has at winning the Cup. 

James Reimer, Carolina Hurricanes

Age: 32
Year in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2016, San Jose Sharks)
Why We Want to See Him Win: When James Reimer won his first NHL start on January 1, 2011, it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs had finally found their savior – a goaltender who would lead them to a long-overdue Stanley Cup Championship. Over the next decade, he played for several teams and was either the starter or a backup who played a lot of games and could challenge for the starting role. “Optimus Reim,” as he was once called, is still in his prime as far as goaltenders go, so this isn’t necessarily his last hurrah. But it might be his best chance, as the Hurricanes made it to the Conference Finals last season and could make another deep playoff run this year. 

Nathan Gerbe, Columbus Blue Jackets

Age: 33
Year in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 2
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: At 5’4”, Nathan Gerbe is everyone’s favorite “Little Big Man, ” and the shortest skater in NHL history. (Only former goaltender Roy “Shrimp” Worters, at 5’3”, was shorter.) Gerbe had an up-and-down career that saw him split time between the NHL and the minors, and even spend a few seasons in Europe, before returning to the NHL on a two-way contract. Gerbe’s NHL career has always been on shaky ground due to his size, but not his competitiveness. (Who could forget Gerbe destroying 6’3″ Travis Sanheim in a fight back in February?) Gerbe is the type of player you would feel good for – a true underdog who never quits – if he gets to raise the Stanley Cup. 

Players Age 34 to 36

The mid-30s are the point where many NHL players’ careers begin to wind down, or sometimes abruptly end due to an injury, demotion or contract buyout. Players in this age group many times are aging superstars or just very lucky, and might have five years or less left in their career. 

Carl Soderberg, Arizona Coyotes

Age: 34
Year in NHL: 8th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 4
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2013, Boston Bruins)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Soderberg was on this list last year, albeit with Colorado then, but our reasons for wanting him to win are pretty much unchanged. Soderberg had to overcome a lot of adversity in his hockey career. He was drafted in 2003, tried to play in the AHL in 2006, but was homesick and returned to Sweden. Later, he had a serious eye injury. Finally, he made his NHL debut in 2012-13 at the age of 27. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Bruins in 2013, who lost to the Blackhawks in six games. 

Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 15th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 9
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Weber has been one of the best defesnemen in the NHL over the past 15 seasons. Although he’s never won a major individual awards, Weber has appeared in seven NHL All-Star Games, won First All-Star Team honors twice, and Second All-Star Team honors twice as well. His first 11 seasons were spent with the Nashville Predators, who never made it past the second round of the playoffs during that time. Weber could easily play until he is 40, or maybe even past 40 like Zdeno Chara, so he still has time.

Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2019, Boston Bruins)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Jaroslav Halak has had a very good (and a very underrated) NHL career. He has excelled as both a starter and a backup. He won the Jennings Trophy twice — first as a starter with the Blues in 2012 and again as a backup with the Bruins in 2019. And while Halak was a part of the Bruins team that lost the Stanley Cup in seven games to the Blues in 2019, he did not play a single minute of the postseason. Perhaps the Bruins will choose to use Halak a bit in the playoffs this year to take some of the load off of Rask. Halak is 35 and still has a few good years left in the tank. However, a 35-year old goalie doesn’t always get to play for a contending team. Halak has one year left in his contract and might not be with the Bruins in the 2021 playoffs, so this might be his last great chance.

Nate Thompson, Philadelphia Flyers

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Thomson is a journeyman player who skated for eight, count ‘em eight, teams in his 13-year NHL career. Bottom six players like Thompson win Championships many times because they are on the right team at the right time, and at 35 there is no guarantee that he will be on a playoff-bound team – or even in the NHL – next season.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Colorado Avalanche

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 6th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2018, Vegas Golden Knights)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Bellemare is an interesting “rags-to-riches” story. He played 11 seasons in Europe – three in France, three in Sweden’s second-tier league and then five in the Swedish Elite League – before making it to the NHL at age 29. Bellemare was part of the upstart Vegas Golden Knights who, in 2018, smashed expectations and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. It would be great for Bellemare to win, considering that 10 years ago he was about as far away from the NHL as imaginable. 

Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks

Age: 35
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Despite playing 14 years in the NHL, mostly with the Dallas Stars, Loui Eriksson is only in his fourth postseason appearance. His last playoff appearance was five years ago (2014), and his prior postseason appearance six years before that (2009), so it isn’t like he had too many chances to win the Stanley Cup. Eriksson is currently in year four of a six-year deal with the Canucks and has a no-movement clause in his contract. Assuming the Canucks’ young roster continues to improve, Eriksson has two more kicks at the can, er Cup, if they don’t win it all this year. 

Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Age: 36
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Mark Giordano’s story of making it to the NHL is inspiring; the only thing missing is winning the Stanley Cup. He was undrafted and signed with the Flames when he was 20 and made his NHL debut at 22. After the 2006-07 season, Giordano and the Flames could not see eye-to-eye on a contract. Giordano did not want a two-way contract, as he believed he proved himself in the AHL. So, he went to play in Russia for a season, then represented Canada in the Spengler Cup. The next season, Calgary signed him to a contract and in 2013 he was named the Flames’ captain. He won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2019. Giordano is a late bloomer – and most likely has a few great years left – but who wouldn’t love to see him hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup this October?

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars

Age: 36
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 12
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(San Jose Sharks, 2016)
Why We Want to See Him Win: You almost feel bad for Joe Pavelski. He was on the San Jose Sharks – who for many years were a serious Cup-contending team – but only made it to the Finals once in 2016, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Look, we all wanted to see “The Big Pavelski,” Patrick Marleau and “Jumbo” Joe Thornton win the Cup as teammates in San Jose, but it wasn’t meant to be. Pavelski has two years left, at $7 million per season. If he and the Stars can’t win the Stanley Cup this season or next, Pavelski’s final shot might be in 2022 as a 38-year old “rental” player on a contending team.

Players Age 37 & 38

Players who are in their late 30s — superstar or otherwise — know that they are on borrowed time and that this might be their last crack at winning the Cup. We probably want to see guys in this age range win more so than the “youngsters” in their mid-to-late-30s listed above, just because their last games in 2020 could be the last games of their NHL careers. 

Curtis McElhinney, Tampa Bay Lightning

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 12th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Curtis McElhinney was on this list in 2019 too, though now he is a backup goalie instead of the starter. McElhinney is a journeymen goaltender who has played for eight different teams over 12 seasons. The first five years of his career were more or less as the team’s third-string goalie or minor-league call-up. Then he morphed into a reliable backup before becoming the Hurricanes’ starter last season. Last year looked like it would be McElhinney’s last shot to win a championship, but being the backup on the Tampa Bay Lightning — a team long-overdue to win the Cup — gives him a second, even better chance. 

Andy Greene, New York Islanders

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2012, New Jersey Devils)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Andy Green toiled for 14 seasons on the New Jersey Devils blueline, but only made it to the Stanley Cup Finals once. The Islanders picked him up near the trade deadline to help bolster the team’s playoff chances. Greene is 37 years old, sixth in ice time among Islanders defensemen, and is in the final year of his contract. This might be the last season for the longtime NHLer, so it would be great for Greene to go out on a high note.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Washington Capitals

Age: 37
Year in NHL: 13th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2012, New Jersey Devils)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Kovalchuk has been a bit of a running joke since he re-entered the NHL in 2018 with the L.A. Kings. The former first-overall pick has failed to meet expectations since re-entering the NHL in 2018, yet three teams — the Kings, Canadiens and Capitals — thought he could help them win. Yes, Kovalchuk did sign a rule-bending contract with the Devils in 2011, and then controversially “retired” from the NHL two years later to go play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. But prior to all that nonsense, he was a damn good player. Unfortunately, damn good players usually get drafted by bad teams, and Kovy spent the first eight years of his career with the Atlanta Thrashers (remember them?), only appearing in the playoffs once in that span. Kovalchuk put up impressive, borderline Hall-of-Fame-worthy, numbers in his NHL career. A guy that accomplished deserves to win hockey’s ultimate prize.

Deryk Engelland, Vegas Golden Knights

Age: 38
Year in NHL: 11th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1
(2018, Vegas Golden Knights)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Deryk Engelland, who was on this list in 2019 as the Knight’s oldest player then — is another great success story of hard work paying off. He was drafted in 2000, played three more seasons of junior hockey, split seven seasons between the ECHL and the AHL, and then finally made his NHL debut in 2009 at age 27. We all love to see these “long shot” players who never gave up go on to win the Cup. However, Engelland hasn’t played for Vegas since February 13, and though he is on the team’s playoff roster, it is unlikely that he will play for the team ever again. Still, there is hope that Engelland, an inaugural member of the Golden Knights and one of the team’s alternate captains, will end his career on a high note, even if as a healthy scratch. 

Assuming that your favorite team does not win the Stanley Cup in 2020, 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

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