No Stanley for Old Men: 2021 Edition

Which of these “Old Men Without a Cup” Will Go All the Way in 2021?

The NHL Playoffs start Saturday, which raises an inevitable question in my mind: who is the oldest active player on each team to not win the Stanley Cup?

Then, I always think back to the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. Twenty years ago, it seemed that the whole hockey world was rooting for the Colorado Avalanche to win so that veteran all-star defenseman Ray Bourque, then 41, could finally lift the Stanley Cup. Bourque had led the Boston Bruins to the Cup Finals in 1988 and 1990, but lost both time to the Edmonton Oilers. Fortunately for Bourque, he was traded to the Avalanche in 2000 and won the Cup with Colorado in 2001, so he got to cap his 22-year career as a champion. 

But not all veteran players get to go out like Bourque did. Some play nearly two decades and/or reach their 40th birthday and never come close to winning the Cup. Here is a look at the oldest player on each team in the 2021 NHL Playoffs who has yet to win hockey’s ultimate prize. Which veteran on this list are you hoping will finally lift the Stanley Cup this year? 

Players Age 30 to 34

A player in this age range has been playing for a while now. They still have time, but are old enough to know that nothing lasts forever. 

David Savard, Tampa Bay Lightning

Age: 30
Years in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win:  It is a bit of a stretch to call David Savard an “old man” since he is just 30 years old. He is also a solid defenseman in the prime of his career. But he is the oldest member of the Lightning who was not on the team when they won the Stanley Cup in 2020. Savard played with the Blue Jackets for nearly 10 seasons before being picked up in a trade near the deadline — first to the Red Wings, who immediately traded him to the Lightning. (Talk about going from worst to first in a matter of moments.) Seeing as how the Lightning have much of the same core group as they did last year, Savard may win his first Stanley Cup well before his 31st birthday.  

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Marco Scandella, St. Louis Blues

Age: 31
Years in NHL: 11th season 
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Marco Scandella spent the majority of his career on mediocre teams like the Minnesota Wild and the Buffalo Sabres. Last year, he had his first legitimate shot at winning the Cup when he joined the Blues in early 2020. He gets that chance again this year. 

Yannick Weber, Pittsburgh Penguins

Age: 32
Years in NHL: 13th season 
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2017, Nashville Predators)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Yannick Weber was a member of the Predators team that lost the Stanley Cup to the Penguins in 2017. It would be pretty sweet for him if he won with the team that beat him four years ago. 

James Reimer, Carolina Hurricanes

Age: 33
Years in NHL: 11th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 4
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2016, San Jose Sharks)
Why We Want to See Him Win: After winning his first NHL start on January 1, 2011, James Reimer looked like he would be the goalie to lead the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup someday. Well, things didn’t work out that way. Reimer has been a solid goaltender over the past decade, so it would nice to see this veteran win a Cup. (He was a backup with the Sharks when they lost to the Penguins in 2016.) “Optimus Reim” still has a few more prime years left in his career, so this isn’t his last shot. But it might be his best, as the Hurricanes have been serious contenders for the past few years and clinched their division this season. 

Nick Holden, Vegas Golden Knights

Age: 34
Years in NHL: 10th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Until last season, Nick Holden was never on a team that made a deep playoff run. The Golden Knights made it to the Conference Finals last year and have the team to go all the way this year. Holden was a late bloomer in hockey. He was undrafted and spent five years developing in the minors. He is exactly the type of player we’d feel good for if he wins the Stanley Cup — that longshot player who realized their dream. 

Anton Stralman, Florida Panthers

Age: 34
Years in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 7
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 2 (2014, New York Rangers & 2015, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Anton Stralman lost back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. Then, in his first year after leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Florida Panthers, the Lightning win the Cup without Stralman. You always feel good for that player who loses in the Cup Finals a few times and then finally wins it.

Players Age 35 to 39

Players in this age range can count on one hand how many seasons they have left to hopefully win the Stanley Cup. We probably want to see guys in this group win a little more than the players mentioned above, since they’ve been around longer and 2021 could be the last season for some of them. 

Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens

Age: 35
Years in NHL:  16th season 
Prior Playoff Appearances: 10
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Shea Weber has been one of the NHL’s best defensemen over the past 16 years. He hasn’t won a major individual award, but he did appear in seven NHL All-Star Games, won First All-Star Team honors twice and Second All-Star Team honors twice as well. And let’s not forget his legendary slapshot. Weber won the NHL’s Hardest Shot Competition four times, most-recently in 2020. He spent his first 11 seasons with the Predators, who never made it past the second round. Weber is signed with Montreal until he is 40 and could probably play another few years after that, so he still has time. 

Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

Age: 36
Years in NHL: 15th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 6
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2019, Boston Bruins)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Jaroslav Halak has had a very good NHL career, as both a starter and a backup. He won the Jennings Trophy twice — first as a starter with the Blues in 2012 and again with the Bruins in 2019. Last year, Halak was thrust into the spotlight when starter Tuukka Rask left the team with a family medical emergency. But this year, Halak has been relegated to third string goalie for the playoffs. If Halak does win the Stanley Cup this year, it will be as a member of the Bruins’ Black Aces or Taxi Squad. 

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Colorado Avalanche

Age: 36
Years in NHL: 7th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 4
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2018, Vegas Golden Knights)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Bellemare is that “rags-to-riches” story that we love. He played three seasons in France followed by eight years in Sweden before making it to the NHL at age 29. We would all feel good for Bellemare if he won the Cup, considering that 11 years ago he was as about as far away from the NHL as possible. 

Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Age: 36 
Years in NHL: 16th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 12
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2012, New Jersey Devils)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Zach Parise was born and raised in Minnesota. It is always great when a hometown hero can help his team win the Stanley Cup. Parise has a few years left in the tank, but his career is winding down. The Wild had a great regular season in 2021, so this may be Parise’s last real shot. 

Nate Thompson, Winnipeg Jets

Age: 36
Years in NHL: 14th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 7
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Nate Thompson has played for nine different NHL teams over his 16-year career. He changed teams five times over the past five years. If Thompson, a low-scoring center, does win the Cup, it will most likely happen because he is on the right team at the right time. Maybe we don’t root for journeymen players, but we’re always happy to see them be part of a winning team. (Such as Curtis McElhinney in 2020.)

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Age: 38
Years in NHL: 15th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 8
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2017, Nashville Predators )
Why We Want to See Him Win: Pekka Rinne has won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie once. He was also named to the First and Second All-Star Teams one time each. Rinne even scored a goal in 2002; he is one of the few goalies to actually do so. Rinne has had an admirable career that appears to be in its twilight. If the Preds win the Cup this season, Rinne will probably be on the bench as the backup. Still, a championship would be a well-deserved end for the six-foot-five Finn. 

Andy Greene, New York Islanders

Age: 38
Years in NHL: 15th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 7
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. Greene is 38 years old and is finishing out a one-year deal. This might be the last chance for the longtime NHL blueliner to win the Stanley Cup. 

Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers

Age: 39
Years in NHL: 15th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 3
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Mike Smith has been a really good goalie for some really bad teams, and as a result has made it to the playoffs only three times in his prior 14 seasons. And though he’s the Oilers’ starting goalie this year, that will change, as Smith is 39 and in the last year of his contract. He might hang on a season or two elsewhere as a backup, but most-likely not on a contender. His time to win has to be now. 

Players 40 and Up

These are the players that we really want to see have a “Ray Bourque Ending” to their career. You know, play a ridiculously-long time in the NHL,  win the Cup in his final season, then retire on a high note. We would feel good if either of these two longtime NHLers capped their career with a Cup championship. 

Craig Anderson, Washington Capitals

Age: 40 
Years in NHL: 18th season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 5
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 0
Why We Want to See Him Win: Craig Anderson will turn 40 during the first round of the playoffs. And like Mike Smith, Anderson was a good goalie on some bad teams. He played 10 years for the Ottawa Senators; a team that made the playoffs here and there, but was never really a contender. Now, Anderson is the third-string goalie on the high-scoring Capitals. If the team wins the Cup, he will really have no influence. Still, Anderson is a likeable guy and we’d all be happy for him to have a great ending to his 18-year career. 

Joe Thornton, Toronto Maple Leafs

Age: 41
Years in NHL: 23rd season
Prior Playoff Appearances: 17
Prior Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2016, San Jose Sharks)
Why We Want to See Him Win: Joe Thornton started his NHL career in 1997-98 and is the oldest player in the league. He has had much personal success, winning the Hart and Art Ross Trophies, scoring over 400 goals and 1,100 assists in the regular season. He will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible three years after retirement. But one accolade has eluded Jumbo Joe over the past 23 seasons, and that is winning the Stanley Cup. Even the most ardent of Leafs-haters would get teary-eyed if Thornton got to hoist the Cup and then call it a career. 

Assuming that your favorite team does not win the Stanley Cup in 2021, which of these “Old Men Without a Cup” would you like to see become an “Old Man WITH a Cup”?

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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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