As time starts to run out, plenty of NHL veterans still chasing first Stanley Cup
|Toronto Star 09 Apr 2019 at 09:57|
1. Calgary goaltender Mike Smith — 37, 13 seasons (2018-19: 42 games played, 23-16-2, 2.72 goals-against average, .898 save percentage)
Smith arguably has his best chance at a Cup with Calgary after years in Dallas, Tampa Bay and Arizona. He has played just 19 career playoff games with 16 of those coming in the Phoenix Coyotes’ run to the 2012 Western Conference Final. Things weren’t looking good for the Kingston, Ont., native early in the season when he got injured and lost his starting job to David Rittich, but he’s bounced back to retake the No. 1 role with the Flames while playing in his final season of a six-year contract.
2. Toronto forward Patrick Marleau — 39, 21 seasons (82 GP, 21 G, 37 Pts.)
Marleau has played the most regular- (1,657) and post-season games (184) among active players without ever winning a Cup, and is also the playoff leader in goals (72) for skaters still in the game. The Swift Current, Sask., native will be in the playoffs for the 19th time, with a loss against Pittsburgh in 2016 with San Jose being his lone Cup final appearance. His role with Toronto is much different than when he was in his prime with the Sharks as the veteran voice in a room full of youth.
3. Dallas forward Jason Spezza — 35, 16 seasons (76 GP, 8 G, 27 Pts.)
Spezza was once part of a young core in Ottawa that took the Senators to the 2007 final, only to fall to Anaheim in what has turned out to be his only visit to the championship round. He’s missed the post-season in four of the past five years and is in a depth role with Dallas. But the one-time superstar has produced 65 points in 69 career playoff games including 13 points in 13 games in 2016, his last appearance in the post-season.
4. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne — 36, 11 seasons (56 GP, 30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 save percentage)
Rinne is coming off a Vezina Trophy season that felt incomplete after bowing out in the second round of the playoffs against Winnipeg, despite Nashville being considered a strong contender to go all the way. The Finland native has played a ton of hockey in the last three years with 39 combined playoff games and 184 regular-season appearances. The only active goaltender with more playoff experience than Rinne (83 GP) and still without a Cup is Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers (128).
5. St. Louis defenceman Jay Bouwmeester — 36, 16 seasons (78 GP, 3 G, 17 Pts.)
Bouwmeester has hung around long enough to enter the playoffs sixth all-time among active skaters in regular-season games played (1,184), but has never had a true shot at winning a Cup. The Edmonton native went his first 10 seasons without ever qualifying for the post-season and didn’t make his playoff debut until 2013 with St. Louis despite being drafted in 2002. All 49 post-season games he’s played have been with the Blues.
6. San Jose forward Joe Thornton — 39, 21 seasons (73 GP, 16 G 51 Pts.)
Thornton has 123 points in 160 playoff games, but the closest he ever came to winning a Cup was three years ago when his Sharks bowed out in the finals against Pittsburgh. The St. Thomas, Ont., native missed last year’s post-season, sidelined with a knee injury, but came back on a one-year contract in an attempt to capture what has eluded him his entire career.
7. Boston forward David Backes — 34, 13 seasons (70 GP, 7 G, 20 Pts.)
Backes will be part of in his eighth straight post-season and ninth overall, yet he has never made it past the Western Conference final after bowing out in the third round with St. Louis in 2016. Injuries have affected the Minneapolis native in recent seasons and he’s not the same power forward Boston thought it was getting when the Bruins signed him to a five-year deal after his run with the Blues, but he has the respect of his teammates after telling media he will take any role coach Bruce Cassidy requests of him.
8. Tampa Bay defenceman Dan Girardi — 34, 13 seasons (62 GP, 4 G, 16 Pts.)
Girardi’s 139 career playoff games puts him third among active defenceman behind Zdeno Chara and Brooks Orpik. The only difference is both of them have won a Cup while the Welland, Ont., native is still in search of one. Girardi had some deep playoff runs with the Rangers before being signing with Tampa Bay in 2017 and is in a great spot to finally win one with the first-place Lightning before becoming a free agent in the off-season.
9. Winnipeg forward Matt Hendricks — 37, 11 seasons (26 GP, 0 G, 3 Pts.)
Hendricks left Winnipeg for hometown Minnesota as a free agent in the summer but was reacquired by the Jets at the trade deadline and will get another shot at winning the Cup even if it’s in a depth role. The Blaine, Minn., native, who didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 27, suited up in five playoff games last season for the Jets after beginning post-season play sidelined with a lower-body injury. An upper-body injury shelved him for parts of this season, but he’s healthy and ready to go if Winnipeg needs him.
10. Nashville defenceman Dan Hamhuis — 36, 15 seasons (57 GP, 0 G, 5 Pts.)
Hamhuis made his playoff debut with Nashville back in 2004 and is entering his 10th post-season this year. But a Cup final appearance with Vancouver in 2011 is the only time the Smithers B.C., native came close to hoisting it, with his eight other appearances being first-round exits. After two seasons with Dallas, Hamhuis rejoined the Predators in the summer as a free agent believing the club could offer him what’s missing, even if he’s playing a depth role.
Honourable mention: Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano, 34; Carolina goaltender Curtis McElhinney, 35; Vegas forward Deryk Engelland 36.