It is one of the best traditions in the NHL. When the Stanley Cup is awarded to the winning captain, he takes it from the commissioner and immediately passes it off to the oldest member of the team who has never hoisted it before. Often times this moment isn’t a huge deal but every now and then a star player close to retirement gets to finally lift the cup before hanging up the skates. One of the greatest moments in hockey history was watching hall of fame defenseman Ray Bourque finally raise the Cup after 22 years!
I still get goose bumps every time watching that clip. Finally winning the Cup after 22 seasons in the league? Talk about a weight off his shoulders and a dream come true after so many years of hard work. Just simply one of the greatest tear shedding moments of all time.
As the current NHL season heads toward the Stanley Cup final, there are two big name players left playing that fit the old star player who has never won before role. That of course would be Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timmonen and Lightning forward Brenden Morrow. While it will no doubt be a cool moment when either one gets the Cup, personally for me it won’t have the same effect as seeing some other older NHL stars win for the first time. Timmonen has barely even played for the Hawks and Morrow hasn’t been a significant contributor in a number of years. While nobody in the league at this point would match the Bourque moment, a number of star players would come close. Within the next few seasons it would be pretty awesome to see any number of the following five players win the Cup for the first time.
Jarome Iginla (38-years-old)
Ray Bourque tallied 59 points from the blue-line in that final season where he rode off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup. A miracle run by those same Avalanche in 2015-16 would be awesome because 38-year-old Jarome Iginla is still a dominant scoring forward. It is hard to feel bad for Jarome that the Avalanche weren’t very good this past season. He chose to sign with Colorado knowing full well they haven’t been a consistent playoff team for a number of years. However, a fan favorite captain for a number of years with the Calgary Flames, it would be as close to another Bourque like moment as you could get next season. Iginla scored 29 goals for the Avalanche this past season, a terrific total for any forward, much less a player nearing 40. The veteran scorer continues to be a goal scoring machine every year. His 29 goals were actually his lowest total dating all the way back to Y2K. You heard that right, 2014-15 was the first time Iginla failed to reach 30 goals in a full season since the 1999-2000 season.
Iginla will actually turn 38-years-old later this summer, and while he has remained a dominant scorer, father time catches up to everyone eventually. Having signed a long term deal in Colorado, it is unlikely any team will trade for him, but if the Avalanche have another poor season, hopefully somebody will take a chance on Iginla. He is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the postseason. The right-winger is one of the few true power-forwards left in the game. It would be an amazing story to see him finally win the elusive Stanley Cup after all these years.
Andrei Markov (37-years-old)
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov will turn 37-years-old in the middle of 2015-16 but he has continued to light up the score-sheet despite his advanced age. The career Canadien has been a power-play quarterback machine over the years, setting up shooters like Sheldon Souray, James Wisniewski, and now P.K. Subban among others. Markov finished this past season with 50 points, his third season eclipsing that total. In his 11 non-lockout shortened seasons Markov has finished with 40 or more points six times, 30 or more points eight times.
Over the years when you think of the Montreal Canadiens blue-line you think of Andrei Markov. He has been a staple of that blue-line for nearly 15 years. Not talked about as much because he doesn’t have an insane shot nor does he go coast-to-coast like the younger Subban but Markov has been one of the best play-making defenseman of the past decade. Few blue-liners can move the puck like Markov. Spending his whole career with Montreal, it would be awesome to see the Canadiens bring the Cup back to Canada before Markov retires.
Shane Doan (39-years-old)
Come this October Shane Doan will be 39-years-old. Next season will be his 20th in the NHL and unfortunately his Arizona Coyotes were one of the worst teams in hockey this past season. The chances are extremely low they turn it around to the playoffs next season. That said the Coyotes did come out of nowhere in 2011-12 to reach the Western Conference final. But if Doan wants to win the Stanley Cup next season he will almost certainly have to finally ask out from the only franchise he has ever known. Doan played as a rookie with the original Winnipeg Jets and then moved with the club to become the Coyotes prior to his sophomore season. Doan has been in Arizona ever since.
Now unlike the rest of the players in this group, Doan’s production has tailed off. This past season he scored just 36 points, his lowest full season total since his fourth year in the league back in 1998-99. That said, Doan still managed to score 23 goals in 2013-14 and was on pace for over 20 in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, so Doan is likely still capable of 15-20 goals if he were to move on to a true contender. The longtime Arizona captain, just like Iginla, is one of the few remaining power forwards left. He is a fan favorite around the league, it would be an absolute delight to see him win the Cup for the first time after 20 years.
Joe Thornton (36-years-old)
Unlike the rest of the players in this group, Joe Thornton doesn’t have the greatest reputation among some fans. Particularly a number of Boston fans still criticize Thornton for a perceived lack of ability to perform in the playoffs. Sure enough a career minus-27 in the playoffs doesn’t look great, but we all know the problems with plus/minus as a statistic. For instance Thornton’s minus-6 in the collapse against the Kings in 2013-14 was sagged due to multiple empty net goals. The truth of the matter is that Thornton has rarely been the problem for the Sharks in the postseason. You take away two of Thornton’s worst plus/minus ratings in the postseason with the Sharks, and the other seven years he has combined to be an even-zero. Plus from 2011-12 through 2012-13, Thornton was the best player on the ice for either team in three straight postseason series. He absolutely obliterated the St. Louis Blues in 2011-12, but outside maybe Martin Havlat and Brent Burns, who were also good against the Blues, (yes Burns was good as a defenseman that year), the rest of the Sharks were awful. The following season Burns and Thornton dominated both the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings as a forward pair. The Sharks lost to the Kings in seven games but Thornton and Burns played nearly the entirety of their shifts in the Kings zone. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Quick playing out of his mind, the Sharks win that series.
Thornton has been the engine running the Sharks for nearly a decade. Say what you want about his reputation for not showing up in big moments, but look at what the Sharks would be without him. They would be flat out terrible. He makes the power-play tick, he is a possession beast at even strength, he turns ho-hum average players like Devin Setoguchi into 30-goal scorers, he turns 20-25 goal scorers like Pavelski into 40 goal scorers. He dominates the face-off circle, he plays hurt just like any other star plays hurt. If you don’t think Thornton wants to win the Stanley Cup as bad as a Anze Kopitar or Jonathan Toews, you are simply a Thornton hater. GM Doug Wilson criticized Thornton for lashing out at people due to stress of being captain. You don’t lash out at people if you don’t care. Thornton cares, he cares about winning as much as any player in the league. Plus he is still money in the bank for at least 65 points, the key cog of a top-10 power-play almost every year, one of the league leaders in possession stats every year. He is still a beast and seeing him win a Stanley Cup and shut up the haters would be absolutely fantastic.
Henrik Lundqvist (34-years-old)
Lundqvist actually just turned 33 a couple of months ago but so come next year’s postseason he will be 34-years-old. One of the greatest goaltenders of all time just saw his streak of Game 7 dominance at home ended by the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, it certainly wasn’t his fault allowing just two goals in each of the last two home games of the Eastern Conference final. His Rangers simply couldn’t score, being shutout in both Game 5 and 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Each and every year Lundqvist proves worthy of a Vezina nomination by having a save percentage over .920. In fact he hasn’t finished a regular season with a sub .920 save percentage since 2008-09. The past six straight years he has been over .920 in the regular season and in the past four playoff years he has finished the postseason at .927 or better! He is one of the few consistently elite goaltenders every single season and yet he still manages to raise his level of production when the lights shine the brightest in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Lundqvist is simply one of the best goaltenders we have ever seen. He is also great with the media. If you ever watch those post-game interviews with Lundqvist you know he is one of the most engaging interviewees in all of the NHL. He is an absolute delight for reporters to talk to, incredibly humble but willing to chat quite a bit, especially if asked about the teammates playing in front of him. Having played a decade in the league with the Rangers, Lundqvist has yet to raise the Cup but it would be a welcomed sight to see if were able to break through.