When it was announced the World Cup of Hockey would not only feature national teams, but two “mixed” teams – Team Europe and Team North America – it was pretty clear this tournament was more about spectacle than national pride.
And hey, I’m all for entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Just look at my Netflix queue.
But if we’re going to go outside the box to get more NHL players on the big stage, there’s one thing that would make this tournament even better: Team Old Guys.
More appropriately, it would probably be deemed “Team Over-35”, but other possible names would be “Team Age And Treachery”, or “Team Wisdom Before Beauty”.
And they’d already have a natural rivalry with Team North America, comprised of Canada and the USA’s best under-23 players.
With John Scott recently suggesting the most prominent “snubs” create their own team for the tournament, I thought it’d be fun to put together the best roster I could imagine of North American over-35 players.
I used similar rules as Team North America for this roster. All players had to be 35 before the tournament started in September, and they had to be from Canada or the USA. Unfortunately, that left off Jaromir Jagr and Zdeno Chara, and meant that some well-deserving players, like Patrick Sharp, missed the age cut-off by just a few months.
However, with such a small pool of players to choose from, I took the liberty of assuming a few guys planning to retire would relish the opportunity to show those whippersnappers a thing or two.
This was by far the easiest part of the roster to put together, as there are literally only three full-time NHL goalies over the age of 35.
The good news for Team Wisdom is that they all are very capable starters.
All three have experience with their respective national teams, and with Roberto Luongo having a fantastic season manning the Panthers’ net, he would likely be the starter.
However, both Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson did quite well behind shaky defenses, which is something our over-35 squad will desperately need.
Here is where decisions had to be made, as there were actually several players who qualified.
Perhaps the biggest question here was whether or not Joe Thornton could be included (as you see, I’ve left him off). He is 36, but was named to Team Canada.
If Team Treachery was actually in the tournament, it’s likely Canada wouldn’t have been able to choose the former Sharks captain, much like how Team USA hoped to take Jack Eichel, but couldn’t because he was under 23 years old.
While Chris Kunitz, Thornton, and Patrick Marleau would be a deadly top line, there’s still pretty good depth down the middle with Mike Ribeiro, Mike Fisher, Brad Richards and Dominic Moore. A Jason Chimera-Moore-Brian Gionta trio would likely be one of the better fourth lines in the tournament.
Jarome Iginla is still a quality sniper, and has played alongside Alex Tanguay on the Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile Tanguay’s current captain, Shane Doan, put up more goals last year as a 39-year-old than he had since the 2008-09 season.
Matt Cullen will add some much needed speed to a roster that’s lost a step, as he’s been able to keep up with a fleet-footed Pittsburgh Penguins squad all season, notching 32 points in 82 regular season games and six points in their current playoff run.
Even adding the retiring Vincent Lecavalier, who found himself reinvigorated with the Los Angeles Kings, isn’t such a stretch, as he became something of a power play specialist in California. And if you’re not a Lecavalier fan, Shawn Horcoff, who was a respectable fourth liner for the Anahiem Ducks this season, could take his place.
Unfortunately, here is where our experiment goes off the rails. With our age and nationality restrictions, there are very few defensemen who qualify for Team Wisdom.
Other than the likely first pair of Brian Campbell and John-Michael Liles, this is a very rough defense. There’s plenty of experience here, however many of these guys are less-than-loved by the analytics crowd.
Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik, in particular, have poor reputations with the numbers guys, though their risk-averse style of play does seem to appeal to the traditional hockey minds.
One of the other major issues with these selections is that there is literally one right-shot defenseman, the retiring Dan Boyle. This could especially cause problems on the power play, where handedness has been shown to be key to success.
Still, with a systems-focused head coach like Darryl Sutter, who hasn’t been tapped for any other World Cup team, Team Old Guys could make life difficult – and give hockey fans quite a show.