If you like hockey roster brain teasers, you’re certainly familiar with Sean McIndoe, a.k.a. DownGoesBrown, who currently writes for The Athletic and co-hosts the Puck Soup podcast. Earlier this week, he challenged readers to construct a starting line-up from their favorite team’s history that features six different player nationalities.
This obviously favors older franchises, who just have more players to choose from, but some rules were put in place to somewhat mitigate that. Mainly, the player would be as they were when they played for that team, as opposed to their prime or an average of their career. The other rule makes it easier more newer franchises; the roster should have three forwards, two defenders and a goaltender, but handedness and positional play beyond that is optional. If Team Canada’s roster is basically ten centers and two wingers, similar rules can apply here.
And because some generational hockey players have dual citizenship, for this exercise, nationality is determined by who they play for internationally, or if unavailable, place of birth.
Here’s the line-up he created for the Kings:
Forwards: Wayne Gretzky (CAN), Anze Kopitar (SVN), Alex Frolov (RUS)
Defense: Mattias Norstrom (SWE), Aki Berg (FIN)
Goalie: Jonathan Quick (USA)
We start strong up front with a legend and a current star, and we end with a Cup-winning goalie, but the middle of the roster is disappointing. Norstrom was better than you might remember, but Aki Berg was Aki Berg. Frolov is basically there by default and also because I didn’t have the heart to troll Kings fans by using Ilya Kovalchuk.
Honestly, I just don’t think he took advantage of his own system enough. If we’re getting the entire time Jonathan Quick has been with the Kings, it doesn’t average out to anything particularly impressive, as he didn’t so much fall off the cliff, but dove right off it.
Instead, I propose bring in Peter Budaj in net — mainly the one who played with the Kings from 2015-2017. In the 2017 season, he put up a .917 save percentage over 53 games. Quick’s career save percentage with the Kings is a .913 — which is also Budaj’s average over both times he played for the Kings. If this is a one-time cup run roster, Budaj could probably suffice, allowing an upgrade to the defense.
While my upgrade from Aki Berg is also subject to the same problem as Quick — namely, his career with the Kings was on a downward trajectory, as age comes for us all — Alec Martinez is still markedly better than Berg.
Finally, that means Frolov can also be upgraded and I’d put in Tomas Sandstrom. The Finnish power forward played for the Kings from 1989 to 1994, putting up 254 points (117 goals, 137 assists) in 235 games.
Here’s my upgraded King six-country roster:
Forwards: Wayne Gretzky (CAN), Anze Kopitar (SVN), Tomas Sandstrom (FIN)
Defense: Mattias Norstrom (SWE), Alec Martinez (USA)
Goalie: Peter Budaj (SVK)
What do you think? Which roster would be more competitive? Is Quick undoubtably the choice in net? Show me your version in the comments!