Commentary

Five players we'd love to see win

Updated: April 11, 2012, 10:56 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

1. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

It would be a monumental underdog story, to be sure, for the Senators to go all the way, but in today's parity-filled NHL, one can't discount anything. Few players in today's game have shown more class and integrity than the 39-year-old Alfredsson, who was rightfully feted like a rock star during All-Star Weekend in Ottawa. To be able to raise his first Cup over his arms this June would be a wonderful storyline for one of the good guys in the game. Not to mention erase the painful memories of the 2007 Cup loss to Anaheim.

2. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Jumbo Joe has taken so much abuse from his critics over the years. Even his sterling playoffs last spring and playing with a dislocated shoulder in the final game of the Western Conference finals did nothing to assuage his most severe critics. A terrific person off the ice, how good would it be for him to finally be able to raise that first Cup over his arms?

3. Willie Mitchell, Los Angeles Kings

Here's a warrior who oozes character. And he's one of the more thoughtful and insightful interviews in the league. His name doesn't often get mentioned as one of the reasons for L.A.'s turnaround, but the veteran blueliner has been a huge part of the Kings' success. His career was threatened by a concussion three years ago. Wouldn't it be terrific to see the 34-year-old Mitchell for the first time in his career raise Lord Stanley's mug in June?

4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

King Henrik has exuded class and character since entering the league in 2005-06. He has devoted considerable time to charitable endeavors, not to mention he stood on his head for a number of average Rangers teams. Now he's finally got a contender playing in front of him and wouldn't it be terrific to see chants of "Hen-rik, Hen-rik," cascade down from the Madison Square Garden stands as he raised the Cup over his shoulders?

5. Andrew Brunette, Chicago Blackhawks

In many ways, the 38-year-old winger represents so many players in this league that never get a sniff. A veteran of more than 1,100 NHL games, an honest, blue-collar worker who has maximized the skills given to him, the closest Brunette ever got to a Cup finals was when the Minnesota Wild reached the conference finals in 2002-03. What makes you pull for the native of Sudbury, Ontario, even more is that for years he toiled on expansion teams such as Nashville, Atlanta and Minnesota. I mean, the dude has done his time. Can we get him a ring already?