It's the best time of year!
Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: San Jose Sharks, Saturday Faceoff, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals
The Vancouver Canucks have a chance within the next couple weeks to win their first ever Stanley Cup. That got us to thinking – what are some of the best teams, historically, that have never lifted hockey’s Holy Grail? Patrick, Bryan and I debate…
San Jose Sharks
By Patrick Hoffman
With 30 teams in the National Hockey League, there are obviously several great franchises that have either deserved to win the Stanley Cup or have had several opportunities to do so only never to cash in on the golden opportunity.
One club that easily fits that model is the San Jose Sharks. Since joining the National Hockey League during the 1991-92 season, the team has had many great regular seasons, many division championships and many appearances in the postseason. The only thing missing: Lord Stanley.
As it turns out, many hockey pundits and fans alike wonder why the Sharks do not have a Cup given the players that have come through. We are talking about guys like Joe Thornton, Owen Nolan, Dan Boyle, Mike Vernon, Jonatahn Cheechoo, Mike Ricci, Evgeni Nabokov, Teemu Selanne, Vincent Damphousse, Gary Suter, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and so on and so forth. All of these players have/had the talent, work ethic and skills that are necessary to help their clubs and yet, when all is said and done, the trophy cupboard is bare.
What is also amazing is how many times this team has been in the postseason. The team's breakout year was the 2001-02 season when they won their first of six Pacific Division titles. The club even won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2008-09 season with 53 wins and 117 points, both club records.
With that said, no matter what they have done in the regular season, the playoffs have never seemed to bring them good fortune. There were first and second round exits, lots of seven-game series, a few Western Conference Finals – and yet, nothing to show for it.
This franchise has had it all. They have had great players, solid coaches, many great regular seasons, playoff heartache, individual awards, regular season awards, division championships and some other good things.
Again though, the one thing that is missing for this franchise is the one thing that means everything in hockey: the Stanley Cup.
St. Louis Blues
By Ryan Porth
It’d be easy to pick a team like the Canucks, Kings or Sabres, but one franchise that seems to always be forgotten in this conversation is the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues were a part of the NHL’s ‘Next Six’ expansion in 1967. In each of their first three years as a franchise, they lost in the Stanley Cup final. They have made 34 playoff appearances in 42 years, including a 25-year streak (third-longest in NHL history).
Seven division titles are spread out through their history. A Presidents’ Trophy is also on the resume. Yet, no Stanley Cup.
There’s no arguing the talent they’ve had over the years. Brett Hull became a super star wearing a Blues uniform. There was a three-year span in the early 90’s where Hull scored 70-plus goals each season (including 86 in 1990-91). 527 of his 741 career goals came with St. Louis.
In the nine years leading up to the lockout, the Blues had Al MacInnis (Hall of Famer) and Chris Pronger (future Hall of Famer) patrolling the blue-line. They combined to win back-to-back Norris Trophies in 1999 and 2000, while Pronger took the Hart Trophy in 2000.
St. Louis has also been blessed to have players such as Bernie Federko (franchise-leading 1,073 points), Brian Sutter, Pierre Turgeon and Garry Unger be a part of the organization. Hell, they even had Wayne Gretzky for a few months! (Ok, that experiment didn’t go as well as hoped.)
A reason why the Blues are forgotten in this conversation is because of their recent history. Since the lockout, they’ve only had one postseason appearance in six years. If it weren’t for a miraculous late-season comeback in 2008-09, playoff tickets would not have needed to be printed in St. Louis since 2004.
This has quietly been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL over the last four-plus decades, competing in the playoffs on a regular basis. With just one conference final appearance since 1986 and many spring-time disappointments in between, it’d be easy to forget that.
By Bryan Reynolds
Best team without a Stanley Cup, huh? I was tempted to go with the Minnesota North Stars, but then realized that anyone under the age of 30 probably wouldn’t have a clue who they were, nor were they ever really all that good. No, instead of taking you all on a journey through the hell that is Norm Green, we will instead go with a current NHL team, the Minnesota Wild. I kid, I kid.
The best team in the NHL without a Stanley Cup has got to be the Washington Capitals – a team that entered the league in 1974, has six division titles, a Prince of Wales Trophy and a Presidents’ trophy to its credit.
This is a team that in 1997-98 went to the Stanley Cup final with a roster that had Adams Oates, Joe Juneau, Sergei Gonchar, Andrew Brunette, Peter Bondra, Phil Housley, Mark Tinordi, “Crazy” Chris Simon and Olaf Kolzig. The problem is, they ran head long into the Detroit Red Wings and were swept.
Then, the team entered the dark ages, winning very little, suffering as the forgotten step child in the DC area. That was until Ted Leonsis bought the team and began a renaissance of sorts in the nation’s capital. They now have a team that boasts superstar Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Niklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The question mark for the current run of success, which has brought the team’s first President’s trophy, has been defensive play and goaltending. Neither issue of which has ultimately been solved by Boudreau. With young prospect Semyon Varlamov and Michael Nuevirth never knowing which one is the starter, the Caps have had a great deal of success in the regular season only to fall apart in the playoffs.
They have made the playoffs 22 of their 37 years in existence, including a stretch of 14 straight seasons from 1983 to 1996. Yet, that Cup remains elusive, and no one has many answers as to why. They are high powered and dangerous, and if they ever figure out the goaltending situation, the NHL best be on notice.
Photos credit: Getty Images
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