The Stanley Cup is often regarded as one of the toughest trophies to win in sports. In the 100+ years of NHL history, teams have battled to have their names engraved on the coveted prize, giving birth to some of the greatest dynasties of all time in the process.
But what about those franchises who haven’t been so lucky. Of the 31 current teams in the NHL, 13 are still waiting for their chance to raise the Stanley Cup, some coming so close over the years only to have it elude them for another season. Let’s take a look at those teams, including the few who may be able to change that during these playoffs.
Arizona Coyotes (Formerly Winnipeg Jets)
Entering the league as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979, the team never once made it past the second round of the playoffs. Things haven’t been much better since moving to Arizona in 1996, missing the playoffs in 13 of their 21 seasons. The closest the Coyotes have come was in 2012, losing to the eventual champions, the LA Kings, in the Western Conference Finals.
“No Goal!” Most hockey fans will remember coach Lindy Ruff’s infamous words following the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, when a controversial call sent the Sabres packing in the third overtime of game six. The team also made the Finals back in 1975, but that’s about it for the city of Buffalo.
Columbus Blue Jackets
One of the NHL’s newest franchises, the Blue Jackets have been in the league since 2000 but didn’t see their first playoff game until the 2008-09 season. In their 17 seasons, they’ve only managed to make it to the postseason 4 times, and never past the first round. This year was no different, losing to the Washington Capitals in six games.
Since their inaugural season in 1993-94, the Panthers have made the playoffs only 5 times. Their best finish was in 1996 when they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In 1990, Ottawa was awarded a new franchise, which began play in 1992, but it was the second NHL team in the city to use the ‘Senators’ name. The original Senators, with no connection to the current one, were founded in 1883 and had a famed history, winning 11 Stanley Cups during their time in the league from 1917 until 1934.
The new Senators organization has had their fair share of successful seasons, but never enough to go all the way. The 2007 Stanley Cup Finals loss is the closest they’ve been.
Like Ottawa, Minnesota has also had two NHL franchises, the first being the North Stars who ended up moving to Dallas and capturing the Stanley Cup in 1999. In the Wild’s 17 seasons, they’ve seen the postseason 9 times, making it as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2003. Winnipeg handed them a first round exit this year, as they too look for their franchise’s first championship.
Coming into the league in 1998, things started slow for the Predators, missing the playoffs in each of their first 5 seasons. Since 2003-04 though, they’ve made an appearance in all but 3 seasons. After falling short in the Finals last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they’re looking to make a run at it again, and their chances are pretty good.
San Jose Sharks
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. The sayings all too true for the Sharks, who were one of the best teams in the NHL for nearly a decade, notching seven 100+ point seasons from 2003-04 to 2013-14. Unfortunately, they’ve never been able to carry over their regular season success into the playoffs and remain the only California based team without a Stanley Cup in their 26-year history going back to 1991. Maybe this year their history will change?
St. Louis Blues
The Blues entered the league in the 1967 NHL expansion, drawing an end to the Original Six era. They made the Finals in each of their first 3 seasons, losing the last at the hands of Bobby Orr, whose goal and leap stand as one of the NHL’s most memorable moments. They haven’t made it back to the Finals since.
Since their debut in 1970, the Canucks have made it to the playoffs 27 times, appearing in 3 Stanley Cup Finals. The first came in 1982 when they were swept by the New York Islanders, followed by two heartbreaking game seven losses in 1994 and 2011 at the hands of the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. With the Sedins retiring and the team in a rebuild, it may be a while before they get a chance to compete for the championship again.
Vegas Golden Knights
Having not even completed their first season, you can’t really include the Knights on a list of teams who have never won. But most people wouldn’t have included them in a playoff bracket at the start of the year, and look at them now. Having already broken records as a first-year expansion team, Vegas is one of the favourites to go all the way, and they’re off to a red-hot start in the second round.
You could say the Capitals got off to a rocky start. In their first season, 1974-75, they set the record for the lowest point total in NHL history, 21 points going 8-67-5. They failed to qualify for the playoffs for 8 straight years before finally making it in 1982-83. Their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance was in 1998, losing in 4 games to the Detroit Red Wings.
In recent years, they’ve been winners of multiple Presidents’ Trophies but have only made it as far as the second round in their last 12 attempts. Maybe this year will finally be Ovi’s, but he has a tough road ahead of him trying to take down the back-to-back champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Winnipeg Jets (Formerly Atlanta Thrashers)
This franchise began as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. During their 11 year run, they only made the playoffs once and it didn’t go well, losing 4 straight to the New York Rangers in the first round. Hoping to get a fresh start in 2011 as the Winnipeg Jets, the name of the previous franchise, the team has again failed to find any success. Their only playoff games came in 2015, again losing 4 straight in the first round.
The Jets are hoping to turn it around this year, having already won their franchise’s first ever playoff game on their way to defeating the Minnesota Wild in the first round.