The Los Angeles Kings are one more win away from being exiled from the club no hockey team wants to be in; the Never Won The Cup Club. The Kings have not had too much success in their 26 playoff appearances. The made the Stanley Cup Final back in 1993 with Wayne Gretzky on the ice and Barry Melrose behind the bench. They beat the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 but lost the next four straight. Besides 1993 and this season they have never gotten past the 2nd round of the playoffs. Going to take a look at the remaining members of this club, some of which I hope never get out.
Buffalo Sabres- The Sabres have been a pretty successful franchise in its 41 seasons. They have made the playoffs 29 times and have played in two Stanley Cup Finals. They lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games, in 1975, with a team that featured Rick Martin, who scored 52 goals for the second straight season. The Sabres returned to SCF in 1999 but lost to the Dallas Stars in 6 games. Many remember Brett Hull’s overtime goal where is foot may or may not have been in the crease, that clinched the Cup for Dallas. They have lost in the conference finals three times including back to back years in 2006 and 2007.
Columbus Blue Jackets- The Jackets have only been in existence for 11 seasons, but they have been pretty miserable. As I have said many times before, leave it to Ohio to come up with the world’s only bad BJ! The Jackets have only made one playoff appearance and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. Columbus looked to be a playoff contender this year by bringing in big names like Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. Now Carter is about to win the Cup with the Kings and Wisniewski will be happily collecting on his horrible contract. Columbus might be the last team to ever leave the Never Won The Cup Club.
Florida Panthers- The Panthers might be the next team to leave the ranks of the Never Won The Cup Club. Newly extended general manager Dale Tallon has the Cats going in the right direction, just make sure he knows where the fax machine is at all times. The Panthers made the playoffs for the 4th time in their 18 year history this year, and the first time since 2000. Their first playoff appearence, in 1996, was the only time they got past the opening round. They made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final where they got swept by the Colorado Avalance.
Minnesota Wild- The Wild has made the playoffs 3 times in their 11 year history but only made it out of the 1st round once. The Wild made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2003. That teamed featured at young Marian Gaborik and a good mix of veterans like Cliff Ronning. Their run playoff run was put to an end by the Anaheim Ducks in a four game sweep. The Wild has only returned to the playoffs twice since then and were knocked out of the 1st round both times. This is a fan base who deserves a winner and a yearly Cup contender. I hope manager can bring it to its loyal and rabid fans.
Nashville Predators- The Predators has enjoyed a nice stretch of regular season success as of late. It took them 5 seasons before making their first post season but they have made the playoffs seven out of the last eight seasons. Last season they made it out of the first round for the first time only lose in the second round. This season the Preds were everyone’s sexy pick to win the West, but they fell victim to the Phoenix Coyotes, as did the Blackhawks. The Preds have some big time free agents coming up like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber so their window to leave this club might be closing.
Ottawa Senators- Yes the name of the Ottawa Senators has a rich history with Lord Stanley’s Cup. The original Senators, that existed from 1883 to 1954, won 11 Stanley Cups. Besides the name there is not a connection from that franchise to the current Senators who have yet to win the Stanley Cup. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, but lost to Anaheim in 5 games. They have made the playoffs 13 out the last 15 years. The Sens have had their share of early round disappointments after successful regular seasons. This year the Sens surprised everyone by having a very good regular season. They faltered down the stretch but held on to the 8th seed. They took the top seeded Rangers to seven games before bowing out. The Sens have some up and coming future superstars in Erik Karlson and Milan Michalek, a diehard fan base along with ownership that wants to win, and could be player in the East for the next few years.
Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes- The Coyotes made their deepest playoff run in team history this past season. Their six game victory over the Blackhawks was their first playoff series win since moving to Arizona in 1996. They only got out of the first round twice in 11 playoff appearances while they were in Winnipeg. The Yotes have a solid team, but not sure if they can rely on another dream run like Mike Smith had the second half of this season. With new ownership on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what direction this franchise goes.
San Jose Sharks- The Sharks have been a pretty successful franchise since their inaugural season in 1991. They have only missed the playoffs five times in their 20 years in the league. They are a team that has been full of playoff disappointments. The Sharks have made the conference finals 3 times but have never been to the Stanley Cup Final. We all remember the last time they made the Western Finals back in 2010, when the Blackhawks swept them on their way to the Stanley Cup. The Sharks are another team in flux. They have a lot of high priced veterans and might be looking to go in a new direction.
St Louis Blues- The Blues are one of two teams I hope never make it out of this club. They have been a staple in the post season, for the most part. They have only missed the playoffs 8 time in their 44 year history. The Blues made the Stanley Cup Finals in each of their first 3 years of existence, which is a feat that will never be repeated. The last time the Blues were in the Final, in 1970, Bobby Orr became immortalized by scoring the Cup winning goal, and taking the greatest picture in sports history! They have only been to a conference finals once since then, back in 2001. The Blues are coming off a very good season and have a good mix of young talent. If they can add a superstar caliber player to the mix they could be a legit Cup contender.
Vancouver Canucks- Here is the other team I hope never leaves this club. This is the team everyone loves to hate. They have made it to the Stanley Cup Final three times in franchise history and lost all three. The last two times, in 2011 and 1994, the beautiful city of Vancouver suffered damage due to rioting from idiotic fans. The Canucks won the Presidents Trophy again this season but lost the Kings in the first round, much to the delight of many. Their window for a Cup is closing rapidly. They benefit from playing in the NHL’s weakest division but until they change leadership they will not will the Cup anytime soon. Their whole organization needs to change their entitled, crybaby attitude if they ever want to win. But with general manager Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault both extended I don’t see a change in attitude in their near future.
Washington Capitals- The Capitals have been a Stanley Cup favorite going into the last few seasons. It is easy to pick a team the features Alex Ovechkin in its lineup. But the Caps have found out the hard way, one guy does win a Cup. Their recent playoff failures has spawned one of my favorite hockey jokes which I will share with you. Have you heard that DC bars are serving a new drink called the Ovechkin? It’s a White Russian with no cup. The Caps have only made it out of the 2nd round twice. They have been to the Stanley Cup Final once, in 1998, where they got swept by the Red Wings. That team had Peter Bonda and not much else. They piggy backed on a great run by goalie Olaf Kolzig to win their first and only Conference title. The Caps have a lot of holes to fill, including one behind their bench. I don’t think the Caps have the talent to make a serious run at the Cup in the near future, but you can never count out a team that has the “Great 8.”
Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets- The “new” Winnipeg Jets did not make the playoffs in their first year back in action in Manitoba. They only made the post season once in 11 years while the franchise was in Atlanta. The New York Rangers swept the Thrashers back in 2007. It’s hard to believe that a team that had the services of both Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuck for two and a half seasons couldn’t win a single playoff game. The Jets are in a much better position now that they are north of the border. Not only do they have a better ownership group but they now play in a city that will support them. They have a couple of nice pieces to build around like Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler. If the Jets can draft well and make a couple of good free agents acquisitions over the next couple of years they could be a contender in the East, wait, I mean the West, I think.