While we would love to believe that every National Hockey League organization will get to experience the glory of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup in the near future, that just will not be the case. Take the recent history for example, 2012-2015 saw the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks alternate as Stanley Cup champions. Repeating or winning championships within a few years of each other is easier than ever before, making winning championships even more difficult for the teams that are simply trying to enter the championship mix. There are 30 teams in the NHL, so it's impossible for every team to have a legitimate shot every year. Still, the goal does not have to be having a legitimate shot every year, but instead making it so that the Stanley Cup is a reachable goal in the near future.
There are plenty of organizations that could win the Stanley Cup in the near future, be it because of a boatload of young talent, a franchise goalie that will not be stopped, or a combination of factors that point to the organization being strong and evoking promise. Yet there are also teams that appear lost for the present and near future as well. Those teams are missing cornerstone players, going in the wrong direction through average player age or other factors. No one wants to be the team on this list, as we are looking at 15 teams that will not be hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup as NHL champions any time soon.
15 Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres have a nice duo of forwards in Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, in addition to a strong, young top defenseman in Rasmus Ristolainen. Robin Lehner could be the long term solution between the pipes, but we would not guarantee that to be true just yet. After that quartet, however, the Sabres are loaded with question marks. Buffalo appears to be in limbo, attempting to complete their rebuild, but failing to understand how to do so effectively. They would be wise to look across their own division at the Toronto Maple Leafs, who started their rebuild later and will complete it earlier. Toronto is not on this list because they are trending in the right direction. Buffalo is trending in no direction at all.
14 New York Islanders
When you have John Tavares on your team, you should be a perennial Stanley Cup contender on an annual basis. The New York Islanders, however, find themselves simply trying to reach the playoffs each year. Tavares leads the way, and Anders Lee is a solid forward. Josh Bailey plays well with Tavares, while Ryan Strome has some potential. That's up front, while on the backend the Islanders have plenty of talent, but no defensemen that strike us as a franchise defenseman. Thomas Greiss is the leading netminder despite being a backup for the majority of his career. We fail to see the Islanders doing enough to convince John Tavares to stay, and once he leaves the entire organization will fall apart. They don't even have an arena.
13 Detroit Red Wings
Sticking in the Eastern Conference, we feel strongly that the Detroit Red Wings will not be hoisting the Stanley Cup any time soon. In fact, after over two decades of making the playoffs every year, we believe the Red Wings will suffer an extended stretch of being held out of the playoffs altogether. Outside of Dylan Larkin and a couple of young forwards, Detroit has little to no talent to speak of. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg remains great, but he also remains old and is only getting older. Neither Petr Mrazek nor Jimmy Howard appear to be Stanley Cup champion caliber goaltenders, and the organization is not prepared for a full rebuild as they are operating today. Things will get worse before they get better in Detroit.
12 Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks came oh so close to winning the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, but eventually bowed out to the New York Rangers. Vancouver then came close again in 2011, only to lose to the Boston Bruins in another hard fought, seven game series. Long story short, the Vancouver Canucks would really like to bring home the Stanley Cup for their fans. Unfortunately, that will not be happening any time soon. General Manager Jim Benning does not appear to know what he is doing, the Canucks have the aging Sedins, an albatross in Loui Eriksson, and 2-3 capable defensemen at most. Overall, the roster is weak, and outside of All-Star Bo Horvat, there is little reason to be excited about anything now or to come.
11 Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators have some good young players in the likes of Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, and Cody Ceci. Erik Karlsson is a franchise player that would go top 10 in a draft of all NHL players. Yet the Senators are missing depth in all areas, superstars in all areas outside of Karlsson, and a goalie that can push the bill. Additionally, the Senators made a "go for it" move by trading Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd round pick for Derick Brassard, but failed to realize that Zibanejad is already a better player than Brassard. Misguided moves like that one continue to haunt the Senators, who will be plagued by being "good" but not good enough to win the Stanley Cup for many years ahead.
10 Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are sort of the opposite of the Ottawa Senators. Rather than focusing on veterans and not being good enough, the Hurricanes are focusing on youth and not being good enough. The Hurricanes have perhaps the most young talent of any team in the entire National Hockey League, but eventually a team needs marquee names as well. Those marquee names do not exist on the Hurricanes roster, so the organization must hope that all of their youngsters develop properly. Otherwise, the Hurricanes will continue to miss the playoffs. Regardless, the next step is simply making the playoffs for Carolina, then they can worry about winning Stanley Cups. Oh, and finding a goalie for their present and future would go a long way in helping too.
9 New Jersey Devils
If there's any team in the National Hockey League that can actually bore fans, the New Jersey Devils can do the trick. Here is a comprehensive list of exciting players employed by the New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall. Yes, that's one name and no, that is not a mistake. The Devils lack offensive flair, defensive knowhow, and young talent. The good news is they will be able to stockpile draft picks for years to come as they continue to finish at the bottom of the league. The bad news is they will continue to finish at the bottom of the league, failing to compete for a playoff spot, better yet a Stanley Cup. It's a long road ahead for New Jersey, a road that does not include championships.
8 Colorado Avalanche
We found a team worse than the New Jersey Devils! At least this season, the Colorado Avalanche would laugh at anyone who says the New Jersey Devils are not good. The Avalanche have found a new brand of hockey that eclipses all synonyms for not good. They are the worst team in the league by a wide margin, and that does not appear set to change any time. Offensively, the Avalanche are considering moving two of their only four scoring threats. If Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog go, scoring goals will be an impossible task for the team. Defensively, Tyson Barrie is a solid defenseman, and Erik Johnson is good when healthy. Erik Johnson is never healthy. Do you see the problems at hand for Colorado?
7 Los Angeles Kings
This is a bold prediction of ours, but stick with us here. Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar. Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have Darryl Sutter as Head Coach. Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have budding forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. And yes, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup two times since 2012. So why on earth are they on this list? They just are not good enough anymore. After the players listed, the Kings lack depth in all areas. Jonathan Quick has been exposed as a system goalie, and the system is not working as well thanks to a series of poor contracts handed out by the organization. Don't count on the Kings winning any time soon.
6 Winnipeg Jets
Patrik Laine, Brian Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele... all a nice start for the Winnipeg Jets. But again remember, to win a Stanley Cup you must be a complete team from top to bottom. There's good reason the Jets are struggling to find a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team simply is not good enough from top to bottom. The Jets have an abundance of young talent to go along with some fine complementary players, but the overall talent level is not good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup any time soon. The good news is in a decade they should be good to go, the bad news is a decade is a long time for Winnipeg to wait.
5 Arizona Coyotes
When you sit at the bottom of your division in a year you were supposed to make great strides (see Hurricanes, Carolina) you will end up on this list. Thus is the case for the Arizona Coyotes, arguably the most disappointing team of the 2016-2017 campaign. Arizona was supposed to compete for a playoff spot, but instead owns only 49 points through 59 games. The Coyotes will receive a high draft pick yet again, but at a certain point the organization has to stop looking at high draft picks as wins, and instead look to make a run for the Stanley Cup. With their current talent, the ability to make that run seems far, far away. Look for the Coyotes to re-build some more.
4 Edmonton Oilers
We know, we know, Connor McDavid does exist. Connor McDavid is outstanding! Connor McDavid can lead the Edmonton Oilers to the playoffs all on his own. But then what? Can Connor McDavid win a Stanley Cup with zero help? We haven't seen any other NHL player do that in recent history, as Sidney Crosby had Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews had Patrick Kane, and every Stanley Cup winner had depth to go along with their sidekicks. The Oilers prioritized getting help for Connor McDavid this off-season, trading for Adam Larsson and signing Milan Lucic. Those players won't do much to help push them towards championship contention, and we don't see the talent from top to bottom to be able to be looked at as legitimate contenders.
3 St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues allowed David Backes and Troy Brouwer to leave last off-season, and appear primed to trade Kevin Shattenkirk during this season, or let him go for nothing in the off-season. We recognize that the Blues have solid depth and a superstar in Vladimir Tarasenko, but when they had Backes, Brouwer, Shattenkirk, and that same depth, the Blues could not win the Stanley Cup. With that in mind, we fail to see the logic behind thinking the Blues will get better. Losing three key pieces and forging ahead without them does not point towards improvement, it points towards regression. We expect the Blues to stick around in the playoff hunt, but fail to make a difference in the Stanley Cup race.
2 Dallas Stars
Thanks to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, we originally left the Dallas Stars off of this list. Unfortunately, there are far too many roster holes and far too little time to consider the Stars championship contenders any time soon. While last season gave us reason to pause, this season appears more indicative of the roster the Stars possess. There is only one strong defenseman on the roster, a lack of bottom six talent, and a severe lack of goaltending talent. That's a lot of problems to fix, especially with Jason Spezza aging quickly and other players losing key development time as well. You have to be the best to win it all, and the Stars can't be the best for a long time due to their holes.
1 Las Vegas Golden Knights
What, did you think we would forget the National Hockey League's newest franchise? We're excited about the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL, but let's all be realistic about where they stand in the league. The Golden Knights will be a fun team to follow as they join the league as an expansion team, but for a long time they will be no more than that. Expansion teams do not typically succeed for over five years, and even then it takes excellent planning by experienced management. George McPhee could never jump over the championship hurdle with the Washington Capitals, and while we trust him to do an excellent job with the Golden Knights, the team will take far longer than fans would like to see to win it all.