The Stanley Cup is the oldest team sport championship that is competed for today. The road to hoisting the Stanley Cup is grueling and ultimately rewarding. It is a very unique championship, one of the most unique because it belongs to the winning team for one year. In fact, every member of the winning team gets their names engraved on it. The Stanley Cup is a one of a kind championship because every member of the team earns it. Hockey is unique in the fact that 20 guys dress for every game and the only one that might not play in that game is the back up goalie.
Throughout the last 16 years there have been some incredible stories. Ray Bourque ending a 21 season pursuit to finally raise the cup above his head after his final game in the NHL. Marian Hossa going to the Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams in three consecutive seasons. Patrice Bergeron playing game six of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks with a laundry list of injuries. Those injuries included a broken nose, broken rib, separated shoulder and punctured lung. These are just a few of the many stories that prove just how much winning the Stanley Cup means.
There have been Cinderella teams that have had a one off championship run never to come close again. There have been dynasties that have both been purchased and home grown. There have been examples of a goalie getting hot and carrying his team to the championship. There have been stories of redemption, stories of true grit and stories of the never ending drive to be the best. There is only one rule in regards to the Stanley Cup: you need to earn it before you are allowed to hoist it. Lets countdown the last 16 years and rank the teams that have earned the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
31 2004-05 Season
We realize there have been only 15 Stanley Cup Champions since the 1999-2000 season but this needs to be included. There is only one thing that upsets a fan more than millionaires arguing with other millionaires about millions of dollars. That is the fact that we actually went an entire season without the sport we love and were robbed of the excitement and passion that surrounds a Stanley Cup run. Thankfully the NHL got their act together and we weren't robbed again but this was clearly a black eye on the sport. Now that the big white elephant is out of the room let's move on with the rest of the countdown.
29 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks
Typically when you are talking about a dynasty, especially a homegrown dynasty, they get better with age. While that may be the case with fine wine it certainly wasn't the case with the Blackhawks. Not that a team who wins the Stanley Cup is bad in any way but of the three Cups they won, this year's team may have been the most lackluster. Defense and fantastic play from Cory Crawford is really what won them this championship. They gave up the lowest goals in the league (189) while scoring the middle of the pack (16 out of 30) in goals (229) Kane, Toews and Keith really turned it on during the playoffs to win their third Cup in five years.
27 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St Louis led the league with 94 points while winning the Hart Trophy. Along with Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier, Martin led a very plucky group into the playoffs. While Nikolai Khabibulin controlled the playoffs posting a 1.79 GAA proving how a hot goalie can take a team a long way, Brad Richards got incredibly hot during the playoffs scoring 26 points in 23 games. His performance and clutch play during these playoffs shaped the rest of Brad's career and showed the world how great of a captain he could be. The Lightning embodied the style of play of the time. They were the perfect team to win the last Stanley Cup of the clutch and grab era since the next year was the strike.
25 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks
2013 was a tough year for for the NHL so it's not surprising that the headlines after game six wouldn't be about the champion Blackhawks. The season was cut short by the lockout. Then the finals were overshadowed by the other side of the ice where Patrice Bergeron took the phrase "Manning Up" to a whole new level. Jonathan Toews was his normal consistent self while Patrick Kane was phenomenal during the playoffs, scoring a hat trick against the Kings then putting three goals in the back of the net against the Bruins. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming the first number one overall draft pick to win the trophy since Mario Lemieux in 1992.
23 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks
A couple of future all stars teamed with some grizzled vets to take home the greatest prize in hockey in 2007. 21-year-olds Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were only in their second year in the league. They teamed with Teemu Sleanne, Scott Neidermayer, and Chris Pronger to dominate the regular season. Jean-Sébastien Giguère was masterful in the playoffs posting a 1.97 GAA. While Perry and Getzlaf really had a coming out party during the playoffs finishing one and two respectively in points. Then their was the captain, Niedermayer, who was fantastic while putting on a defensive clinic on his way to winning the Conn Smythe trophy.
21 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings
To win the title you need a lot of skill and a little bit of luck. The history-making Kings had skill and a LOT of luck with one of the hottest goalies in recent memory. They became the first team to win the Stanley Cup while entering the playoffs from the wildcard 8th seed. Jonathan Quick had an amazing season posting a 1.95 GAA in the regular season. As ridiculous as that was, it was nothing compared to the 1.41 GAA he posted in the playoffs. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown posted a point a game throughout the playoffs but with Quick as hot as he was, that was more than enough offense.
19 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings
This team slightly edges out the 11-12 version simply because of the offense supplied by Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. Kopitar paced the team during the regular season scoring 70 points. He continued to be a force in the playoffs where he played at a point per game pace. The Kings still got in as a wild card team, however this year Jonathan Quick wasn't anywhere near as hot as he was in 2012. The Kings and the Blackhawks have spent the last five years alternating championships. However this year, since they have both bowed out already, we are guaranteed to see a different champion.
17 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes
When you see Eric Staal play now you almost forget how big of a beast he was the first few years in the NHL. During the 05-06 season he scored 45 goals and 100 points to lead a Hurricanes team that had four 30 plus goal scorers. Eric continued his masterful season in the playoffs scoring 28 points in 25 games. But this playoff run was really about the coming out party for 21-year-old Cam Ward. He was a back up to Martin Gerber during the season but got hot at the right time and never looked back. Cam became the first rookie to win the Conn Smythe trophy since Ron Hextall in 1987.
15 1999-00 New Jersey Devils
The A-Line has gone down as one of the best forward combinations in the history of the NHL. Jason Arnott, Patrick Elias and Peter Sykora were a defensive machine that could put points on the board. All three members of this line finished in the top four point leaders for the Devils. Elias led the team with 78 points while Sykora was third with 68 and Arnott was fourth with 56. When you have one line that puts up points like that and that line can completely shut down the other teams top players you have a scary formula for success. It's easy to see why the Devils made it to three out of four Stanley Cup Finals in the early 2000s.
13 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings
This team was certainly not as loaded as the other Red Wings team on this list but they were damn good, led by Pavel Datsyuk who scored 97 points during the regular season. "Mr Clutch" Henrik Zetterberg scored 92 points during the season and another 27 during the playoffs to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Dominik Hasek was still a member of this team but in more of a back up role as Chris Osgood was dominant in net and the ageless wonder, 46-year-old Chris Chelios, was still a force. But the biggest story was Niklas Lidstrom becoming the first European born-and-trained captain to win a Stanley Cup.
11 2002-03 New Jersey Devils
A smothering defense and a future Hall of Fame goalie at the peak of his career. Martin Brodeur was flat out amazing all season long. He was even better in the playoffs posting a 1.65 GAA. Jamie Langenbrunner and a much younger Scott Niedermayer led the team in offense but they didn't need a whole lot thanks to Brodeur who out battled the Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jean-Sébastien Giguère. The Devils truly were a dynasty appearing in three out of four Stanley Cup finals. The only year they didn't make it was 2002 because of the Detroit Red Wings and their amazingly deep wallets.
9 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
So it looks like the third time is the charm for Marian Hossa. This was the third straight year that Hossa made the Stanley Cup finals and with his third different team. In 08 he was a trade deadline deal for the Penguins when they lost to Detroit. In 09 he signed a one year deal with Detroit only to lose to the Penguins, then in 2010 the stars finally aligned and he got his cup win. This was a very good team led by Captain Jonathan Toews who put up 29 points in 22 games during the playoffs. This year he proved to the world that even at 21 he was more than capable of having that "C" on his chest.
7 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
Really all we would have to do for this slide is write two names: Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It is very rare when you get two perennial Hart trophy candidates on the same team. In fact we have to go back to before the salary cap era to the Colorado Avalanche who had Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. It was only a matter of time before these two won a cup together and this writer would be very surprised if they didn't win at least one more. Role players like Petr Sykora, Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis played there roles to perfection and the dynamic Duo would raise their first Stanley Cup.
5 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings
How do you make a great Stanley Cup worthy nucleus over the top ridiculous? You go out and sign three future hall of fame players to go with the six already on your roster. The roster of this team included guys like Yzerman, Chelios, Hull, Robitaille, Larionov, Hasek, Lidstrom, Fedorov and Shanahan. That count of Hall of Fame players will move to ten once Pavel Datsyuk retires from what has been a stellar career. This was the type of roster that would be impossible in today's salary cap era. But in 2002 lineups that looked like you were playing a video game. Unfortunately though buying a championship can't compete with the stories ahead.
3 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
This team was loaded with five future Hall of Fame players on the roster. They were led by Hart Trophy winner Joe Sakic who scored 54 goals and 118 points during the regular season. Milan Hejduk chipped in 41 goals and Peter Forsberg had 81 points, leading the team into the playoffs. Patrick Roy shut down basically everyone while posting a 1.70 GAA in the playoffs. Then there was mid-season acquisition Rob Blake shoring up a fearsome defense along with Adam Foote and Ray Bourque. When you add in the incredible story of Bourque ending his legendary career by finally winning the cup, this was a story book ending to a fantastic season.
1 2010-11 Boston Bruins
In the ultimate team sport the number one entry had to be a team that exemplifies that very quality. No one on the team scored over 30 goals or 62 points but you had an amazing 12 players scoring double digit goals. That whole team style of play continued through the playoffs with 12 players scoring double digit points on the way to winning the cup. The Bruins were led by Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy during the regular season. He posted a 1.98 goals against average in the playoffs while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each came through by scoring two goals each in the deciding game seven, while Thomas slammed the door on the Vancouver Canucks by stopping all 37 shots to post the shut out.