National Hockey League playoff games make for some of the best overall live sports television programming that occurs each year. Every shift of playoff hockey matters, as one goal that can occur after only a few seconds of play could make the difference for a team that is seeking to win a championship. There is also added excitement caused by the fact that NHL teams are playing for the Stanley Cup, arguably the most hallowed trophy in all of North American professional sports and one that has, in history, been treated as something that should be revered and admired by players, commentators, fans and even casual observers.
Several NHL teams are, as of the posting of this piece, in the middle of lengthy Stanley Cup championship droughts. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NHL despite the fact that the Leafs have not hoisted the Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years. While it has been 39 years since the Philadelphia Flyers last won the Stanley Cup, that franchise has, at the very least, provided its city with more championship celebrations than the Philadelphia Eagles. Manhattan does turn into a legitimate hockey town whenever the New York Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final, but the Blue Shirts are in the middle of a drought that has gone on for the past two decades.
Then, there are the cases of NHL clubs that have never been to the mountaintop a single time and that haven't won the Stanley Cup. Several of those franchises are, when compared to teams that have been around seemingly forever, younger clubs that have not had a considerable amount of time to build histories and to build cornerstones of rosters that could one day win the Stanley Cup. Other teams, however, have repeatedly let fans down and have failed to win the cherished prize that is handed to the last NHL team standing each and every spring. Which of those Stanley Cup droughts will end first?
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the two babies of the group of NHL teams that haven't won the Stanley Cup. Columbus first emerged on the scene in 1997, and the Blue Jackets played the first NHL regular season game in the team's history in 2000. Anybody who has watched the Blue Jackets during the 2015-16 season is probably aware that the club is not all that close to winning a Stanley Cup anytime soon. While Columbus has managed to notch some impressive and noteworthy wins in the closing weeks of winter, those running the club probably already have eyes toward the upcoming offseason.
11 Minnesota Wild
Like the previously mentioned Columbus Blue Jackets, the Minnesota Wild made their official debut at the start of the 2000-01 NHL regular season. The Wild took steps to immediately improve the team during the winter when the club fired head coach Mike Yeo and replaced him with interim coach John Torchetti. Minnesota went 5-0-0 in the five contests after that change was made, which gave fans something to cheer about during what has otherwise largely been a forgettable season. You have to give fans of the Wild credit for remaining so passionate despite the fact that the team has not come close to sniffing a Stanley Cup championship.
10 Winnipeg Jets
The argument could be made that the Winnipeg Jets and not the Columbus Blue Jackets or Minnesota Wild should be at the bottom of this list. Winnipeg, after all, were only able to celebrate the return of the Jets in 2011, 11 years after the Blue Jackets and Wild made their debuts. The history of the Jets, per the record books, goes back to the days of the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta was, it would turn out, not ready to support a NHL franchise, particularly one that never won playoff games and that was never all that good. Here is hoping that Winnipeg fans will one day be able to see the Jets win the Stanley Cup.
9 Nashville Predators
It was rumored in the middle of the 1990s that the New Jersey Devils could be persuaded to relocate to the Nashville area. That did not happen, however, and thus the Nashville Predators were formed as an expansion team that played its first regular season game in 1998. There were concerns among local fans roughly ten years after the club's debut that the Predators could be located to a Canadian city such as Hamilton or to Kansas City. Rumors continue to swirl about that the Predators could eventually be moved, but Nashville has managed to hang onto its NHL club for nearly two decades.
8 Florida Panthers
The idea of hockey in Florida may have seemed ridiculous back in 1993 when the Florida Panthers were founded. The experiment has not, however, been a total disaster. The Tampa Bay Lightning have won the Stanley Cup, and the Florida Panthers have been to a Stanley Cup Final. Florida has enjoyed a rebirth of sorts on the ice and behind the scenes in 2015-16, as the club appears to be a legitimate contender to potentially do something significant during postseason play. Rumors that the Panthers could be relocated to Las Vegas or to some other destination have since quieted down; at least they have for now.
7 Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators have actually been around twice. The first version of the club enjoyed plenty of success, winning the Stanley Cup 11 total times before the city lost its NHL franchise in the 1930s. A new Ottawa Senators were born were born in the 1990s, and these Senators played their first meaningful NHL game in 1992. The closest that the current edition of the Senators have come to winning the Stanley Cup was in the spring of 2007 when the club made it all the way to the Final. Ottawa ran into a superior Anaheim Ducks side, however, and the Ducks took care of the Senators. The Senators are now in hockey purgatory, a side that is not horrible but one that is also not great.
6 San Jose Sharks
Daylight lasting a bit longer with each week, the weather gradually getting warmer and the San Jose Sharks letting fans down in the playoffs. Oh, the traditions of spring are something to behold. The Sharks first began playing in the NHL back in 1991, and the team has given fans some impressive and memorable regular seasons. San Jose has, however, routinely folded in the postseason. Good rosters that should have carried the banner of the Sharks into a Final failed to meet high expectations. In fact, the Sharks have not, as of the winter of 2016, ever made it to a Stanley Cup Final.
5 Arizona Coyotes
The club that is now known as the Arizona Coyotes has a history that goes back to 1972 and the Winnipeg Jets of old. Those Jets first played in the NHL in 1979. The franchise was purchased and then relocated to Phoenix before the start of the 1996-97 regular season, and the Coyotes have remained out west ever since. Of all of the remaining NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, the Coyotes have gone the longest time without managing to make an appearance in a Cup Final. This would be year 36 and counting without a Cup Final appearance for the Coyotes unless the club goes on a surprise run during the spring.
4 Washington Capitals
Do not pencil in the Washington Capitals going 41 full seasons without winning a Stanley Cup championship just yet. The Capitals are, as of the final week of February 2016, the best team in all of the NHL and one would have to consider the Caps favorites to win it all barring some string of bad luck. Washington does have a history of slipping up in the postseason, though, and thus there are some fans and analysts who are not yet ready to go all-in on the Caps ending their drought. Will 2016 be the year that the Capitals finally silence their doubters?
3 Vancouver Canucks
They play up north. The club is named the Canucks. How is it possible that the Vancouver Canucks have gone 44 complete NHL seasons without ever winning the Stanley Cup? The Canucks have had three opportunities to win the final series of the playoffs, but Vancouver has come up short each time. Vancouver's last appearance in a Stanley Cup Final was in the spring of 2011, and the Canucks were blown out at home in Game 7 of that series. That was a heartbreaking loss for long-suffering fans of the club and that Final is also as close to winning the Stanley Cup as the Canucks have come in the past five years.
2 Buffalo Sabres
Hockey fans who loved offense and who played those old NHL video games that were on systems such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo probably had fun playing as the Buffalo Sabres during portions of the 1990s. Buffalo made the Stanley Cup Final only once during that decade, however, and the Sabres dropped that series to the Dallas Stars. Not only are the Sabres on the verge of going 45 full seasons without ever winning the Stanley Cup. Buffalo is downright lousy this year, and the Sabres are not one offseason away from winning it all. Diehard Buffalo fans deserve to cheer on a winner.
1 St. Louis Blues
Just like the Toronto Maple Leafs, the St. Louis Blues will have gone 48 years without winning the Stanley Cup unless the Blues pull off the feat this coming spring. Unlike with Toronto, however, older fans of the Blues cannot even remember the club ever winning a Stanley Cup championship. The Blues were mainstays in Stanley Cup Finals throughout the early years of the club's NHL existence, but St. Louis has not played in a Final since 1970. St. Louis has thus far had a solid campaign in 2015-16, so maybe this could be the year when the Blues put an end to their Stanley Cup drought.
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