In the sport of hockey, making the Stanley Cup Finals is already a difficult task, so winning the coveted Stanley Cup is undoubtedly no easy feat. For some players, they are lucky enough to even reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, let alone the Finals. Only one team out of 30 wins the Stanley Cup, so NHL players granted with the privilege of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals should and will not take it lightly.
Many NHL players, past and present, have suffered extreme and utter heartbreak due to their failed endeavors to achieve Stanley Cup playoff success. The battle for playoff supremacy is both exhilarating and taxing, depending on your luck and destiny. Essentially, you need the perfectly built team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals and enough energy and drive left in the tank to emerge victorious over the opposing team. It is truly a 82-game effort from all 23 players, not including the playoffs. Most NHL players don’t get the opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, so for the players that do get the chance, they better not take it for granted and not let the moment slip away because you never know when the next opportunity may arise.
In today’s article, we will take a comprehensive look at the top 15 active players who have played in a Stanley Cup Final but unfortunately won’t win the ultimate trophy.
15. Roberto Luongo
Before returning to the team that drafted him 4th overall in 1997, the Florida Panthers, the 6-foot-3 Quebec native played for a stacked Vancouver Canucks roster, with the likes of the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. His tenure with Vancouver helped establish him as a top-5 NHL goaltender with superb athleticism and net coverage. The former captain of the Canucks backstopped his team to a much-deserved Stanley Cup Finals berth in 2011, but their journey came to a heartbreaking halt after their Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins. Although he would lead the Canucks to the playoffs a grand total of six times, his 2011 campaign would prove to be the closest he and the Canucks have ever gotten to hoisting Lord Stanley.
Now a member of the Florida Panthers organization again, the 38-year-old goaltender’s level of play seems to be deteriorating fast. Luongo has been playing less minutes, and considering the Panthers chose to protect James Reimer over him in the NHL expansion draft, it seems as if his time in the league is coming to an inevitable close and his chances at the Cup are close to zero.
14. Jason Garrison
The 6-foot-1 newly acquired Vegas Golden Knights defenseman went undrafted before signing with the Florida Panthers out of NCAA hockey. The once 16-goal scorer was picked by Vegas during the expansion draft from the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he spent the last three NHL seasons. He became a staple on the Lightning’s blue-line, scoring 30 points and effectively defending his own zone. In his first season with the club, he helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.
The 32-year-old defensive defenseman accumulated 2 goals and 5 assists during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs as the Lightning feel short of the ultimate prize and were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks. As Garrison enters a new chapter of life with the Golden Knights, his chances at another Stanley Cup Finals appearance are slim considering the history of expansion team success.
13. Andy Greene
The Michigan native is yet another undrafted player who climbed his way into the NHL. He made his debut with the New Jersey Devils in the 2006-07 season, and stuck around with the club due to his strong display of talent and promise. Ever since his NHL debut, he has made New Jersey his home and played all of his 707 NHL games with the team. As a result of his defensive abilities and loyalty to the team, he was named the Devils captain before the 2015-16 NHL season.
The 34-year-old defenseman has made the NHL playoffs on five different occasions, including a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Although he only registered one point in 24 games played, the formidable defenseman was a steady force on the Devils’ blue-line the entire playoffs. Although he is locked up with the Devils for at least two more seasons, with the way things of trending in New Jersey, it may take some time before Greene makes another playoff appearance.
12. Mike Fisher
The current captain of the Nashville Predators is probably still having a difficult time digesting what went down this past June. As many of you may know, Fisher and the Preds arduously battled their way to the Stanley Cup Finals but ultimately faltered to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. However, this isn’t the first time Fisher experienced Stanley Cup heartbreak. The Ontario native was drafted by his hometown team Ottawa Senators in 1998, where he spent his first 11 seasons before being traded to the Predators. Fisher and the Senators made a trip to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals where they were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games. This year marked the 10th anniversary of his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, making it a decade between his two Stanley Cup Final appearances.
The 37-year-old centerman is now a unrestricted free agent and still deciding whether he wants to return to the NHL next season or not. However, the veteran forward does not have a lot of time left on his watch to decide as his career is seemingly coming to an inevitable end. Does he have what it takes to reach a third Stanley Cup Finals appearance to try and win the ultimate prize?
11. Adam Henrique
As a current member of the New Jersey Devils, Henrique along with his aforementioned teammate Andy Greene journeyed their way to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. It is important to note that this amazing accomplishment was achieved in Henrique’s rookie season. He was drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft and found instant success in the NHL, scoring 51 points in 74 games as a rookie. The then-22 year old scored 5 goals and 13 points in 24 playoff games – 2 of which were series-clinching goals.
However, at the age of 27, Henrique hasn’t made it back to the playoffs since his Stanley Cup Finals appearance in his rookie season. That goes show how hard it is to make the Stanley Cup playoffs; a certain team might have success one season, but it’s difficult to maintain that high level of play in the seasons that follow. For Henrique and the Devils, they found themselves out of the playoffs yet again but this time around, they luckily landed the 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Even with the addition of the talented Nico Hischier, the Devils have a ton to prove next season as they lack both overall depth and chemistry.
10. Marc Staal
As a part of the famous Staal hockey clan, the formidable defenseman has paved his path into the NHL and thrived in his position. He was drafted 12th-overall by the New York Rangers in 2005 and has been playing for the organization ever since. In 10 seasons with the club, he has amassed 156 points in 689 NHL games, including nine different playoff appearances. (Only missed the playoffs once in his career – impressive, eh?) Staal has been a consistent force on the Rangers’ blue-line and has used his strength and durability to overpower his opposition.
The 30-year-old defenseman is currently in his prime and although the New York Rangers have been consistent in their efforts to make the playoffs, it has been the same storyline every season: failure and heartbreak. He is the third Staal brother to make the Finals but is the only one of the three to return home empty. With all of his previous playoff shortcomings, does he have enough left in the tank to once again battle for playoff supremacy in the seasons to come?
9. Cory Schneider
The starting goaltender for the New Jersey Devils didn’t always reside in Manhattan; he was also the former goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks. He was their first round draftee in 2004 and backed up starting goaltender Roberto Luongo during the Canucks’ trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals (Hint: He certainly won’t be the only Canuck that appears in this article). Schneider would end up only starting 1 game, in which he left early due to cramps; however, he would provide relief to Luongo on 4 separate occasions. He, along with Luongo, would go on to win the William M. Jennings Trophy later that season.
Now, at the age of 31, he is in the prime of his career, but his statistics don’t reflect it. His win-loss ratio is not very admirable and his save-percentage has been decreasing since his Devils’ debut, although it’s fair to say he hasn’t been getting much help from his team. With Schneider at the height of his career, the Devils must capitalize or they won’t qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for many years to come.
8. Jason Spezza
The former 2nd-overall pick for the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft is known for his offensive abilities and accurate wristshot. He recorded four 30-goal seasons and two 90-plus point seasons with the club before being traded to his current team, the Dallas Stars. As an integral part of the Senators’ team that reached the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, he primarily played on the Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line that generated plenty of goals for the Sens that season. His offensive talent led the way for the Sens, as he scored a franchise-record 22 points in 20 games during their extended playoff run. However, Spezza and the Senators eventually fell short of the Stanley Cup as they were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
As a current member of the Dallas Stars, the flashy 34-year-old centerman has produced three consecutive 50-plus point seasons but has only made one playoff appearance during his tenure with the Stars. Although Dallas’ roster is replete with talented players, they haven’t been able to find much playoff success. At the age of 34, Spezza’s career is dwindling, so he must take full advantage of his scoring abilities before it’s too late.
7. James Neal
The 6-foot-2 newly-acquired Vegas Golden Knights left-winger was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and played three seasons with the club. After a four-season stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was traded again to the Nashville Predators during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, he established himself as an offensively-minded winger who has a deadly wristshot and slick hands. After his arrival in Nashville, he transitioned nicely into their top-6 and accounted for most of their offense. This past June, Neal helped lead the Predators to their first Stanely Cup Finals berth. He amassed 9 points in 22 playoff games, but eventually faltered to the hands of his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in six hard-fought games.
As Neal opens a new chapter in his life with the Vegas Golden Knights, it makes you wonder how much different his attitude would be if he had won the Stanley Cup with the Predators this past season. Having fallen short of his ultimate goal, he must still want to chase the Cup. However, having left the deep Predators team, he may not get a chance to contend anymore.
6. Patrick Marleau
The former 2nd-overall pick for the San Jose Sharks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft has played his entire NHL career with the organization which accumulates to a grand total of 1,493 games and counting. The former captain and assistant captain of the Sharks has established himself as an offensive force and exemplary leader. He has set numerous Sharks records and won multiple international tournaments with Team Canada. Marleau has used his offensive and defensive talents to lead the Sharks to the playoffs on an astounding 17 separate occasions. The farthest he has gone, however, is his lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2016. Marleau and the Sharks onerously battled their way to the Finals, but their journey ultimately resulted in heartbreak as they faltered to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
This offseason, the 37-year-old centerman and long-time Shark chose to leave the only team he’s ever known and signed with the up and coming Toronto Maple Leafs. Will Marleau finally be able to experience Stanley Cup glory in The Six?
5. Vernon Fiddler
The undrafted centerman most recently played for the Nashville Predators, the team that first signed him to an NHL contract back in 2002. Fiddler spent four seasons with their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, including a Calder Cup winning season in 2003-04. He then got promoted after two years and spent his first NHL season with the Predators in 2006-07. This past season, in the beginning of February, Fiddler rejoined his former team after stints with the Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils.
The 37-year-old centerman finished his 2016-17 campaign with the Stanley Cup contending Predators. The 2017 playoffs marked his first and possibly only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. At the age of 37, the unrestricted free agent may not even be issued a contract come July. Fiddler scored a goal and an assist in 9 games played during the 2017 playoffs.
4. Jarome Iginla
The former 11th-overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft is entering his 21st season next year. Amazing, right? However, even with all his years of playing and achievements and accolades, Iginla hasn’t been able to find much post-season success. The former captain of the Flames has only made it past the first round once with the organization, despite qualifying for the playoffs on six different occasions. His lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance came in the 2004 playoffs, where he led the team to Game 7, but ultimately lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This crushing defeat would haunt Iginla for the years to follow, as he never was able to achieve that same level of playoff success. He then requested for a trade and attempted to pursue Lord Stanley with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and most recently, the Los Angeles Kings.
At the ripe age of 40 years old, the unrestricted free agent has many decisions to make. Does he want to retire or continue chasing the Cup? There aren’t many more opportunities to find playoff success with his rapidly aging body, so if he does want to hoist Lord Stanley, he must act quickly.
3. Henrik Lundqvist
The illustrious 6-foot-1 Swedish goaltender’s achievements are nothing short of greatness – an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and a Vezina Trophy, as well as other prestigious awards in Swedish ice hockey. However, one major trophy missing from his arsenal of silverware is the Stanley Cup. Originally drafted by the Rangers in the 7th round of the 2000 draft, Lundqvist has developed into a world-class goaltender with extraordinary flexibility and athleticism. He has been the starter for the Rangers for the past decade and has led his team to the playoffs 11 times in his career. The farthest Lundqvist and the Rangers have gone was in 2014 when they reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. This heartbreaking defeat continues to haunt Lundqvist and will leave a hole in his legacy until the day he finally wins the distinguished Stanley Cup.
At the age of 35, he still has a few years to complete his ultimate mission with the deep Rangers core, but his Stanley Cup window is certainly closing quickly. With their improved defensive group, it would be a shame if Lundqvist’s name did not appear on the Cup in the near future.
2. Henrik & Daniel Sedin
The former 2nd and 3rd-overall picks for the Vancouver Canucks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft have shared many accomplishments and achievements together, all but which do not include a coveted and highly-touted Stanley Cup championship. They both have won an Art Ross Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and a Golden Puck, which is awarded to best Swedish player of the year (1999). Drafted in back-to-back picks by the Canucks, they have suffered through many harsh defeats in Vancouver until they finally emerged as the Western Conference champions in 2011. The talented Swedish twins both played pivotal roles in the Canucks’ Stanley Cup run and scored over 20 points in the 2011 playoffs, but ultimately faltered to the Boston Bruins in 7 hard-fought games.
The Sedin twins turn 37 this coming September and are not getting any younger, and with the direction the Canucks have recently chosen to go, it seems like the Sedins’ magic in the playoffs has come to an unfortunate halt. Now, the only way the Sedins are going to capture a Stanley Cup championship is if they accept a trade to a contender, but by the looks of it, it seems like they are unwilling to leave their comfortable home in Vancouver.
1. Joe Thornton
Dubbed by many as “Jumbo Joe,” the former 1st-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft is still searching for his first Stanley Cup championship as he enters his 20th NHL season. The muscular 6-foot-4 power forward is known for his pristine passing skills and strength on the puck, which have resulted in a deserving Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy. The former captain of the Sharks has carried his team on his back, along with the aforementioned Patrick Marleau, and led them to 11 playoff appearances, including his first and only Stanley Cup Finals berth in 2016. He had a fantastic playoffs, concluding his 2016 campaign with 21 points in 24 playoff games, but his Cup run was eventually ended by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
The aging 38-year-old veteran centerman has had many opportunities to seize a Stanley Cup championship, but every time his Cup run is cut short. After signing a one-year deal with the Sharks on July 1st, it seems like he still believes in their core and their chances at winning the Cup. However, with time running out on his outstanding career, will Jumbo Joe finally hoist the Stanley Cup with the Sharks, or perhaps with another team? For now, we’ll have to wait and see.
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