The Stanley Cup is the Holy Grail of hockey. The pinnacle of hockey achievement that signifies throughout history that a player was a part of the greatest team in the world at that moment in time.
Well, at least in theory.
Though we have rarely seen an undeserving team finish the season hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug, some of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skate do not have their names etched onto the massive testament of hockey excellence.
All-time greats like Pavel Bure, Marcel Dionne and Pat LaFontaine have never had the privilege of reveling in the glory of hoisting the Stanley Cup after clinching the Finals. The modern NHL has been dominated by waves of teams coming at different intervals, which has left several great players still in the league that have yet to get a ring.
There is a combination of factors that go into determining who are the best players in the NHL today who will not win a Stanley Cup. Obviously, the biggest is age. Players nearing the end of their careers with only precious few chances left to attain the ultimate goal.
One must also project a younger player’s career trajectory and where he will likely spend the bulk of his career. The types of players who are the best now, but have signed massive, long-term contracts that could keep them attached to a mediocre franchise for the foreseeable future.
Finally, there needs to be speculation on how certain teams will grow over the next five to 10 years. Some teams have deep, young farm systems that could see them revive a currently dead franchise into a top caliber team within the next decade.
So without further ado, here are the best players in the NHL today who will never be part of a Stanley Cup winning team.
15. Mike Ribeiro
It seems that it has not been until recently that people have begun to notice Mike Ribeiro, but he has been around the NHL since 1999 when he debuted with the Canadiens. Ribeiro’s time in Montreal was largely forgettable, though fans may remember the potential that he and Michael Ryder had together at one point.
More than anything, Ribeiro’s inconsistency has kept away the top teams in the league from signing him to longer term deals, but he’s now found a home in Nashville. At 35, he is still playing fairly well, but barring a miraculous Preds run he is likely going to end his career without a ring.
14. Mikko Koivu
In the dark and early days of the Minnesota Wild’s franchise, Mikko Koivu was one of the lone bright spots. The Finnish center has been the one real constant in Minnesota, playing in 690 games and netting 508 points during his career with the Wild so far.
The Wild have gone all out in free agency as of late to bring a respectable hockey product to the hockey-crazed fans of Minnesota, with the massive signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but the team has yet to put it together. Minny continues to try and win now but are heavily reliant on younger players that have not proven themselves so far in the NHL.
With Koivu being on the wrong side of 30, it does not appear that any member of the Koivu family will get a ring.
13. Ryan Miller
For many years, Ryan Miller was the lone member of the Buffalo Sabres making that team even remotely credible on the ice. Miller has been an All-Star, he has won a Vezina, and nearly won a Gold medal in 2010. However, despite all of the accomplishments, it does not appear he will ever hoist Lord Stanley.
At the age of 35, Miller is the Vancouver Canucks starting goalie for the next few seasons, but is six seasons removed from his Vezina winning days. The Canucks are a team caught in limbo with the mentality of winning now, but without the offensive weapons to do it.
12. Joe Pavelski
The San Jose Sharks of the mid-2000s could have been a dynasty had they been able to convert their regular season play into the postseason, but you can’t give too much blame to Joe Pavelski.
The American center was drafted in the seventh round by the Sharks in 2006 and has since climbed his way through the organization to become the team’s most recent captain. Pavelski put the team on his back in the 2010 playoffs as he had three consecutive multi-goal games, but that was likely the Sharks best chance for give their homegrown star a Stanley Cup ring. Pavelski is only 31 years old, but with the Sharks current construction, it’s hard to believe they’ll be in contention in the coming years.
11. Zach Parise
Zach Parise may have made the best career move of any other NHL player in recent memory when he inked a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild in 2012. Minnesota is hockey mad and was dying to attract top-notch free agents to satisfy those fans.
However, Parise is 31 years old and his exceptionally long contract would have him with the Wild until he is 40.
Parise is among the top 20 point scorers in the NHL without a ring, but the Wild’s reliance on him to be a top-line player well into his 30s could doom the American to a career with Lord Stanley visiting his house.
10. Erik Karlsson
There may be no better offensive defenseman in the NHL today than Erik Karlsson. Thw two-time Norris Trophy winner signed a seven-year contract with the Ottawa Senators in 2012 and will be the team’s top player until that deal expires in 2019 when the Swedish defenseman is nearing 30.
Not to say that Karlsson with spend his entire career with the Sens, but if he does opt to go that route, it is hard to imagine the team winning a Stanley Cup. Ottawa is in a perpetual state of being good enough, but not great and unless their organization changes, Karlsson may go through his career ringless.
9. Rick Nash
During his career to this point, Rick Nash has predominantly been the big fish in a very small pond with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After being drafted first overall by the Jackets in 2002, the Canadian winger supplied them with eight seasons of 30-plus goals, but has largely been devoid of talent around him.
Nash now has a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup since he is playing with the New York Rangers in a relatively shallow Eastern Conference. However, the top tier teams in the East are no joke, with dates likely going through either Tampa Bay or Montreal for the next several seasons. If they manage to get through the East, the West has plenty of teams that New York won’t be able to match up with.
8. Henrik and Daniel Sedin
I feel like it’s unfair to separate these two as their entire life, from the womb to the hockey rink, they’ve been together. The Swedish twins are both among the top 10 in the NHL in points and plus/minus rating.
The Sedin’s signed four-year contract extensions in 2013 that will keep them with the team that drafted them until they are 37 years old. A Vancouver Canucks franchise that has been treading water in the Western Conference since losing their last Stanley Cup appearance in 2011.
When you look through the Canucks system, it is hard to image them winning before the Sedin’s retire.
7. Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist may very well be the best goaltender of his generation, though Pekka Rinne and Carey Price would likely have something to say about that. King Henrik is third in GAA among active players with 100-plus starts and has singlehandedly won the New York Rangers more than a few games.
The Eastern Conference is ripe for the picking with only three teams, one of which being the Rangers, presenting a constant threat to win the Stanley Cup. However, Lundqvist has historically struggled, by his standards, against both the Habs and Lightning, which could mean the Rangers never get over that hump.
6. Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau is one of only four active NHL players to have appeared in more than 1.300 games, all of which have come with the San Jose Sharks. The Canadian winger was drafted second overall in the 1997 and has been the most prolific player nobody is talking about ever since.
Marleau holds the Sharks record in nearly every major statistical category and became the youngest player in NHL history to hit 1,300 games. Sadly, Marleau has been a member of a team that was notorious for choking in the postseason and it doesn’t look like they’ll get over the hump before he retires.
5. Roberto Luongo
No goalie currently in the NHL has seen more time in the crease than Roberto Luongo. He is also the active leader in wins and shutouts in the NHL. His early years were spent on the Florida Panthers, which basically equated to playing in a league that does not even award the Stanley Cup.
Luongo’s last best chance to get a ring came during his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks and his lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2011
Bobby Lu is now back with the Panthers, where he will likely finish off his tenure in the NHL and the Panthers are not going to be winning a Stanley Cup anytime soon.
4. Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is one of only three active NHL players with 1,200-plus points and is second in game-winning goals. Iggy suited up for the Calgary Flames in the 1996-97 season, then spent every season there until he was traded in 2013.
The past few seasons have seen Iginla bounce between clubs providing a veteran presence on teams, as he seems to search for the ring that has eluded him. However, Iggy is 38 years old and is playing on an Avalanche team that seem like it’s a few years away from contention.
3. Shane Doan
There has been no steadier player in the NHL over the past two decades than Shane Doan. Since being drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1995, Doan has spent his entire 20-year career with the franchise. Though the Coyotes have gone through some hellish experiences, aside from just playing hockey in Arizona, Doan has provided the team with a calming presence.
Doan seems more than happy to finish off his illustrious career with the Coyotes, being part of a rare breed of players in professional sports to stay with a single team. Sadly, this means one of the best guys in modern hockey will go without a ring.
2. Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton is 36 years old and currently stuck on a team with little to no chance at winning a Stanley Cup anytime soon. Jumbo Joe was close to winning that elusive cup with the San Jose Sharks, but the entirety of the team consisted of players that choked in the playoffs during the team’s regular season dominance over a five-year time frame.
Thornton is currently second in career scoring among active NHL players and also seventh in points per game among active players. Despite being an MVP winner, a gold medal winner and an Art Ross winner, Thornton seems destined to never win the Stanley Cup.
1. Alex Ovechkin
The Washington Capitals are far from being a true Stanley Cup contender, which does not bode well for Alexander Ovechkin’s hopes of winning hockey’s holy grail. In 2008, the Russian goal-scorer signed a 13-year, $124 million contract that will keep him with the Caps until he is 36 years old.
Ovechkin is simply eating too much of the Capitals salary cap for the team to address their deficiencies on the back-end. Unless Ovie decides to take a reduced contract in his later years to win a cup, which has not always worked out in the past, he may retire as the greatest player to never hoist Lord Stanley.
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