Top 15 NHL Players Who Were Too Good for Their Teams

The progression of a highly-touted superstar and a rebuilding franchise are supposed to fall in perfect sync with one another.

The team flounders through a losing season and ends up with a high draft pick. At the same time, a future perennial all-star is tearing up the junior ranks in Canada or a pro league in Europe. The connections to each other start around January, when the team looks ready to pack it in, while the player is hitting his dominant stride.

The hockey season ends early for the team and they prepare for the what could be the most important draft choice in franchise history, while the player solidifies his draft stock with a remarkable playoff performance.

Fast-forward to June, where the inevitable relationship begins. Team selects franchise player, everyone is excited, and the two sides prepare for what should be a long, fruitful and successful partnership.

One problem: the team forgot to add talent around the franchise player - and no matter how good he is, or how hard he tries, he can't do it all on his own. The team flounders and the player puts up great regular season numbers but gets few, if any, chances in the playoffs. Frustration begins to set in for the player and the team is left in the unenviable position of shipping out its only superstar in an attempt to pick up more pieces to build around and start over yet again.

Does that story sound familiar to some of you? It should, because it has happened often over the years. There have been countless instances of top-end talent being buried on putrid rosters, freed only after years of torment, disappointment and consistent underachievement.

Those players often go on to do great things with their next team (if they ever get the chance to do so) - and it often leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the fans who supported that player through the darkest times of their careers.

*Players ranked in order of individual success with team relative to lack of team success during a specific period of time.

15 Eric Staal

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

14 Ray Bourque


Ray Bourque will always be considered one of the greatest defenseman to ever lace up for an NHL team - of this, there is no question. What can be questioned is what else Bourque could have done on a team that was able to achieve a bit more playoff success.

13 Mats Sundin


12 Jarome Iginla


Jarome Iginla is among the top three players to ever don a Calgary Flames uniform and if Lanny McDonald didn't have such a phenomenal mustache, Iginla would be the clear-cut all-time fan favorite.

11 Jordan Eberle

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

You could have inserted Taylor Hall, or maybe even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, into this slot, but Eberle gets the nod because he's played more games and has more points that the other young studs on the Oilers roster. Eberle is widely viewed as the "heart and soul" of this pitiful era of Oilers hockey and many have been left wondering what Eberle, along with Hall, might be able to do on a half decent roster.

10 Roberto Luongo

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to believe that a guy as likable as Roberto Luongo has been dealt such a bad hand for the majority of his NHL career.

It started off on the wrong foot when he got drafted by none other than Mike Milbury, who wouldn't be able to tell a good hockey player from a bag of pucks if the bag of pucks smacked him in the mouth. Milbury traded Luongo to Florida, where he was remarkable in goal but played behind a horrendous roster. To put it in perspective: Luongo finished the 2003-2004 season with a .931 save percentage...and only 25 wins.

9 Guy Charron


Guy Charron isn't a big name that pops into your mind when you think of good players on bad teams. What he is, though, is one of the most productive players (in terms of points and games played) in league history to never get a crack at the postseason.

8 Peter Bondra


Peter Bondra is one of the more underrated superstars of the 1990s. Names like Lemieux and Jagr come to mind, and while Bondra was obviously not on that level, he always hovered around the top of the league in scoring. Two fifty-goal seasons and 503 career goals is nothing to sneeze at - it's too bad his time in Washington overall was.

If you scroll down to Bondra's playoff statistics, you'll notice a startling pattern: other than one semi-final appearance in 1993-1994 and a Cup Finals appearance in 1997-1998, Bondra and the Caps never advanced passed the first round in their eight other tries.

7 Zigmund Palffy


Ah, Ziggy. Maybe not top 10 on our players list, but definitely up their in the "best NHL names" category.

What many people forget about Palffy was that he averaged 1.04 points per game over the course of his 684-game NHL career. Injuries ultimately got in the way - he was producing at a high level right up until the end of his NHL career and it's a shame it didn't last longer than it did.

What is even more stunning, though, is his incredible lack of playoff success. Team's that have players producing at Palffy's level should be at the very least low-end playoff teams, but Ziggy only laced up for three playoff runs over his 12 seasons, all three back to back between 1999-2002 and all ending a lot earlier than he would have hoped.

6 Olli Jokinen


If you think of Olli Jokinen today, you think of an over the hill, washed-up center with little to give to an NHL franchise.

During his prime, though, Jokinen was arguably the most underrated player in the league -in large part because he spent the brunt of his good years on a dreadful Panthers team. While his career numbers are bloated by several really good seasons in Florida, there's no question Jokinen was a top-end player at one time that likely could have pushed a team over the edge.

5 Brian Leetch


When you think of Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, you think of the good years he spent with the New York Rangers - especially in the early 90s. You think of the Stanley Cup victory in 1994 and his Conn Smythe trophy win. You think of the seven playoff appearances between 1989 and 1997.

4 Ilya Kovalchuk


You'd be hard-pressed to name a handful of guys who were as exciting to watch as Ilya Kovalchuk during the 2000s - it's just too bad he was buried in the worst hockey market in North America for so long.

3 Johnny Bucyk


Johnny Bucyk ranks 24th on the NHL all-time scoring list. Not bad for a guy who played the majority of his career during the 50s and 60s. You'd think a guy like that would have put up similar numbers in the playoffs.

2 Rick Nash


We all knew that Rick Nash was going to land on this list. It was just a matter of how high on the list he would be.

1 Marcel Dionne


Marcel Dionne currently sits in sixth place on the NHL's all-time scoring list. In a nutshell, he suffered through a fate similar to Johnny Bucyk's - only worse.

Dionne played in the NHL for 18 glorious years, pilling up ridiculous point totals throughout his legendary career.

Despite all those years in the league, he only has 49 playoff games under his belt. That's because his Kings teams that made the playoffs never made it past the second round. The most games Dionne played in one playoff run was 10 games in 1982.

It's astonishing to think that a point-producing machine like Dionne was never able to achieve the kind of playoff success that other top scorers were able to have during their careers. Every other player in the top 10 all-time scoring list won multiple Stanley Cups, yet Dionne was never able to get to a Conference Final.

If Marcel Dionne didn't deserve a better NHL fate - and team, for that matter - I don't know who does.

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Top 15 NHL Players Who Were Too Good for Their Teams