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.
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15 Eric Staal
Let's keep it recent to start off this list. Eric Staal may be a Stanley Cup champion, but memories of the Carolina Hurricanes as a perennial contender are fading away as quickly as their playoff chances for this season - and training camp hasn't even started yet. The Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since 2008-2009 and are headed nowhere fast. The eldest Staal may have thought having younger brother Jordan alongside him might help with the team's rebuild, but it has done nothing of the sort. For Eric's sake, we hope this is his last year in Raleigh.
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.
Bourque gave 20 glorious years to the city of Boston and while they made it to a couple of Finals during his tenure, he was never able to raise hockey's holy grail in black & gold. It took a trade to Colorado for Bourque to win his first title, but deep down you know Bourque would have preferred to win it with the team he spent his entire career with.
13 Mats Sundin
Mats Sundin and the Toronto Maple Leafs had some solid years in the early 2000s, but they were never able to make it over the proverbial hump during his best years as a Maple Leaf. The Leafs made two conference finals appearance in 1999 and 2002, but that was as good as it got for the Swedish legend in a Buds jersey. Add to that the Leafs woes that began in 2004 and you have a recipe for wasting the end of a fantastic career.
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.
As good as Iginla was during his years in Alberta, the teams around him weren't always up to snuff. He got his first taste of playoff action in 1995-1996 as an 18 year old, but then had to wait until he was 26 to get his first real crack the postseason. That ended up being the Flames Cup run year, which fell just short, and started a five-year run of playoff appearances for Calgary. What followed that run was three years of misery for Iginla and the Flames as the roster began to fall apart. For Iginla to be stuck on bad teams for 10 of his 16 years in Calgary is practically a hockey travesty.
11 Jordan Eberle
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.
Oilers fans are hoping Connor McDavid is the missing piece that spells the end of the team's nightmarish run of seasons, but if it isn't...at least Oilers fans will be able to look forward to winning another draft lottery.
10 Roberto Luongo
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.
In Vancouver, Luongo put up three straight 30-win seasons before the Canucks (mostly Mike Gillis) inexplicably decided Luongo wasn't their guy anymore.
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.
734 NHL games and not a single playoff statistic to show for. Charron's first bit of bad luck was getting traded to Detroit in the deal that brought Frank Mahovolich to Montreal back in 1970-1971. Donning a Habs jersey during the early 70s was a close to "success" as Charron would ever get. Even during four straight 70-point seasons in Washington at the end of his career, he was never able to step on the ice for a playoff game.
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.
Remind you of another high-profile Capitals goalscorer?
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.
The rest of his career he was stuck on mediocre teams, never fully getting a chance to take advantage of his offensive prowess.
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.
Instead, Jokinen has spent every April of his NHL career, save for one, golfing. Even with over 1,200 regular season games under his belt, he might be able to boast even more rounds of golf played thanks to all the free time he got from playing on bad teams.
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.
What you generally don't think of is the dark period of time following that 1996-1997 season. Leetch and the Rangers sputtered through six seasons without making the playoffs. Describing those years as "disappointing" would be an understatement. Lest we forget that between 1997 and 2004, players that suited up for the Rangers over 100 times included the likes of Alexei Kovalev, Adam Graves, Eric Lindros, Radek Dvorak, Theo Fleury, Mark Messier, Petr Nedved, and Wayne Gretzky.
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.
Eight years in Atlanta yielded one playoff appearance. Even while playing alongside the likes of Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa, Kovalchuk was never able to carry a pitiful roster towards any relevant playoff success. A Cup run in New Jersey seemed to erase the haunting memories of Atlanta, but it wasn't enough to keep him from heading over to the KHL - the literal definition of being "too good for your team."
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.
Let's be fair - Bucyk still had 124 career playoff games and he still won two Cups with the Bruins. That he put up 103 career playoff points is good and well. However, he also had to trudge through arguably the one of the worst periods of Bruins hockey history between 1959 and 1967. The Bruins missed the postseason for eight straight years before Bucyk got another crack at the postseason. At the rate Bucyk was going, even making the playoffs in only half of those eight seasons would have arguably bumped his playoff point totals closer to the likes of Guy Lafleur, Brendan Shanahan and Bobby Hull, to name a few.
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.
Nash gave him blood, sweat and tears to the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets franchise for nine years before he decided that enough was enough. One playoff appearance in 2009 (a first-round series where the Jackets were promptly swept by the powerhouse Red Wings) did nothing to satisfy the face of the franchise, and he had every reason to want to move on from a team that did virtually nothing to improve until he finally left in 2012.
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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