There are many NHL teams that had stacked rosters yet still came up short in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Over the years, many loyal fans have been disappointed to see their team get eliminated, even though they looked as though they were going to go all the way to the finals.
They may have looked unstoppable and had team camaraderie, but ultimately they choked or perhaps had a key player injured. Unforeseen outcomes are what make hockey such a great sport, yet they are also the source of heartbreak. Teams have even been known to lose key players to trade or retirement after a disappointing season.
Throughout the history of the NHL, numerous elite teams have been put together with the specific purpose of winning a Stanley Cup. However, just because you have a superior roster doesn't necessarily mean that you will win it all. Certain external factors, such as injuries or poor team chemistry, can cause a top contender to fall short of the Cup.
Here is the list of 15 NHL teams that could have won a championship.
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15 Washington Capitals (2015)
The Washington Capitals once again looked like a championship worthy team in the 2015 season by getting a record of 45-26-11. They had Alexander Ovechkin as their team captain and Barry Trotz as the coach of the potential Stanley Cup team. They disappointed their fans by losing to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference second-round of the playoffs.
The loss came at a surprise, because it went to overtime and they came up short. They were expected to move on to the Stanley Cup finals, but couldn’t deliver the final goal against the Rangers that night. The Capitals were eliminated by the Rangers in the playoffs three times in the past four years. The Capitals could have won against the Rangers if their star players lived up to the hype and if they didn’t rely too heavily on Braden Holtby to win the game for them.
14 Montreal Canadiens (1970)
The Montreal Canadiens were the Stanley Cup champions for two years prior to 1970. They were defending their title, but ultimately didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. They had Claude Ruel as their head coach and finished fifth in the NHL East Division.
The Canadiens went 38-22-16 that season. During an interview in 2016 with SportsNet, Yvan Cournoyer, the former right wing for the Canadiens, exposed the Detroit Red Wings for foul play.
The Red Wings clinched a playoff spot and didn’t put in some of their star players when they versed the New York Rangers for their last game before post-season. That resulted in the Rangers scoring more points and made their record better than the Canadiens, advancing them to the playoffs instead of the Canadiens. Cournoyer believed that his team could have won the Stanley Cup, claiming they had the “personnel” to do so.
13 San Jose Sharks (2010)
The Sharks had the skills to make it the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2009 season with their roster and determination. They had coach Todd McLellan’s superior counsel which earned them the record of 51-20-11. The Sharks' fans were excited to see their team control the NHL with their arsenal of players.
The Sharks won the President’s Trophy that season, which goes to the team with the best record in the NHL. Between their right wing, Dany Heatley scoring 39 goals and their goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, whose talent surpassed others that year and shut down most the shots coming his way, everyone thought the Sharks were going to take the Stanley Cup, but came up disappointingly short. It wasn’t until the first-round playoffs that the Sharks started to fall apart. They surprisingly lost to the Anaheim Ducks, whose record was 39-32-11.
12 Detroit Red Wings (2009)
The Red Wings were at their peak during the 2009-2010 season. They had head coach Mike Babcock calling the shots and finished with an impressive record of 51-21-10. They blew through their competitors with the help of team captain, Nicklas Lidstrom. He had 16 goals that season, but Marian Hossa, the Czechoslovakian right wing, was really the star player that year with 40 goals.
After winning the Stanley Cup the previous season, the Red Wings had their sights on it yet again, beating the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the Western Conference Finals, leading to a Stanley Cup showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a close, 7-game series, but ultimately Sidney Crosby and his Pens came out on top.
11 New Jersey Devils (2001)
Back when Scott Stevens was the captain of the New Jersey Devils and they just got done winning a Stanley Cup the previous season, they looked like they could make it happen again. They had a team of skilled veterans, from Patrik Elias playing left wing to Martin Brodeur defending their net against the opposition. They looked like they had potential to win the Stanley Cup once again with a record of 48-19-12-3.
The Devils were being coach by Larry Robinson at the time and guided them all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. They were up against the ruthless Colorado Avalanche, that had a record of 52-16-10-4. The Devils started of the series great, leading 3-2. However, the Avalanche were underestimated and won the next two games, claiming the Stanley Cup as theirs.
10 St. Louis Blues (2000)
The St. Louis Blues last playoff appearance was in the conference finals in 2016. Although, they have been making the playoffs the past four years, they never won a Stanley Cup for their franchise and fans yet. In 2000, they looked like they had the potential to go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and acquire their first championship.
Chris Pronger won the Norris and Hart Trophy for being the best defenseman in the league. Despite being the best defenseman, he also had a 62 point season on top of that. The Blues made it the first round of the playoffs with the help of team captain, Pronger. They ended up making a short run for the Stanley Cup by getting removed from the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks after seven games.
9 Dallas Stars (1998)
The Dallas Stars haven’t made it to the playoffs since 2014, but back in the late 1990s they were no match for most of their competitors on the ice. The achieved first place in the NHL Central Division with ease. The Stars won the President’s Trophy after displaying their dominance in the league with a record of 49-22-11.
The Stars had two future Hall of Famer centers on their side, making it increasingly difficult for their opponents to win. They had Joe Nieuwendyk, who had 39 goals and Mike Modano, who had 38 assists.
The Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks in the first round in six games. They went head-to-head with the Edmonton Oilers after and defeated them as well. However, they didn’t meet their match until they had to battle the Detroit Red Wings, the previous Stanley Cup winner. The Red Wings took down the Dallas Stars after six close games.
8 Colorado Avalanche (1997)
The Avalanche were in the prime during the 1996-1997 season. They had coach Marc Crawford and team captain, Joe Sakic, they were both valuable assets to the team. The Avalanche finished first in the NHL Pacific Division and also won the President’s Trophy for going 49-24-9 during the regular season.
The Avalanche’s roster had three future Hall of Famers on the team. They were Patrick Roy, the goalie, team captain Sakic and Peter Forsberg, a center. The Avalanche beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Shortly after, they sent the Edmonton Oilers packing after five games. Their Western Conference Final was against the Detroit Red Wings. The Avalanche couldn’t eliminate the Red Wings and were out maneuvered on the ice. The Red Wings won the series four games to two.
7 Vancouver Canucks (2011)
They seemed like the best team in the NHL that season, they conquered the Northwest Division and finished first. The Canuck’s had a record of 52-19-9 due to the talented coach, Alain Vigneault. In retrospect, he went on to be head coach of the 2013-2014 New York Rangers and won the Eastern Conference. Vigneault and the Canucks secured the President’s Trophy for the 2011 season.
In the postseason, the Canucks took down the Chicago Blackhawks in the first-round. They went on to eliminate the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks looked promising to win the Stanley Cup. However, they were up against the Boston Bruins who were also on fire that season. The Bruins and Canuck’s Stanley Cup championship went to the seventh game. The Canucks were outplayed by the Bruins, crushing the Canuck’s and fan’s morale.
6 New York Rangers (1992)
The Rangers had Roger Neilson as their head coach and finished sixth in the NHL Patrick Division. However, they won the President’s Trophy for going 50-25-5 and had some of the best players on their roster. The Rangers finished third in the league in goals scored and also were in the top five for having the fewest scored on them.
At the time, the Rangers had Mike Gartner, who would eventually get inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had 45 goals that season and is one of the best right wing’s the Rangers have ever had.
The Rangers were up against the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs. They were competing for the division semi-finals and the series ended up going to seven games. However, the Rangers were the better team and went on to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals. The Penguins won and sent the Rangers home empty-handed.
5 Montreal Canadiens (1989)
Pat Burns, was the coach of the Montreal Canadiens for the 1988-1989 season. He was able to push the team to get a record of 53-18-9. Over the course of the regular season, the elite team was able to accumulate 115 points despite the competitors that they had to verse. Their captain was Bob Gainey, he played left wing and scored 10 goals throughout their season. Gainey was inducted in the NHL Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Canadiens eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in the semi-finals round in six heated games. Beating the Flyers secured them a spot for the Stanley Cup finals against the Calgary Flames. The Canadiens looked like a championship team, but the Flames’ star players were able to shut them down in six games. It was the only Stanley Cup the Flames ever won.
4 New York Islanders (1979)
The New York Islanders have been reappearing in the playoffs over the years, but haven’t won one since the 1980s. In 1979, the Islanders thought they would claim the Stanley Cup as theirs. They were being coached by Al Abour, and had captain Clark Gillies leading the way on the rink.
Mike Bossy, their right wing, was literally unstoppable that season and was the league’s leading goal scorer. The Islanders also had Denis Potvin, he won the Norris Trophy for being the best defender in the league.
The Islanders made it to the first round of playoffs and were up against the Chicago Blackhawks. They wrecked them in just four games. They progressed to the semifinals and had to play the New York Rangers. The Islanders ended up not making it to the Stanley Cup finals and were eliminated by the Rangers that season.
3 Buffalo Sabres (1975)
The Buffalo Sabres were a force to be reckoned with in 1975. They one of the best offenses that NHL had to offer at the time. The Sabres possessed the superstar players known as the French Connection, it consisted of Rick Martin, Rene Robert and Gilbert Perreault. They were one of the best trios to get on the ice, they managed to obtain 132 goals during the regular season alone.
The famous trio brought the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals against the defending champs, the Philadelphia Flyers. Although, the French Connection was able to dominate the league during the regular season, they couldn’t last against the Flyers. The Stanley Cup finals went to six games, but the Sabres came up short and the Flyers were crowned champs once again.
2 New York Rangers (1972)
The last time the New York Rangers won a Stanley Cup was in 1994 against the Vancouver Cannucks. Their fans were once again feeling that the Rangers lineup during the 1972 season and thought they could make it to the finals. Led by coach Emile Francis and team captain, Vic Hadfield the Rangers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
The Rangers had a solid-lineup that season, between Jean Ratelle bring the offensive power and Brad Park defending their net. They looked unstoppable with a record of 48-17-13 and 109 points during the regular season. However, they didn’t seem to stand a chance against the Boston Bruins when they were defeated in six games.
1 Chicago Blackhawks (1967)
Back when the NHL only had six teams playing in the league, the Blackhawks were making themselves known. They should of won a President’s Trophy because they had the best record in the league. However, the President’s Trophy was introduced in 1985. Prior to that whoever had the best record was allowed to hang a banner that read, “NHL League Champions.” The Blackhawks gained the best record thanks to captain, Pierre Pilote and coach, Billy Reay. The Blackhawks went 41-17-12 that season and looked like they were going to win a Stanley Cup.
With a fully stacked team, it looked like they were destined to obtain the championship trophy. The Blackhawks faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. The underdog, the Maple Leafs, surprisingly beat the Blackhawks after going at it for six games.
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