It takes an awful lot of blood, sweat, and tears to win the Stanley Cup. It’s arguably the most difficult trophy to win in team sports, mostly because hockey is such a physical sport and you need to duke it out in the playoffs for over two months just to lay claim to the prize. Often, the championship team will play somewhere around 25 games before claiming the prize, which is over one-quarter of another full NHL season.
Almost every player on every roster that has ever won the Cup has deserved it. Hockey is a team sport, and there is little room for passengers, especially when we’re talking about Stanley Cup Playoff hockey. However, every once in a while a player simply finds himself in the right circumstances and wins the Cup without carrying his share of the weight. Today, I pay homage to these players.
In some cases, they were trade deadline pickups who didn’t really pan out or contribute much to the cause; other times, it’s a veteran who simply goes ice-cold in the playoffs and rides the coattails of his teammates to lift hockey’s Holy Grail. Sometimes, a career minor-leaguer will be called up to the big leagues for the playoffs due to an injury bug.
This isn’t to say these players contributed nothing to their respective championship teams. It just means that these players all could have been replaced with just about any other NHL player, and the winning team would have likely coasted to a championship anyway.
So, with that pre-amble behind me, let’s get to it. Here are the top 15 NHL players who piggybacked their way to a Stanley Cup:
*This list only goes as far back as expansion, as it’s tough to compare the original six era to the expansion era in regards to this list.
15. Billy Carroll – 1985 Edmonton Oilers
In 1985, the Edmonton Oilers won their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Forward Billy Carroll was on that squad, but it’s safe to say the Oilers would have been just fine without him.
The Oilers picked up Carroll off waivers at the beginning of the 1984-85 season. During the playoffs that year he only dressed for nine games, recording zero points in the process. Despite his relative ineffectiveness, Carroll is the only player in history to win a Stanley Cup with both the Oilers and the New York Islanders.
14. Lucien DeBlois – 1986 Montreal Canadiens
When the Montreal Canadiens rode on rookie Patrick Roy’s back to the Stanley Cup in 1986, some players rode the hot netminder a little more than others.
Lucien DeBlois played two seasons with the Canadiens, and in 1985-86 he recorded 31 points in 61 games. In the postseason, however, his offense completely dried up, as the winger registered zero points in his 11 games played. Lucky for him, Roy played like a hero and DeBlois’ name remains etched on Lord Stanley because of him.
13. John Madden – 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
John Madden was a serviceable two-way center on two championship teams with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and 2003, but the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks would’ve been just fine without him.
Madden was probably a welcoming veteran presence in the dressing room, but his on-ice production left much to be desired. In 22 playoff games that year, he registered just two points and played just a shade over 10 minutes a night. To be honest, I don’t remember him even being on this team. You?
12. Orest Kindrachuk – 1975 Philadelphia Flyers
Orest Kindrachuk was a solid player for the Broad Street bullies during the 1970s, but his game pretty much dried right up during the 1975 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Flyers were deep enough to recover, so Kindrachuk still has his name etched on the Cup not just once, but twice.
After recording a respectable 31 points in 60 regular season games, Kindrachuk got just two assists in 14 games of action during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
11. Gregory Campbell – 2011 Boston Bruins
Gregory Campbell was a divisive player during his time in Boston. Some fans saw him as a key role player, while others saw him as a good-for-nothing plug. Personally, I’d say he was up and down, but during the Bruins’ 2011 Cup run, it was most certainly the latter.
Campbell managed just four points in 25 games. Sure, lots of players see a reduction in production when it comes time for the playoffs, but his 0.16 points-per-game was well below his regular season clip of 0.36.
10. Jiri Hrdina – 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins
It could be argued that Jiri Hrdina sort of coasted to two Cups with the penguins back in the early ‘90s, but I’ll focus on the 1992 championship team for the purposes of this article.
Hrdina wasn’t there to put up offense—the Pens had a plethora of players to do that—but Hrdina’s numbers dipped drastically in the 1992 postseason. The centerman only registered two points in all 21 games of action, which is quite an accomplishment considering how many goals were scored back in the early ‘90s.
9. Pascal Rheaume – 2003 New Jersey Devils
Pascal Rheaume is only the second-most famous hockey player in his family, as he’s the younger brother of goaltender Manon Rheaume. He’s the only one in the family with a Stanley Cup ring, though, but the Devils would have been fine without him back in ’03.
Rheaume still dressed for 24 games in the postseason in ’03, but he came out a minus player on the championship team, and he notched just 3 points over the entire playoff run.
8. Randy Gilhen – 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins
Left winger Randy Gilhen had a decent season for the Penguins in 1990-91, registering a career high 25 points in 72 games. When the postseason arrived, it was a darn good thing Mario Lemieux was able to produce 44 points in 23 playoff games that year, because Gilhen pitched in just one.
No, Gilhen’s main job wasn’t to score, but it’s rare a team wins the Stanley Cup when one of your depth players only chips in a single point. Gilhen dressed for 16 of the 24 games.
7. Jesse Belanger – 1993 Montreal Canadiens
Jesse Belanger was just 23 years old when he found himself chasing the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. To say he wasn’t a very important part of the Cup run would be a fair statement, as he only dressed for nine of the 20 games played.
Belanger’s name is still etched on the Cup though, despite the fact that the young forward posted just one assist and a minus-2 rating in his nine games of action.
6. Doug Risebrough – 1978 Montreal Canadiens
Doug Risebrough was a solid player for Montreal during their four-Cup stretch in the late ‘70s, but he nearly disappeared in the 1978 postseason.
The Canadiens of course won despite Risebrough’s disappearing act. In a year where the forward put up 41 regular season points, he followed that up with just four points in the Habs’ playoff run. When you have the team like the late 70s Canadiens did, you could probably afford a passenger or two.
5. Steve Kelly – 2000 New Jersey Devils
Steve Kelly is one of the biggest draft busts of the 1990s, but he still has the distinction of his name being etched on the Cup—something that many, much more successful NHLers drafted that same year cannot say.
Kelly only played one game for the Devils during the 1999-00 regular season, spending most of his year in the AHL. However, when injuries hit, the Devils were forced to dress Kelly for 10 games during the playoffs. Kelly barely kept his head above water and registered zero points, but his name is still on the Cup and Marcel Dionne’s isn’t, so there.
4. Simon Gagne – 2012 Los Angeles Kings
Simon Gagne was an elite-level scorer in the NHL for the Philadelphia Flyers for many years, but by the time the Kings had him in 2011-12, he was pretty much spent. In fact, injuries had plagued the forward so badly at this point in his career that he only got in four games in the playoffs, returning from a head injury that had sidelined him since December.
Gagne returned for Game 3 of the Final and failed to register a point in his four games of action. Since his games were played in the Stanley Cup Final, his name still goes on the Cup as per the NHL’s rules.
3. Keith Acton – 1988 Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers acquired Keith Acton towards the end of the 1987-88 season from the Minnesota North Stars. Acton went on to win the Cup with the Oilers, but that’s not to say he pulled a lot of the weight.
Acton only saw action in seven of the 19 games the Oilers played that postseason, chipping in two points in the process. He didn’t have a particularly good run to end the regular season after being traded to Edmonton either, going minus-10 in his 26 games with the club during the regular season.
2. Kimmo Timonen – 2015 Chicago Blackhawks
Just last spring, the Chicago Blackhawks picked up 39-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen at the trade deadline. Timonen enjoyed one heck of a career, and this was his last shot at a Stanley Cup.
The story itself is very nice; Timonen was finally able to lift Lord Stanley at the very end of a long successful career, but it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t instrumental in the ‘Hawks win. He played in 18 playoff games and 16 regular season games for the squad, registering zero points combined. The Blackhawks ran mostly with four D for the Cup run, so Timonen saw very little ice when he did dress.
1. Chris Chelios, 2008, Detroit Red Wings
Chris Chelios became the oldest player to win the Stanley Cup in 2008 when he accomplished the feat at the age of 46. That’s really neat and all, but he was way too old to legitimately compete in the NHL, let alone in the NHL playoffs.
Chelios saw action in 14 of the 22 playoff games, which actually seems like too many to me. He registered zero points. Nonetheless, the Red Wings defeated the Pens in the Final that season and Chelios got his name on the Cup for a third and final time.
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