Great players are judged on their ability to play the game, the greatest players are judged on their ability to win them. The wins that count the most are in the postseason and the single win that separates the greats from the legends is the deciding game for the Stanely Cup.
There's so many different ways we can try to express the players' desire for the Cup. The postgame speeches after winning one are always lavished with terms like, "unbelievable," "incredible," and "overwhelming." Some of the most memorable interviews are with aging elite players who grasp Stanley in their last ditch efforts before retirement. Ray Bourque, Dave Andreychuk, and Teemu Selanne all experienced this moment and finally etched their names in history as champions.
Some never see that day and they're left with the same battle scars, tallies and stories as any NHLer would have, but their names will eventually fade from history. Sometimes a player is stuck on a bad team, or simply running out of time, but between teammates and old age not every talented player will get a shot at immortality.
A lot of the players listed here are in their 30s and on teams that can't seem to get over the hump. This means, barring exceptional circumstances, a number of these players will remain cup-less in their retirement, unless they change team. It's time to look at the top NHL players who are in danger of never winning a Stanley Cup, and why.
Here are the Top 16 NHL Players Who May Need To Change Teams To Win A Stanley Cup.
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16 Zach Parise
When the Minnesota Wild decided to pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter just under $200 million for the rest of their playing years, they invested the entire franchise on them. For better or worse, Parise is now signed to a contract most NHL teams wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. After being bounced out early from the post season once again, the Wild will be looking for a fresh start next season. Parise has at least five years of good hockey left in him, but we're not sure Minnesota is the team to take him all the way before he calls it a career. At a cap hit of around $7.5 million until he's 39 years old, the indispensable Parise is in danger of never winning the Stanely Cup.
15 Jarome Iginla
Remember Marcel Dionne? If you do, you either watched him play or you've come to learn that he's one of the greatest players to never win the Cup. Jarome Iginla is our generation's Marcel Dionne, with a few less points. Iginla spent most of his career in Calgary where he came painfully close to winning the Cup in 2004. That's the closest he's been despite making a decent run with Pittsburgh and Boston in back to back seasons before landing in Colorado, where the Avalanche have been struggling to make the postseason.
We hope Iginla can be remembered as a Ray Bourque instead of a Marcel Dionne but time is running out.
14 David Backes
Backes has been leading the Blues since 2011 and while the team has greatly improved overall, they're still struggling in the postseason. This year looks like the most promising for Backes and the St. Louis organization, but they're still far from being the favorites to take home Lord Stanley. Backes at 32, still has some hockey in him, but if the Blues' captain is going to stick it out with the club he'll have to hope their postseason troubles are put behind them.
The Blues have traded their captains before, so if they continue to struggle in the playoffs we may see the captain change sweaters in a final push for glory.
13 Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler is 31, and locked in with the Anaheim Ducks for what will likely be the rest of his career barring a late trade to a contender. After being traded from Vancouver to Anaheim, Kesler improved on his chances of winning a Stanley Cup, but only slightly. The Ducks are considered one of the stronger teams in the league, but like the Blues, they've mostly struggled in the postseason. Kesler's had two great chances at Stanley; the 2011 Cup finals with the Canucks, and his first year with the Ducks in a 2015 Western Conference Finals elimination. We're certain Kesler will get at least one more shot at the Cup, but he'll need to capitalize on it.
12 Shea Weber
Shea Weber is one of the best defencemen in the NHL. He's grown into Nashville's franchise player and has the contract to prove it. He'll likely play with the Predators for the entirety of his career and with Nashville's reputation in the playoffs, Weber is certainly in danger of never winning a cup. Nashville has yet to compete in a conference final in their 18 years of existence (that made me feel old too). This year is their best chance at doing so and the optimist in me is thinking they might take it all the way-- if they can get there.
We don't think Weber is going anywhere, win or lose, so having all his marbles in Nashville's basket puts him at medium-to-high-risk of never getting his championship.
11 Mike Ribeiro
Shea Weber's current teammate, Mike Ribeiro, is in a much tougher situation if Nashville doesn't win a Cup this season or next. Ribeiro was an NHL All-Star in 2008 and has had moments of greatness, but is mostly viewed as an inconsistent player. At 36, Ribeiro was brought into Nashville after the Arizona Coyotes bought out his three-year contract due to "behavioral" problems. It's speculated that these issues were related to a drinking problem. Nevertheless, it's put Ribeiro on a contending team and one last shot of holding Lord Stanley.
10 Jason Spezza
At one time in his career, Jason Spezza was considered to be the future of the Ottawa Senators. After Daniel Alfredsson retired in 2013, Spezza was given the 'C' but quickly requested a trade at the end of the season. The Senators moved their captain to Dallas, where Spezza has found a comfortable supporting role behind stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Spezza is turning 33 in June and he's hoping the young and talented Stars can win a championship before his retirement. Spezza is at risk but has a better chance with Dallas than he did with Ottawa.
9 Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau is the face of the San Jose Sharks, faithful and the team's undisputed leader. He's played 18 seasons with the club and holds most of the Sharks franchise records. At 36, and heading into the what's likely the final few seasons of his career, Marleau has yet to bring the Cup home to San Jose.
It's possible that if San Jose can't pull in a Stanely Cup right now, Marleau could consider what so many veterans have done before, and ask to move to a serious contender. With that being said, Marleau has only missed the playoffs twice ('03 and '15) with San Jose, so we can see him sticking it out.
8 Pekka Rinne
Considered one of the elite netminders in the NHL, Pekka Rinne is a lot of things, but not a Stanely Cup champion. Rinne is a 3-time Vezina finalist and holds the Predators record for most consecutive wins (11). At 33, Rinne has already battled a hip injury and infection (2013), and despite rebounding with a very impressive 2014-15 season, Pekka has a looked much more human this season with signs of slowing down.
If Pekka can't seal a championship now or in the next few seasons, he's at a serious risk of retiring from the game without a Stanely Cup championship.
7 Jason Pominville
A Cinderella story, Pominville was drafted in 2001 by the Buffalo Sabres and played five seasons with their AHL affiliate before being waived by the team at the start of the 2005-06 campaign. He cleared waivers and played 57 games with the Sabres tallying 30 points. He followed it up with 68 the following season, eventually becoming Buffalo's 16th captain in 2011.
Buffalo moved Pominville during their rebuild, giving their captain a fresh start and opportunity with the Minnesota Wild. He's enjoyed four consecutive postseasons and tallied 22 points in 31 playoff games, but Pominville is 33 and noticeably slowing down the past few seasons. This is likely Pominville's best chance at the Cup and his recent play seems to imply he's aware of it.
6 Rick Nash
Nash moved from Columbus to win a Stanley Cup. The trade to New York put Nash in a great position to do so, and in 2014 he helped the Rangers reach a final showdown with the Los Angeles Kings, but they lost in five games.
Nash and the Rangers were quickly dumped out of this year's playoffs which have already sprung rumors of a trade to free up cap space. Turning 32 this summer, Nash is likely heading into his declining years. His $7.8 million cap hit won't be attractive to a lot of teams and so Nash, if moved, could be in danger of missing his shot at a Stanely Cup ring.
5 The Sedin Twins
The Sedins are 35, and while their production hasn't dwindled much in the last few years it's hard to imagine they'll be playing for much longer. Drafted in 1999, back to back by the Vancouver Canucks, the Sedins have remained loyal and will likely end their careers with the organization. They've been a cornerstone for the Canucks through their 16-year tenure but despite only missing the playoffs four times, the twins haven't mustered more than a single swipe at the Cup, which came in 2011.
With a condition to only be traded as a pair, it's safe to say the Sedins won't be moved to a contender. That means they're likely going to end their impressive NHL careers without a championship.
4 Carey Price
It was quickly evident how bad the Montreal Canadiens were without Carey Price, finding themselves near the bottom of the league after a very impressive start to their 2015-16 season. Price's injury raised some important questions about the team's depth and overall competitiveness. Heading towards his 30th birthday and looking like the Canadiens starting netminder until his eventual retirement, Carey Price is in danger of never winning a Stanley Cup. That is unless he can carry his team to and through the postseason before age or injuries (knocking on wood) take a toll on his capabilities.
3 Joe Thornton
Big Joe has anchored the San Jose Sharks for the past decade along with teammate Patrick Marleau. Upon arriving in San Jose, Thornton had a bit of a chip on his shoulder after feeling he was blamed for Boston's struggles before being moved by management. His presence helped boost an already strong production from the Sharks, and Thornton was given the reigns of the team as an alternate captain. While he's had a very successful career with the Sharks, Thornton hasn't been able to will the team very far into the postseason. Like many others in this list it's quickly becoming a now or never opportunity, with this season being Thornton's best shot at glory.
2 Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin could one day dethrone Marcel Dionne as the greatest player to never win a Stanley Cup. A prolific scorer in an incredibly competitive and low-scoring NHL, Ovechkin has put up some truly memorable tallies. At 30, and barring a Jaromir Jagr rejuvenation, Ovechkin is plowing through his prime years and we could see his production start to decline. This would be terrible for a Washington Capitals team who relies heavily on their sniper to score and create mismatches for their other talents. Now may be the best opportunity Ovechkin has to finally win the elusive Stanley Cup.
1 Henrik Lundqvist
King Henrik is a great goaltender playing behind a great hockey team in the New York Rangers. He's enjoyed a successful career with the Rangers and has posted elite numbers consistently over the last decade, solidifying himself as prominent, franchise goaltender. The Rangers have come close a handful of times but could never seal the deal and time's running out on Henrik.
Lundqvist turned 34 this year and we can't picture the King playing for much longer, as tough as it would be for him to retire without the ultimate award.
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