Every hockey player grows up dreaming of one thing: Winning the Stanley Cup. It is the single achievement that makes all those hours of practice, from pee-wee to pro, mean something. It also cements your legacy among fans as a true great and puts a player in some of hockey’s greatest company.
Throughout history, some of the most iconic figures in the game have taken the cup for a lap around the ice, with fans cheering wildly as teammates pop champagne in the locker room and cities prepare for parades and celebrations for months to come.
Other times, some of the best players in the game take a knee at the goal line and soak in all the jubilation from the other side, having to digest the worst kind of loss as they hang their head and get ready for that heart-breaking handshake at center ice, another victim of one of the toughest playoff formats in professional sports.
With the current parity in the NHL, it is harder than ever before for a team to win a championship. Which means some of the best in the game may never be able to experience the crowning achievement in professional hockey.
Here are the best players currently in the NHL without a championship ring.
20 Shane Doan
The face of the Arizona Coyotes, Shane Doan has been with the team since its move to the desert from Winnipeg. He had a breakout season in 99-00, scoring 26 goals and going on to score at least 20 goals for the next eight seasons. While he was a capable goal scorer, Doan is famous for his hard-nosed play and fierce level of competition, and has become a legend of the game in his own right. Unfortunately the Coyotes have had some pretty tough years, at one point missing the playoffs completely for six consecutive seasons. The closest Doan would come to the Stanley Cup was the 2012 Western Conference Finals, where the eventual champion LA Kings easily handled the coyotes in five games.
19 Andrei Markov
Selected in the 6th round of the 1998 NHL draft, not much was expected of Andrei Markov, but he has since become one of the Canadiens most dependable players. A staple of the Montreal powerplay, his ability to command the ice with the extra man has made Markov a favorite among fans and coaches alike. As talented as the silent general of the blue line is however, the closest he would come to a championship was two trips to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010 and 2014, losing both times to the eventual losers of the Stanley cup final. With the Canadiens currently in a deep slump, it may be a while before Markov gets another chance.
18 Jason Spezza
Drafted second overall at the 2001 NHL entry draft behind Ilya Kovalchuk, it was clear that the senators believed that Jason Spezza could put their offence over the edge and make them a cup contender. With names like Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, and Martin Havlat, the Senators were poised to make some noise. Spezza didn’t disappoint, scoring 687 points in 11 seasons with the Sens, adding 52 points in 56 playoff games. In the end, however, the Senators would never replace the title of contender with champion, losing to the Anaheim Ducks at the end of an incredible playoff run in 2007. He has since seen success with his new team, the Dallas Stars, and may be able to have another chance at the ultimate prize before he hangs up the skates.
17 Claude Giroux
Passed over 21 times in the 2006 NHL draft, the Flyers took a chance on a player most thought to be too small to compete with the big boys in the NHL despite putting up incredible numbers with the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL. Giroux proved his critics wrong, becoming one of the most consistent scorers in the league. Giroux was part of a Flyers team that stormed to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010, only to lose to the current dynasty Chicago Blackhawks in six games on home ice. Following the loss, the Flyers started a rebuild, and with no end in sight it may be a while before Giroux gets a second chance.
16 Rick Nash
If you want to describe Rick Nash you only need two words. Score. Goals. As the face of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash was the author of 289 goals, most of which remain on highlight reels to this day. He was able to hit the 40-goal mark twice and is a Rocket Richard Trophy winner. But even with all that firepower, Nash only got to the playoffs once during his time in Columbus, only to be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Nash would get back to the playoffs in 2013 with the Rangers and would reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014, but lost to the LA Kings in double overtime in five games.
15 Roberto Luongo
Also known as @Strombone on Twitter, Roberto Luongo is one of the funnier players in the NHL. Best known for his time in Vancouver, Luongo gave Canucks fans reason to cheer as he posted six consecutive seasons with more than 30 wins, reaching 40 twice. His closest brush with greatness came in 2011, when the Canucks were able to reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, despite having a 3-2 lead in the series, the Bruins would come back, and the Canuck’s offence would leave Luongo disappointed as they failed to score a single goal in the seventh and final game of the series. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Vancouver and sparked the now infamous riots in the city streets.
14 The Sedin Twins
Keeping with the Vancouver theme, the Sedin twins also fell victim to the Boston Bruins in 2011. Selected back-to-back as 2nd and 3rd overall picks in 1999, the twins quickly became one of the most electrifying duos in the NHL. While their names and faces were identical, so was their output, with Daniel putting up 925 points, and Henrik 952. Under normal circumstances these kinds of numbers would automatically generate Hall-of Fame rumors, but their inability to get their names engraved on the cup may leave them waiting a little longer for that phone call than they would like.
13 Shea Weber
With the hardest shot in the NHL (108.5 Mph), it’s clear why Shea Weber scores so many goals. Many players openly admit to getting out of the way when they see Shea Weber winding up for his signature slap shot. However, the Nashville Predators have had a very tough time finding some of that magic in the post-season. The Preds have not managed to get past the second round of the playoffs since the city of Nashville was awarded a franchise in 1998. While Weber is a two time Olympic gold medalist, the clock is ticking on his chance to win a championship. With the heavy contract the Predators gave him, he may have no choice but to hope he can get it done with the team they build around him.
12 John Tavares
Now in his seventh NHL season, John Tavares has proven to be an effective leader for the New York Islanders. Unfortunately for Tavares, the Islanders seem to be under constant renovation. From the horrible trades they made under Mike Milbury in the 90s to the nightmares that were Alexei Yashin and Rick Di Pietro’s contracts, the Islanders seem to consistently shoot themselves in the foot. Because of this, it may be a long time before we’re able to see Tavares bring his team back to their glory days, where they won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980- 1983.
11 Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller came out of nowhere to take the NHL by storm in 2006. Backstopping an incredible Buffalo Sabres team, Miller filled the highlight reel with his incredible ability to stretch his pads and reach cross-crease for some absolutely dazzling glove saves. His tall but light frame (6’2”, 168 lbs.) allowed him to achieve some seemingly impossible saves, leading many to compare him to Sabres legend Dominik Hasek. However the two are different in that Hasek was able to finally capture many championships, while the closest Miller would come was the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, where the Sabres fell in five games to the Ottawa Senators. While Sportscasters have made famous the term “Miller Time” for his great saves, it appears Miller’s time to win has come and went, as the Vancouver Canucks remain out of the playoffs.
10 Erik Karlsson
Already in his seventh NHL season, Erik Karlsson has become a nightmare for opposing teams. His ability to lead the offensive rush and put the puck in the net has already earned him two Norris Trophies as the leagues best defenseman. His incredible speed and vision has helped an Ottawa team that is in the process of rebuilding remain relevant in a very tight playoff race. If there were any player who can help end Ottawa’s current 24-year cup drought, it would be Karlsson.
9 Steven Stamkos
It’s fitting that Stamkos plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning because his shot is lightning quick, snapping off his stick from the left circle into the back of the net. That powerful shot helped him score 60 goals in one season back in 2012, a feat only achieved by a handful of players including Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull. As one of the elite snipers in the game, Stamkos took the lightning back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, but would fall to the now three-time champion Chicago Blackhawks. With his contract set to expire July 1st of this year, he may opt to leave Tampa to join a cup contender.
8 Nicklas Backstrom
Arguably the most consistent player in the NHL, Backstrom has 618 points in 622 games with the Washington Capitals. Famous for his playmaking ability, Backstrom has become known for feeding his teammate Alexander Ovechkin, one of the game's best scorers. The duo are like a modern Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, except that while Gretzky and Kurri won multiple championships during their time in Edmonton, Ovechkin and Backstrom are still waiting for a chance at the cup. This season, the Capitals sit atop the Metropolitan Division and are actually a heavy favorite to win the Eastern Conference.
7 Zach Parise
Son of former NHLer J.P. Parise, Zach started his career with the New Jersey Devils, where he learned to play two-way hockey in a system built around legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur. Parise quickly became one of the Devils best Weapons, scoring more than 30 goals five times and hitting 40 in 2009. Parise would get a chance to do what his father never could when the Devils made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, but fell in six games to the LA Kings. He has since moved to the Minnesota Wild, who remain a cup contender in the West and keep his hopes of a championship alive.
6 Carey Price
After being chosen fifth overall at the infamous 2005 NHL draft that saw Sidney Crosby go to the Penguins, Carey is showing that the Price is in fact right. After a rocky start with the team, Price has cemented his place as one of the elite Goalies in the game. In 2014-2015, Price had one of the best seasons in recent history for a goaltender, starting an incredible 66 games, and winning an astounding 44. Add to those number a save percentage of .933 and a GAA of just 1.96 and you get the league’s Hart, Vezina, Jennings and Ted Lindsay awards. Hopefully he has room on the shelf for one more…
5 Henrik Lundqvist
All hail the King! That’s the nickname given to Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers answer to the “Bulin Wall.” While Nikolai Khabibulin was able to secure the Stanley Cup for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, Lundqvist would experience only heartbreak with the Rangers. His stellar play has earned him a Vezina Trophy along with five nominations and took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014, but they faced the daunting task of beating an LA Kings team that seemed invincible after playing a remarkable 21 games to reach the Finals. Worse still, the goal that ended Lundqvist’s Cup dreams came in double-overtime. The Rangers still remain a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference, but the clock is ticking on Lundqvist’s best years.
4 Patrick Marleau
Just surpassing the 1,000 point mark, this two-time Olympic gold medalist has played for the San Jose sharks for his entire career. While his dedication to the franchise is admirable, it is no secret that the Sharks are mired in playoff futility. Never was this more clear than during the 2014 Playoffs, when the Sharks appeared poised to sweep the LA Kings in four games, only to have the Kings come back from a 3-0 deficit, eliminate the Sharks and go on to capture a second Stanley Cup. With this being his 18th season, it is clear that Marleau needs a championship soon, or he may never get one.
3 Joe Thornton
Another victim of the Sharks playoff curse, Joe Thornton has split his career between Boston and San Jose. Despite his incredible 1,300 points in 1,334 career games to this point, along with 100 points in the post season, it is shocking to think a player with this kind of ability to make plays has yet to win a championship. Known as one of the best passers in the league, Thornton has given opposing teams all they can handle for 18 seasons. While he doesn’t seem to be slowing down, he is running out of years to finally break the curse for the San Jose Sharks.
2 Jarome Iginla
One of only 19 players in history to score over 600 goals, Jarome Iginla is one of the all-time best at lighting the lamp, showcased by his two Rocket Richard trophies. Before becoming a journeyman player, Iginla was the face of the Calgary Flames and took them to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, their first since winning the Cup in 1989. This trip ended differently, as the Tampa Bay Lightning forced overtime in game six of the series after a controversial no-goal call for the Flames that became the subject of many debates since. The situation only got worse in game seven, where Iginla and the Flames lost the cup by one goal. With 20 NHL seasons under his belt, it’s now or never for the aging all-star.
1 Alex Ovechkin
Three Hart Trophies, Five Rocket Richard Trophies, One Art Ross Trophy, and the Calder Trophy. He is the only Russian player ever to score 500 goals. He has the most goals ever by a Left Wing for a single season, with an incredible 65 in 2008. He is the great 8, the toothless, bearded behemoth who tackles the boards every time he scores a goal with the same intensity as if he had just scored a quadruple overtime game winning goal in game seven of the finals on home ice. Unfortunately, Ovechkin has not been able to win the big prize, despite registering 70 points in 72 playoff games played. Only in his 11th season, it is still entirely possible for Ovechkin to add a Stanley Cup to his already crowded trophy case, and with the Capitals currently sitting atop the NHL standings, this could be their year.
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