Winning a Stanley Cup is not an easy task. It takes a considerable amount of skills, collective team effort, and luck. Even Wayne Gretzky, the best player in the history of the sport, could not will teams like the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, or New York Rangers to become champions by himself.
A lot of the greatest players to have ever played the game fell short of hockey’s ultimate prize. Here are three current players who deserve a better fate.
1. Jarome IginlaWhen you think of the Calgary Flames you immediately think of Jarome Iginla. There has never been a greater ambassador for hockey than the oft smiling Iginla and he gave Calgary all that he had for 15 and a half seasons.
Iginla wasn’t drafted by the Flames, he was selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 1995. The Stars traded Iginla to Calgary for the rights to Joe Nieuwendyk.
While Nieuwendyk went on to help the Stars win their first Stanley Cup in 1999, Iginla put up at least 30 goals for 11 consecutive seasons for the Flames. His best season was in 2007-08 when he scored 98 points in 82 games, including 50 goals. That was the second time in his career that he reached 50 goals.
In the 2003-04 season, Iginla and the Flames came close to the winning the Stanley Cup when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the finals. In 26 playoff games, Iginla put up 22 points.
In 2013, the unthinkable happened and Iginla requested a trade out of Calgary for his pursuit of the elusive Stanley Cup. He finished the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins but they failed to help him achieve his goal.
The next year, he joined the Bruins who ironically was one of the front-runners to land the future Hall of Famer at the previous trade deadline. Like the Penguins, the Bruins fell short in the playoffs.
Iginla saw potential in the Colorado Avalanche and signed a three-year deal with the team. He joined former teammate Alex Tanguay and front office duo Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, two players who he knows very well from their playing days.
It remains to be seen if the Avalanche can deliver but Iginla is fitting in very well with a young team on the rise.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
If some of the bounces had gone Henrik Lundqvist’s way last season, he wouldn’t be on this list. Unfortunately for Lundqvist and the Rangers, they were forced to watch the Los Angeles Kings hoist their second Stanley Cup in three years.
Lundqvist’s professional career started with the Frolunda HC in his native Sweden. He had already been selected 205th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft at that point and was seen as a very raw goalie with exceptional athletic abilities.
Over the next five years, Lundqvist played and starred in the SHL before making the jump overseas to the Rangers in 2005. From that point on, there was no question who the future of the Rangers goaltending was. Lundqvist quickly won over the fans on the ice with his play and off the ice with his dashing good looks and Hollywood caliber smile.
Unlike Iginla, Lundqvist is still relatively young in goalie years. His play has not dropped and he still has many more years to pursue his ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Madison Square Garden.
3. Joe Thornton
For someone as talented and good-natured as Joe Thornton, he is not as well liked around the league as he should be.
Thornton was drafted first overall in 1997 and has lived up to his expectations on the ice. He continues to be a premier playmaker even into the twilight of his career.
Thornton played seven seasons with the Boston Bruins, five as its captain, before being traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2005. The reasoning behind the trade was that the Bruins wanted to build around Patrice Bergeron who they saw as the future of the club and by trading Thornton they allowed themselves some flexibility in the new salary cap era.
Over the course of the next few seasons, Thornton propelled the Sharks into Stanley Cup contender status year after year. However, Thornton and the Sharks fell short of their goal, year after year resulting in their choke artist label. The moniker that is synonymously tied to the Sharks as it is tied to Thornton.
With the current state of the Sharks and the competitive atmosphere of the Western Conference, San Jose may not be the best destination for Thornton if he wishes to add a Stanley Cup victory to his resume.