What do Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Claude Giroux, and the Sedin twins (Henrik and Daniel) have in common? They are all among an elite group of players in the NHL, but win or lose, they have all had the chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final.
Elite players usually make it to the Stanley Cup at some point in their career. It’s harder now for one player to carry their team all the way, with the parity between teams in today’s game, just ask Sidney Crosby. Not all are lucky enough to get there, but superstar players often have the ability to lead their team to the final dance.
Another NHL superstar, Steven Stamkos, is about to make his debut in the Stanley Cup Final. His Tampa Bay Lightning were one game away from making it in 2011, but bowed out to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. Four years later, he finally gets his shot at the Cup.
My colleague Andrew Bensch recently wrote about 5 Veterans Who Deserve Stanley Cups, and I’m going to look at five star NHL players who have yet to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Some of these players are on teams that could reach the final if their GM’s make a few more changes, while others are slowly seeing their window close.
Ovechkin is arguably the best player in the NHL yet to play in the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals came as close as ever this season as they pushed the New York Rangers to overtime of game seven in the semifinals, but couldn’t get the job done.
The Great Eight was stellar during some parts of these playoffs, but only finished with nine points in 14 games. However, he could hardly be faulted for his effort in game seven against the Rangers, and it was hard not to feel for him as he watched while Derek Stepan put the puck in the net during overtime.
The Capitals have failed to advance past the second round with Ovechkin on their roster during the past ten seasons. They were better under Barry Trotz this season, but it still wasn’t enough to change their fate. Ovechkin will be 30 next season, and he knows as well as anybody how hard it is to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. He will be motivated, but will it be enough for the Capitals?
Sometimes goalies are forgotten when you think of the elite players in the game, but Carey Price is very much among the elite. With Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban also entering their prime, the Habs are likely Canada’s best chance to win the Cup during the next couple of seasons.
He is arguably the best goalie in the league, and has been a rock in net for the Habs during the last two playoffs. That being said, he has had his shaky performances in the postseason, such as when he allowed 13 goals in four games to the Ottawa Senators in 2013.
While there is much argument about how teams shouldn’t spend big money on goalies to make a postseason run, Price is one of those goalies that is worth every penny. If the Canadiens can add more help on offence, Price and the Habs have a real good chance at reaching the final in the near future.
He is the only player not picked in the top five of the NHL draft on this list, but the fifth-round pick of the Dallas Stars is an absolutely dominant player in this league. His game soared to new heights this season while playing on Tyler Seguin’s wing, and he went on to win the Art Ross Trophy after posting 13 points over his last five games.
He’s only played in one playoff series, against the Anaheim Ducks last season. The Stars were expected to compete for a playoff spot again this year, but never recovered from a slow start. They couldn’t keep the puck out of the net for most of the season, and need some help on the back-end to make some noise in the playoffs.
The Stars do have two very talented forwards on their roster that both have the ability to take over the game. There are some other great forward pairs in the Western Conference, but the only ones that might be better than Benn and Seguin are Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two Stars’ forward have a long ways to go before that becomes a real comparison, but the talent level is there.
John Tavares is in a similar situation to Jaime Benn. Both have never made it to the Cup Final, but they are both young and entering the prime of their careers. Both are superstars on their respective teams.
The Islanders took a huge leap forward this year (unlike the Dallas Stars) by making improvements in net and on the blueline. They put on a show against the Washington Capitals in what arguably was the best series of the first round, but couldn’t generate much in game seven.
Tavares also elevated his game this season, and only finished one point shy of Jaime Benn for the Art Ross. Tavares has yet to advance past the first round, but it would be exciting to see him lead the Islanders on a lengthy playoff run. If the Islanders continue to push forward and make improvements, they could soon advance past the first round for the first time since 1993.
The major critique here might be that Joe Thornton isn’t as elite as the other four players on this list. However, the 35-year-old centre has been a dominant player in this league over the last decade, and has had ample opportunity to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
Despite playing on a Sharks team that made the playoffs for nine straight seasons, Thornton and the Sharks only made it to two Conference Finals, winning only one game.
Thornton has put up some godly numbers during the regular season, averaging basically a point per-game throughout his career. However, he has posted 0.76 points/game during his 132 game playoff career.
Unfortunately for Thornton, what separates him from the rest of this list is that San Jose looks like it missed their chance at a Championship. Unless the Sharks rebound quickly, Thornton’s best shot at a Stanley Cup might be as a second-line centre on a different team, playing a similar role like Brad Richards on the Blackhawks.