One of the great side stories of a Stanley Cup championship is seeing the guy who has had a championship elude him for far too long finally hoist the Cup. Sometimes it’s a legend like Ray Bourque or Dave Andreychuk finally hoisting it at age 40; sometimes it’s a very good player who has just come close so many times you’re glad it finally clicked, like it did for Marian Hossa in 2010 after appearing in three straight Finals with three different teams.
There are many of these stories in the NHL now, waiting for their final act to be written. Here are the eight players who most need to win a Stanley Cup.
1. Jarome Iginla
Iginla, 38, is hitting the end of his career and may be the best player over 36 to have never won a Cup. He’s come close. He captained the Calgary Flames to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, only to be beaten by the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. That was the Final where Andreychuk finally got his moment in the sun.
Iginla is still a productive player and probably has a couple seasons left in the tank, but he doesn’t look like he’s chasing a Cup. For a brief moment it did look that way, when he approved a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins and then signed with the Boston Bruins the following season. Now in the second of a three-year deal with the Avalanche, he looks like he won’t do the team-hopping game to try to get his name engraved.
2. Henrik and Daniel Sedin
The Sedin twins are due. A little younger than Iginla, but no less deserving, they’re in a tricky position. They’ve always played together and spent their entire career with the Vancouver Canucks, but with the state of that franchise and the way the team is putting their faith in their youth, the Sedins may need to play for another team to get a Cup before they retire.
However, in a hard-cap world, how many teams are able to take on two players of their caliber? Unless they wait until the summer of 2018 and give a contender a steep discount in free agency, it’s hard to see how they leave Vancouver. It’d be a shame to see them retire without ever hoisting the Cup, especially since they led a Canucks team that was dominant for years, winning two straight Presidents Trophies and making it to a Stanley Cup Final where they lost in seven.
3. Joe Thornton
Jumbo Joe has played some great playoff hockey in his career and may be the most under-appreciated player on this list. Even at 36, he’s phenomenal (from Dec. 15 to Feb. 23, he leads the NHL in points). His goal totals may be dragging, but there’s no question that he makes decent players great when they line up on his wing. His playmaking ability is among the best in the league and he’s had a long career full of success.
A Stanley Cup is one major feather missing from his cap (he’s won both the Hart and Art Ross Trophies). Like with the Sedins, he’s been a part of a team that’s had a lot of regular season success. Until last season’s miss, the Sharks had been in the postseason in more consecutive seasons than any team save the Detroit Red Wings. The Sharks are a perpetual punching bag of for their inability to come out of the West to the Final, but Thornton is tough to blame for that. He’s put up 82 points in 97 playoff games with San Jose.
4. Alex Ovechkin
At 30, Ovechkin isn’t the grizzled vet who finally needs to taste glory. He’s the contemporary superstar who just hasn’t had the chance yet to get his due. His talent is undeniable and until he wins a Cup, he’s not going to get the credit he deserves alongside the other greats of his generation.
Like San Jose (and St. Louis), the Capitals have been a very good regular season team for years and have never been able to make a deep run. Ovechkin has been a Jekyll and Hyde playoff performer, but overall his numbers have been solid with 70 points in 72 career playoff appearances.
If Ovi wins a Cup, we’ll also be spared the constant hand wringing about his lack of postseason success, as though every Capitals loss is a referendum on his talent.
5. Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist, 33, is in a similar situation to Ovechkin. He’s not at the end of his career, but may be the greatest goaltender of his generation. He has managed to consistently put up incredible numbers and has carried the Rangers on his back repeatedly. Yet, he is without a ring.
The lack of a Cup on his resume is becoming a sore spot as he ages. It’s almost become a parody. In the last four seasons, the Rangers have lost in the Stanley Cup Final, the Conference Final twice and once in the semifinals. That’s 76 playoff games in the last four seasons with Lundqvist putting up save percentages of .931, .934, .927 and .928.
It seems unfair that Lundqvist hasn’t been able to win despite dragging the dead corpse of his team up a hill, while lesser goaltenders get praised for their ability to “just win” in the postseason.
6. Roberto Luongo
The only other goaltender on this list, Luongo is the elder statesman of goaltenders without their name engraved on the Cup. He deserves it because he’s been a solid postseason goaltender — at least prior to his last two appearances — was a part of that incredible run of seasons in Vancouver that ended in riots rather than a Cup. He continues to perform better than a 36-year old should.
He’s a big part of Florida’s success this season, despite being at an age where most goaltenders see a steep decline in skill. He’s played so well he’s in the discussion to be a Vezina finalist. If he’s named a finalist, he’d be the oldest goaltender to finish in the top three of Vezina voting without a Stanley Cup ring.
Plus, the tweets from his day with the Cup would be wonderful.
7. Shane Doan
Probably the least likely to see a Cup of anyone on this list, Doan’s Shakespearean loyalty could be his downfall. He’s always put the team first, has done whatever it takes to stick with the franchise, binds the Coyotes’ history as the Jets to their present, has achieved the rare feat of playing over 1,400 games with a single team and has never given up on the organization despite its perennial struggles.
He’s a gentleman and one of the game’s great sportsmanlike players. However, his loyalty has been rewarded with just nine trips to the postseason in his 20-year career. Six of those trips came in his first seven seasons. He’s also only been a part of a single postseason series win. Who wouldn’t like to see Doan lift the Cup just once before he calls it quits?
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.