Winning in the NHL is anything but easy. When considering how hard it is to win each individual battle within the game while also trying to come out ahead in the games themselves over the course of a season, the difficulty level increases exponentially.
This is why winning a Stanley Cup is something that has eluded so many franchises in the NHL. Only one team can win, and for teams that come close and ultimately lose, there’s no guarantee they’ll ever get the opportunity again. It’s a fickle endeavor, but it’s one that fans of the sport love. Here now are the many NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup.
Arizona Coyotes (Formerly the Winnipeg Jets)
Even before the Arizona Coyotes started playing hockey in Phoenix and Glendale, the franchise struggled to compete for a championship. As the original Winnipeg Jets, the franchise never managed to advance past the second round of the postseason. It was a troubling affair as fans in Winnipeg loved their franchise, but with the disappointing seasons adding up, a change was needed.
Since moving to Arizona and becoming the Coyotes, things haven’t gotten much better. The team managed to qualify for the playoffs in each of its first four seasons. Unfortunately, each berth resulted in the same outcome; a first-round exit to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche respectively.
After failing to qualify for the postseason in the 2000-01 season, the Coyotes were once again bounced in the first round the following year in five games to the San Jose Sharks. It’s been a rough ride for the Coyotes, who in their 22 seasons, have failed to qualify for the playoffs 13 times and lost in the first round seven times.
The Coyotes best season came in 2011-12 when the team finished first in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference. Winning a playoff series for the first time in the desert, the Coyotes actually advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, they fell short to the Los Angeles Kings – the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
The history of sports in Buffalo has been interesting and full of heartbreak. Since the 1965 AFL championship, it has been 52 years since a sports franchise from Buffalo had won a championship until the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL did so in 2016-17. For the Buffalo Sabres, the journey has been a roller coaster that has yet to reward the city with a Stanley Cup victory. In the history of the franchise dating back to the 1970-71 season, the team has failed to qualify for the playoffs 17 times and lost in the first round 14 times. The team has had some success, though, as they’ve played in the second round 14 times, advancing to the Conference Finals six times and even playing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975 and again in 1999.
The Sabres ultimately lost both of those appearances with the most recent loss coming against the Dallas Stars who claimed their first and only championship to date.
It wasn’t a series that came without controversy, however, as the game-winning goal and subsequent press conferences have become ingrained in the history of the NHL. Though the goal may or may not have been a good one, the history books will forever read that the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup that night; Lindy Ruff, then the coach of the Sabres, will likely forever feel the same way about the play.
Though one goal cost the Sabres the Stanley Cup in 1999, the recent trend of the Sabres has been a concerning one. The team has failed to qualify for the postseason in 10 of the last 12 years including eight consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance starting from the 2011-12 season and continuing to this very day.
Columbus Blue Jackets
One of the NHL’s newest franchises, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been in the league since the 2000-01 season. The team got off to a rocky start, however, failing to qualify for the playoffs until the 2008-0 season when they were swept 4-0 by the Detroit Red Wings. It wouldn’t be until the 2013-14 season when the Blue Jackets would get another opportunity in the playoffs, though the result wasn’t much better as they were eliminated in the first round once again, this time by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
The Blue Jackets followed that up with another two consecutive missed playoff bids. In the 2016-17 season, the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world, going from last place in the Eastern Conference and in 27th place in the NHL to a 108-point campaign and a playoff opportunity. Unfortunately, another first-round loss to the Penguins once again, this time in five games, ended the Blue Jacket season once again.
For the Blue Jackets, that season was just a glimpse of what was to come, however. The team earned 97 and 98 points in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons respectively, qualifying for the playoffs for three consecutive seasons. They’d even made it to the second round of the postseason for the first time in franchise history last season.
With a very exciting roster and a ton of young talent just waiting to make the jump to the NHL, the future looks bright in Columbus. Though the last few seasons may not have ended the way fans would have liked, the team has proven they’re committed to making things work.
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It’s been a rough tenure for the Florida Panthers franchise. In the team’s 25 seasons, they’ve failed to qualify for the postseason 20 times. In four of the five seasons that the team qualified for the postseason, they were eliminated in the first round. To be fair to the Panthers, their first trip to the postseason was about as successful as it gets for a team that was in just its third season at the time.
Fresh off of the franchise’s first 40-plus win season, the Panthers eliminated the Boston Bruins in five games in the first round of the playoffs to win their first playoff series, in their first playoff appearance no less. They weren’t done there, however, as they went on to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to qualify for the Eastern Conference Finals.
A seven-game series win against the Pittsburgh Penguins catapulted the Panthers into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first and only time to date in the history of the franchise. Unfortunately, the fun ended there. A sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche ended the Panthers season and they have yet to get past the first round of the playoffs in the years since.
Ottawa Senators (1992)
The Ottawa Senators have yet to win the big one in their 25 years as a franchise. This hasn’t always been the case, however, as the original Ottawa Senators founded in 1883 won 11 Stanley Cups and played in the NHL for 17 years from 1917 until 1934. The current iteration of the Senators – though still young, have had their fair share of successful seasons as well.
In the late-1990s to mid-2000s, the Senators were one of the better teams in the NHL in the regular season. Unfortunately, that didn’t necessarily translate to postseason success.
In the history of the franchise, the team has failed to qualify for the postseason only eight times – including in each of its first four seasons. With 16 playoff berths – including a run of 11 straight appearances from 1996-97 until 2007-08, the Senators had consistently made the playoffs. In fact, the team had never gone consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance until the 2018-19 season – one of hockey’s most impressive streaks.
The Senators have played in the Conference Finals three times in franchise history, including the 2006-07 season when the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals before eventually losing to the Anaheim Ducks. Both teams fell short of their ultimate goals in 2017 when the Ducks lost to the Nashville Predators and the Senators lost to the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals.
The second NHL franchise to grace the state of Minnesota following the movement of the North Stars to Dallas, the Wild are still a very young franchise. In 18 seasons, the Wild have qualified for the playoffs nine times while missing the playoffs nine times. The team has been bounced from the first round six times while playing in the second round in three different seasons including a trip to the Conference Finals in just their third season, resulting in a sweep to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Yet to play in a Stanley Cup Finals series, the Wild had their best season as a franchise in 2016-17 with a 49-25-8 record, good for 106 points and second place in the Central Division. Competing in one of the toughest divisions in hockey against some of the best teams in the league, the Wild will have their work cut out for them each and every year as they look to compete for their first championship.
The Nashville Predators were one of the final two teams competing in the 2017 NHL playoffs. Appearing in the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, the goal for the Predators from the very start of the season has been the Stanley Cup. Making history with a Conference Finals appearance is a nice goal to have achieved, but the end-game for every franchise is winning a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, the team fell just short as the Penguins went on to capture their second title in as many years.
After missing the playoffs in each of the franchise’s first five seasons, the Predators have actually had a solid run from 2003-04 up until the present day. Only missing the playoffs three times since 2003, the Predators have qualified for the postseason 12 times. The team unfortunately lost in the first round in seven of those seasons, though they’ve also played in the second round five times in history, including their Stanley Cup run.
Starting the 2016-17 postseason off in decisive fashion with a sweep of the first-place Chicago Blackhawks, the Predators have proven that they can compete with the best in the league. That remained true in 2017-18 when the Predators were ultimately the best team in the regular season and looked like they had the potential to go on a deep postseason run.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were one of the best teams in the NHL for nearly a decade. With seven 100-plus point seasons from 2003-04 until 2013-14 – despite the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Sharks proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, however, the story for the Sharks has been regular-season success and failures in the postseason.
To the credit of the franchise, they’ve only missed the playoffs six times compared to the 21 playoff berths since the 1991-92 season. In that time, they’ve qualified for at least the second round 13 times and have competed in the conference finals four times. Despite this, the Sharks have only appeared in one Stanley Cups Finals series, ultimately losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015-16.
Despite the success that the franchise has experienced in their 25 seasons, the Sharks remain the only current California-based team to have never won a Stanley Cup. The Los Angeles Kings have two championships – both coming after the 2010 season, and the Anaheim Ducks won their first and only championship to date in 2007.
The Vancouver Canucks have seen their fair share of ups and downs throughout the history of the franchise. Though the Canucks have missed the postseason 21 times, they’ve also qualified for the playoffs 27 times. While they’ve made the playoffs and competed in competitive hockey more often than not since their debut in the 1970-71 season, that success may have also caused even more heartbreak to the fans in Vancouver.
With three Stanley Cup Finals appearances, the Canucks have failed to hoist their first Stanley Cup. A sweep to the New York Islanders in 1981-82 followed by consecutive game-seven series’ losses to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in 1993-94 and 2010-11 respectively have left an entire city longing for more.
In the defense of the Canucks, the team has strung together successful seasons in recent years that have put them in prime positions entering the playoffs. From 2003-04 until 2012-13, the Canucks finished first in their division in seven out of nine years including five straight seasons from 2008-09 until 2012-13. Multiple 100-plus point seasons and Presidents’ Trophy wins weren’t enough, however, as the Canucks have failed to win the championship thus far.
With a young team that looks ready to compete for playoff position for the foreseeable future, however, the Canucks could turn things around after missing the postseason in each of the last four seasons and five of their last six seasons.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights came so close in their first season in the NHL. After a Cinderella story type year, the NHL’s newest franchise had the most successful first year in the history of the NHL and potentially all of professional sports and came just a few wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
The team that Vegas assembled was met with criticism early on following their expansion draft but it didn’t take long to realize that this team was a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
After some changes came to the team over the next season, including some major additions to the squad on offense, the Golden Knights could come off of this list sooner than anyone may have ever anticipated despite losing in the first round in their second postseason attempt. That attempt also saw the franchise’s first taste of controversy.
The Golden Knights remain one of the NHL’s best teams and their goal of winning their first Stanley Cup still feels well within reach for this current group of players.
Winnipeg Jets (Formerly the Atlanta Thrashers)
Between the Atlanta Thrashers and the current Winnipeg Jets franchise, there hasn’t been a lot of meaningful hockey played. For the Thrashers who debuted in the 1999-2000 season, failed to make the playoffs in each of its first six seasons. In fact, the team only qualified once for the postseason, resulting in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers, while failing to qualify in the other 10 seasons.
Upon moving to Winnipeg and getting a fresh start, things didn’t go much better at first. The Jets have been in the NHL for eight seasons and have only qualified for the postseason three times.
The first instance saw them play in a 4-0 series loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. The second time around, however, the Jets looked poised to run the gauntlet and make it to the Stanley Cup Final. They fell just short of their ultimate goal, losing to the Golden Knights in the conference finals. In their third trip, they’d fall short in the first round to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Blues.
In Summary: Here are the 11 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup.
- Buffalo Sabres
- Vancouver Canucks
- San Jose Sharks
- Florida Panthers
- Arizona Coyotes
- Nashville Predators
- Winnipeg Jets
- Minnesota Wild
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Ottawa Senators (1992 incarnation)
Honorable Mention: Toronto Maple Leafs – Zero Stanley Cups since 1967, though they’re far from the only team with a lengthy drought.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.