Worst of the worst: Stanley Cup finalists

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The NHL logo and the Stanley Cup side-by-side. Pixy/Wikimedia Commons (Manipulated by Kate Thessien)

One Edmonton Oiler reference from being a perfect list

In the long history of the NHL, several teams have had their fair share of highlights and let-downs. Today, we focus on the less-than-stellar experiences that teams in the league have had to go through when it comes to the big game, The Stanley Cup. Very few times in pursuit of the Cup has there ever been a clearly mismatched match-up where one team is more or less guaranteed to win it all versus a team that you have no idea how they got there. That being said, however rare such a match-up would be, that doesn’t mean it’s complete fiction. Below are the top five times that the worst teams made it to the Stanley Cup game.

The 1982 Vancouver Canucks

Considering how far the Vancouver Canucks have come, it’s shocking to think at one point they were considered the worst for a whole season. Actually, considering where they are nowadays, it’s not all that hard to imagine. Regardless, in 1982, the Canucks were by far one of the more lacking teams to make the postseason. In their defense, they only lost two games in route to getting swept by the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup. Yet, that road was paved with a helpful hand from the Los Angeles Kings, who knocked out the dominant 82’ Edmonton Oilers in a massive upset win.

The 1999 Buffalo Sabres

Speaking of not hard to imagine lacking progress in a sports franchise, the Buffalo Sabres, anyone? Their current woes aside, the Sabres back in the late 90’s were a team that was at their most minimal. The scoring rate for the ‘99 Sabres was around 2.5 goals per game, showing that they weren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse. No – instead, the Sabres just waited out the timer like in a fighting game. Of course, they did have a secret weapon in Dominik Hasek who literally – I mean literally – kept them in the game at all times. Basically, when you rely on one player to make all the difference, you’re not going to get very far – no matter how good they are. Just ask the team that defeated Buffalo in the 1999 Cup champs, the Dallas Stars

The 1968, ‘69 and ‘70’s St. Louis Blues

Okay, so technically this was three different teams, yes. However, it’s what was to come as a result of three straight Stanley Cup losses that makes this more of a single entry rather than multiple. See, back in the late 60’s (1967 to be exact) the Blues had entered the league following a large expansion of the NHL. The Blues were placed alongside the new six teams that would enter the league, while the Original Six would play in their own division. Needless to say, the Original Six dominated the Cup finals every single year, and the St. Louis Blues just happened to be the team in those Cup finals for three straight years. In ‘68, the Blues got swept by the Montreal Canadians. In ‘69, they were once again swept by the Canadians, and in ‘70, the Boston Bruins would be the ones doing the sweeping. All this to say that St. Louis was definitely feeling the Blues. The three losses would then lead to league changes in the playoff format moving forward.

 The 1979 New York Rangers

Lacking in a goalie and trying to beat the then three-time Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadians is just a tiny look into the issues that the ‘79 New York Rangers faced during their trail-and-error postseason to the Cup. Sort of the opposite problem that the ‘99 Sabres had, the Rangers were more offensively focused while lacking in that ever-important area of defence. Regardless, the Rangers managed to battle their way to a meeting with the Canadians in the ‘79 Cup, where they would go on to lose in five, giving Montreal their fourth straight win. Despite the talents of a then 36-year-old Phil Esposito, the Rangers just didn’t have enough in the tank.

The 1996 Florida Panthers

As we’ve seen on this list with other teams, great defence and great goaltending can help a team go a long way, but there are more elements needed before you can call that team the complete package. The ‘96 Florida Panthers were a squad that, for some reason or another, were just able to make things work. Despite the serious lack in offensive presence, the team managed to rally together to win games and advance in a fairly smooth fashion through the post-season. Eventually though, also like the other teams on this list, the Panthers were shown up by the Colorado Avalanche and revealed to be the ill-equipped underdogs that they actually were.

So, there you have it. The worst of the worst when it comes to the NHL Stanley Cup teams. Of course, that is to say that a team needs a certain level of talent to reach the Cup finals at all (he said, backtracking). So, despite how unsuited these different squads were to be in the big game, the fact that they made it at all really shows how crazy the game of hockey can be.

Ethan Butterfield

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