For one team a lengthy Stanley Cup drought about to end

Paul Hoogkamp, TSN Staff

5/15/2010 10:05:18 AM

The Chicago Blackhawks may be in the midst of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL, but it has also been more than a few years since the other three teams in the Conference Finals have enjoyed an up-close look at hockey's Holy Grail.

The Blackhawks have not won since 1961, a stretch six years longer than that of the playoff-challenged Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Philadelphia Flyers changed the face of hockey and their opponents, using intimidation to win the Cup way back in 1975.

It's been 17 years since the Montreal Canadiens had a parade down Rue Ste.-Catherine, which is an eternity for the most storied franchise in the league.

And while the San Jose Sharks have yet to win the Cup since joining the NHL in 1991, with recent playoff failures, some feel the organization is overdue to win their first title.

Despite great strides toward parity in recent years, only eight different teams have won the Stanley Cup since 1993. The Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche have won multiple times over that stretch and the New York Rangers ended a lengthy drought of their own in 1994.

The Dallas Stars captured their only title in 1999 and with their wins in three of the last four seasons; the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks have put new faces and names on Lord Stanley's chalice. 

But this will be a year of relief for one of four franchises.

In 1961, Glenn Hall helped the Blackhawks end a 23-year Stanley Cup drought by backstopping the team to a 4-2 series win over the Detroit Red Wings. With young forwards Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull in the lineup, few would believe they would still be looking for their next title in 2010.

Antti Niemi may not be confused with Hall anytime soon but Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews represent the Hawks' best chance since Mikita and Hull to return the Stanley Cup to the shores of Lake Michigan.

In 1974, the Flyers became the first expansion team to claim the Stanley Cup and followed that up with a successful defence the following season. Led by captain Bobby Clarke and the goaltending of Bernie Parent, the ‘Broad Street Bullies' seemed destined to intimidate for many years to come, but as history has shown us, it was not to be.

Much like the Flyers of the 1970's, today's version is not the most graceful but they have overcome injuries to key players to get the job done. While there is no equivalent to Parent in net, captain Mike Richards has been compared by many to his predecessor, except with more teeth.
Who can forget 1993? Patrick Roy leading the Canadiens to upset after upset while Vincent Damphousse and company came through with 10 consecutive overtime victories. In the final, the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge rolled over Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Destiny seems to be at work again in 2010 as Jaroslav Halak is providing a lifetime of miraculous saves to keep the scrappy Habs in every game.  The current team has something that the 1993 squad did not; a game breaker by the name of Michael Cammalleri.

In 1991, the Sharks joined the NHL and managed to upset the powerful Detroit Red Wings in the 1994 playoffs. In recent years, they have enjoyed regular season success only to be disappointed with short playoff runs. This could be a breakthrough year for the franchise.

While there is not a rich playoff history with the Sharks, their current campaign has been different than others in that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have not been relied upon to provide all the offensive output. Joe Pavelski leads the team in scoring with linemates Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi taking the heat off the Olympic trio of Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley.

So when the Stanley Cup is awarded next month, there will be boisterous celebrations in the dressing room but the loudest sound may come from the huge sigh of relief emanating from the city that has ended their long Stanley Cup drought.