Skip to main content

SCOREBOARD

NHL will have a new Stanley Cup champion this century as lengthy droughts take center stage

Published
Updated

No matter which team wins the Stanley Cup championship this year it will be a first this century.

The Dallas Stars won the franchise's lone championship in 1999, months before the world worried computers would malfunction at the start of a new millennium. The New York Rangers haven’t done it since their magical run in 1994 that ended a 54-year title drought.

The Edmonton Oilers have not done it since the last title of their dynasty in 1990, seven years before current star Connor McDavid was born. The Florida Panthers have never won the Cup since their inception in 1993, when hockey in the U.S. Sun Belt was just starting to become a reality.

"It’s something that these all markets are starving for," said Mike Rupp, a NHL Network analyst whose three-point Game 7 performance in 2003 gave New Jersey its third championship. “I love seeing new blood in it.”

New blood when it comes to a title but not unfamiliar with this stage of the playoffs. Florida and Dallas were each in their respective conference finals last year (Florida advanced to the Final, too), while New York and Edmonton are back after getting there in 2022.

Thirteen different teams have hoisted the Cup since 1999, including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay doing it three times, and New Jersey, Colorado and Los Angeles twice each.

The more things change ...

None of the remaining teams has had the same coach for more than the past two seasons.

Paul Maurice took over the Panthers and Peter DeBoer the Stars in the summer of 2022. Peter Laviolette got the Rangers' job less than a year ago. Kris Knoblauch was an early-season replacement for the Oilers in November.

Part of that is just the cyclical nature of coaching changes in hockey, though the high volume over the past 18 months has gotten the attention of the fraternity, with DeBoer calling it “insanity.”

There's still value in experience, though, with Knoblauch the only first-time NHL head coach in the final four. He is eight wins away from being the fourth coach hired in-season to win the Cup that year.

Laviolette is in his sixth head coaching job. He coached Carolina to the Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and took Philadelphia in 2010 and Nashville in 2017 to the final. DeBoer has two trips to the final on his resume: 2012 with New Jersey and 2016 with San Jose. No one has coached more NHL regular-season and playoff games without winning the Cup than Maurice with 1,973.

... the more they stay the same

This isn't quite like the Tampa Bay Lightning going back to back in 2020 and ‘21 and reaching the final in ’22, but these teams have all played a lot of playoff hockey in recent years.

Counting their bubble run to the Cup Final four years ago, the Stars have been in 79 playoff games dating to 2019.

“Dallas has been a good team for a long time, just never able to kind of get over the hump and had some really tough paths in the playoffs,” Rupp said.

McDavid and the Oilers have played 54 postseason games since 2020, their first of five consecutive postseason appearances, with an asterisk on the expanded pandemic format.

The Panthers, who have played 52 over the past five playoffs, have usurped the Lightning as the best team in Florida, including knocking their cross-state rivals out in the first round this year. They're now co-Cup favorites along with Dallas, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

The Rangers, with 40 games of playoff experience since 2020, are actually the longest shot on the board despite winning the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best team in the regular season. Since general manager Chris Drury took over, New York has gone from youth movement to powerhouse.

“The days of the rebuild of the Rangers, it wasn’t all that long ago,” Rupp said. “They were setting themselves up for some very lean years, and they turned it around a lot quicker, I think, than people thought.”

___

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL