Why the Vancouver Canucks Will Be Next NHL Team to End Its Stanley Cup Drought

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks talks with teammate Henrik Sedin #33 during Game Four against the Boston Bruins in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings ended their 43-year Stanley Cup drought in June after beating the New Jersey Devils in six games, leaving the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks as the only NHL teams with championship droughts that are longer than 40 years.

Over the last three seasons, the Kings, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have all ended droughts of 35-plus years, and we could see another lengthy drought end during the 2012-13 season if the lockout ends soon.

Here are the longest Stanley Cup droughts in the NHL:

Team Drought Last Championship Last Stanley Cup Final Appearance
Toronto Maple Leafs 44 years 1966-67 1966-67
St. Louis Blues 44 years N/A N/A
Buffalo Sabres 41 years N/A 1998-99
Vancouver Canucks 41 years N/A 2010-11
Washington Capitals 37 years N/A 1997-98
Philadelphia Flyers 36 years 1975-76 2009-10
Phoenix Coyotes (Winnipeg Jets 1979-80 through 1995-96) 32 years N/A N/A

The next team that will end its Stanley Cup drought will be the Canucks, and a shortened 2012-13 season is the perfect time for them to finally win.

Vancouver's championship window isn't very large right now, and if the salary cap goes down to about $60 million in the second year of the new CBA, the Canucks may be forced to make some changes to their roster that will hurt the team's depth.

Even if salary cap flexibility becomes a problem in the near future, the Canucks have enough talent to be a top Stanley Cup contender for at least three more seasons. They are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

Goaltending will be the difference for the Canucks this season because Cory Schneider is a fantastic player. After signing a three-year contract extension in the summer, the 26-year-old is ready to give Vancouver the reliable playoff goalie it desperately needs.

Dependable goaltending in the playoffs has prevented the Canucks from winning the Stanley Cup over the last few years, and if Roberto Luongo didn't allow 14 goals in three games against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the team's championship drought would have ended.

Schneider played exceptionally against Boston in the two teams' only meeting last year and finished the regular season with a record of 13-3-1.

With a goaltender who can better handle the pressure of playing in the playoffs, in addition to a stronger blue line thanks to the addition of offensive defenseman Jason Garrison, the Canucks will the favorites to win the Western Conference in 2012-13.

Defensive depth, which was a bit of an issue for Vancouver in the playoffs, will be much stronger this season. Veteran defenseman Sami Salo has been replaced with Garrison, which is a significant upgrade, and 26-year-old blueliner Alexander Edler is also playing for his first major contract next summer.

The Canucks will also score a ton of goals. Very few teams have the offensive firepower that Vancouver has in its lineup. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are two of the best playmakers in the league, and if Daniel is healthy for a full season, the Canucks offense will be extremely dangerous.

Alexandre Burrows, David Booth, Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins also give Vancouver some strong forward depth.

The health of Ryan Kesler will also have a major impact on the Canucks. The lockout has made it possible for the star center to recover from surgery and not miss a lot of regular season games. His scoring and defense is crucial to the team's success.

Not having Kesler or Daniel Sedin at full strength really hurt the Canucks against the Kings in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. If both were healthy, Vancouver could have won that series.

The Canucks have a great chance to be the next team to end a long Stanley Cup drought, but it has to be done in the next three seasons. The team's championship window is closing, but the Canucks will finally break through in 2012-13.

There are a few other teams that could end their championship drought in the near future, such as the Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, but the Canucks are the most likely to finally lift the Stanley Cup after decades of disappointment.