1 Stanley Cup-Less Player from Each NHL Playoff Team We'd Love to See Win
Unless, perhaps, you were a fan of one of the opponents along the way, it was hard not to feel good for Ray Bourque in 2001, Dave Andreychuk in 2004 and Rod Brind’Amour in 2006.
The first two had been in the NHL for 22 seasons by the time they finally won a Stanley Cup, while Brind’Amour had a cathartic end to a 17-year wait. Much earlier, Lanny McDonald capped a celestial 16-year career with his first and only championship in 1989 and is similarly remembered for the feel-good nature of that run.
Those stories are not just for the seasoned, starving stars, though. For instance, two years ago, there was a then-25-year-old Patrice Bergeron kicking ice chips over the worst of his concussion history and copiloting the Bruins to a title.
To varying degrees, all 16 participating teams in the 2013 playoffs have a chance to generate a story of a similar nature. On the eve of the tournament, those potential stories are highlighted as follows.
All statistics and past playoff results for this report were found via hockey-reference.com
Anaheim: Saku Koivu
More than a decade removed from conquering cancer, Saku Koivu continues to contribute on the ice, but at age 38, he does not have many more opportunities to earn a ring.
The Ducks gave one legendary (and still active) Finn in Teemu Selanne a long-awaited title in 2007. They can do the same with Koivu.
Boston: Wade Redden
Wade Redden, the former No. 2 overall NHL draft pick from 1995, was relegated to the minors at age 33 after 13 seasons in The Show. He would spend the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Redden has since rebounded and split 2013 between the Blues and the Bruins. He will now embark on his 12th Stanley Cup tournament, still searching for his first title.
Chicago: Ray Emery
Ray Emery was the starting stopper for an Ottawa team featuring the aforementioned Redden that lost handily to the aforementioned Selanne’s Ducks in 2007. Not unlike Redden, Emery has since temporarily disappeared from the NHL, only to resurface with an Original Six title contender.
He is 32-10-4 in his first year-plus as a Chicago Blackhawk, including a 17-1-0 romp as the nominal backup to Corey Crawford in 2013. Each half of the tandem stamped a 1.94 goals-against average and lassoed the William Jennings Trophy.
Assuming the top-dog Blackhawks go deep, even if Crawford stands on his chin, it will be hard to justify not granting Emery some postseason action. But regardless, it would be a fitting finish to his bounce-back saga if he is seen carrying the Cup.
Detroit: Jordin Tootoo
In his final season as a Nashville Predator last year, Jordin Tootoo was that franchise’s Masterton Trophy nominee. He had just posted a career-best 24 assists and 30 points a year after his 2010-11 campaign was interrupted by substance abuse rehab.
Now a Red Wing, the 30-year-old Tootoo continues to plug away and inspire, even if he is not the most gifted, accomplished or electrifying player out there.
Los Angeles: Robyn Regehr
His first career playoff run was the Calgary Flames’ Cinderella push to Game 7 of the 2004 finals, where they fell short against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since then, Robyn Regehr has played 15 additional Stanley Cup tournament games, none of them beyond the first round and the last of which took place in 2008.
After playing for a succession of playoff no-shows in Calgary and Buffalo, Regehr was dealt at the deadline to the defending champions. The fact that he is one of the few Kings without a ring could make him a hungry contributor to L.A.’s drive for a repeat.
Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom
Given that he spent much of his professional life in his native Finland before coming to the Wild in 2006, it is easy to forget that Niklas Backstrom is 35 years old.
Even though his $6 million salary may be a little excessive when you size him up with other NHL netminders, it also doesn’t seem right that he has waited five years for another playoff run. Fortunately for his sake, Minnesota is beginning to turn back upward, which could rejuvenate him this spring and for the handful of years he has left to play.
Montreal: Francis Bouillon
An aging, undersized, 13-season veteran, Francis Bouillon had a career-first in 2013 by dressing for every regular-season game on the schedule.
Yes, it was a shorter-than-usual season, but that still warrants a stick salute for the 5'8" blueliner, who will turn 38 early next season and still has yet to go past the halfway mark of a playoff.
NY Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov
Let’s not get into any cheesy reminiscence of Evgeni Nabokov’s Calder Trophy-winning campaign in 2000-01 and insist, “It feels like just yesterday.” Although, not unlike Backstrom, it is easy to forget how far along he is in his career.
In any case, the fact that the Islanders’ goaltender is the oldest player on the roster at age 37 and running out of opportunities to backstop a title run is enough sentimental ground on its own.
NY Rangers: Roman Hamrlik
The first overall pick in the 1992 NHL entry draft and the first entry-draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, Roman Hamrlik has played 20 NHL seasons with seven teams. He has logged 111 postseason twirls with six of those teams but has yet to skate in a Stanley Cup Final game.
Ottawa: Daniel Alfredsson
The NHL’s scroll of active players features a handful of Hall of Fame shoo-ins who have played into their 40s: Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr, Selanne and Ray Whitney.
Four of those five have had their skills and efforts rewarded with at least one championship. Alfredsson, a career-long Senator with 1,108 points on his regular-season transcript and a cumulative 90 points in 111 playoff games, is the odd man out.
Pittsburgh: Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow
Similarities in age, experience and value have amounted to a tie for this slide between Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. The two ex-captains of Western Conference teams in their mid-30s who have combined for two finals appearances and zero titles came to the Penguins prior to the 2013 trade deadline.
Morrow joined the Dallas Stars when they were defending the Cup in 2000 and saw consistent action en route to a return trip to the finals, where they were dethroned by the Devils. Iginla was a teammate of Regehr’s on the 2004 Flames.
St. Louis: Scott Nichol
The 38-year-old Scott Nichol made his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres during the 1995-96 season but has only had a realistic shot at a title over the last four seasons, including 2013.
He was with San Jose when the Sharks were zapped out of back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 2010 and 2011 before transferring to the Blues.
San Jose: Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton
The top two picks in the 1997 NHL draft each have comparable resumes. They joined the NHL without fail, have logged more than 1,100 regular-season and 100 playoff games apiece and won a gold medal with Canada at the 2010 Olympics.
But Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have yet to win a Cup through 15 professional seasons, including eight as San Jose teammates.
Toronto: Joffrey Lupul
A 10-year professional veteran of four franchises, Joffrey Lupul was dealt from Anaheim to Edmonton in the summer of 2006, mere months after his new team had defeated his old team in the Western Conference Finals.
As it happened, the Oilers failed to follow up on their Cinderella run and missed the playoffs, while Lupul’s old friends in Anaheim won the Cup in 2007. He went to the Eastern Finals with Philadelphia the following year. Otherwise, he has not come close since.
In addition, a lasting playoff run would be a nice way to cap off a trying, injury-laden campaign for the productive Leafs winger.
Vancouver: Ryan Kesler
Not unlike Lupul, Ryan Kesler has had a rough ride in the way of health and is one of the least divisive Canucks personalities in the eyes of the general NHL public.
Washington: Adam Oates and Tom Poti
The first-year Capitals coach, for all of the highlights that earned him Hall of Fame enshrinement this past November, was never permitted to take laps with the Cup during his playing career.
Last year, as an assistant on the New Jersey Devils’ staff, Adam Oates made his third finals appearance in any capacity and fell short yet again. He had previously lost while still skating as a Capital in 1998 and as an Anaheim Mighty Duck in 2003.
Despite ESPN's Scott Burnside's well-backed lede sentence last November when he wrote of Oates "Don't feel bad for him because he didn't win a Stanley Cup," it would be hard not to feel better for him ahead of any of his players if he takes them to a title in 2013.
Although, just so we don't bend the rules too far, we must also give current Washington defenseman Tom Poti a mention here. He has not been a regular lately, appearing in 16 regular-season games this season and none in the playoffs since 2010, but he has charged up his transcript of 15 seasons and 824 ventures in inspirational fashion given his struggles with food allergies.