Close but No Cigar: The 40 Best Players Whose Names Aren't Etched on the Stanley Cup
Chris Osgood throws his fatigued arms in the air as Johan Franzen enthusiastically clenches Henrik Zetterberg.
Mike Babcock throws himself into the arms of his assistant coaches.
Nicklas Lidstrom skates to receive the coveted prize and becomes the first European trained captain to win the Stanley Cup.
The other end of the ice shows faces that express disappointment. Unlike the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t receive that extra surge of energy that comes with winning.
Their exhaustion won’t be soothed by Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Two of those faces were Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin, who left Pittsburgh for Detroit during last years’ free agent period. Now both teams find themselves competing for that cup again, a year later.
The prospect of having the Penguins win the 2009 championship had me thinking about all the great players that never won the Stanley Cup.
If Pittsburgh is victorious, Lord Stanley will elude Hossa and Conklin again and perhaps they will never get another chance to redeem this opportunity.
This would mimic a lot of the wild circumstances that have happened to players in the past like a trade at the worst possible time.
Likewise, if Detroit wins again then players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin might not get another chance to compete for the cup.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time this happened. Throughout the great history of the NHL there have been many players that never had the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
This list will uncover the best of them.
40. Mike Liut
Liut wasn’t the best goalie but he was capable enough to win. He put together a great rookie year that won the admiration of his peers.
Consequentially, he played on mediocre teams with the exception of the St. Louis Blues.
More than half his NHL career was spent with the Hartford Whalers and the Washington Capitals, which weren’t capable of putting together a good Stanley Cup campaign.
Even the St. Louis Blues couldn’t do it in the midst of the Islanders and Oilers dynasties.
Inevitably, Mike had to retire because of back ailments after only 13 seasons.
NHL First All-Star Team (1981)
Lester B. Pearson Award (1981)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1987)
39. Rene Robert
Robert used his fast skating and dangerous shot to notch himself eight straight seasons with 20 or more goals.
He was able to compete for the Stanley Cup in 1975 with the Buffalo Sabres. Their loss to the Philadelphia Flyers denied Rene his chance to lift the cup.
NHL Second All-Star Team (1975)
38. Charlie Simmer
Simmer was a resilient sniper and he proved that it wasn’t all due to playing with Marcel Dionne. When he was traded to the Boston Bruins he continued with his excellent scoring.
Injuries took a toll on his body and he was eventually retired with only 14 NHL seasons and just a little over 700 games played.
He played very little playoff games and never even reached a championship series.
NHL First All-Star Team (1980, 1981)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1986)
37. Rick Vaive
Vaive wasn’t a great playmaker but he was exceptional sharpshooter and with the right centre he achieved three straight 50 goal campaigns.
He used a blistering slap shot to overpower goalies and he had the determination of a bulldog.
Rick the first Maple Leaf to score 50 goals in a season but he once stated that he would give that up for a Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately, he never got that chance as he never played for a competitor in his 13 year career.
36. Peter Bondra
Bondra was one of the most elite snipers in the NHL. He started slowing down due to age but he managed to play long enough to become a 500-goal scorer in only 16 seasons.
Peter made it to the cup finals in 1998 with the Capitals only to lose in a sweep to the Red Wings.
35. Dale Hunter
Many people might call Hunter a dirty player but he will be remembered as a great leader who did whatever he could to win.
He played in a lot of playoff games but only went far enough once; in 1998 he reached the finals with the Capitals.
He was given one last opportunity in 1999 by being traded to the Avalanche (his original team) but they were only able to reach the Western Conference finals before losing to the Stars.
34. Rick Martin
Martin was a prototypical finisher. If he hadn’t been hampered by a career ending chronic back injury he may have been one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.
A longer career may have also given him another chance to win the cup. As it stands, Rick had only one chance to win and that came in 1975 when his “French Connection” line stormed into the finals.
NHL First All-Star Team (1974, 1975)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1976, 1977)
33. Ron Hextall
Hextall became the second goalie to win the Conn Smythe Trophy despite playing for the losing team. In 1987, as a rookie, he had an outstanding playoff performance; helping the Flyers push the Oilers to the brink of elimination.
Just like Crozier, his career took a dip after the 1986-87 season but he was rejuvenated when traded to the Quebec Nordiques in 1992. In 1997, Ron made another cup appearance in his second stint with the Flyers.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1987)
NHL First All-Star Team (1987)
Vezina Trophy (1987)
Conn Smythe Trophy (1987)
32. Trevor Linden
The picture says it all; losing a Stanley Cup by one goal is bitter sweet. But it just becomes bitter if you never get another chance.
This was the case with Linden when the Canucks lost game seven of the 1994 finals by a score of three to two. In 19 seasons that was his only break but it was a hell of ride.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1989)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1997)
31. Dave Taylor
Unlike Dionne, his “Triple Crown” line mate, Taylor hung around Los Angeles long enough to make it to a cup final appearance in 1993.
He retired a year later and ended a decent 1,000-point career without a championship.
NHL Second All-Star Team (1981)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1991)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1991)
30. Tim Kerr
Kerr scored 50 or more goals in four straight seasons. He was a power forward who liked to park him self in front of the net and get the garbage goals.
Tim was the best; better than Dino Ciccarelli and Dave Andreychuk. The difference is that his career was shortened by nagging injuries caused from the constant bombardment that he endured in front of the opposing goal.
But he managed to squeeze two cup finals out of 13 seasons; many shortened by injuries.
Kerr would definitely be ranked higher if he had as long a career as Ciccerelli or Andreychuk. Maybe he wouldn’t even be on this list.
NHL Second All-Star Team (1987)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1989)
29. Rod Gilbert
Gilbert was one third of the famous Rangers GAG line. He was also one of those rare players that have the opportunity to lace up their skates for the same team.
Rod played 16 seasons in front of a New York crowd at Madison Square Gardens. He managed to reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1972 in a loss to the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers lost to the Bruins again in 1979 but Gilbert had already retired in 1978.
Second All-Star Team Right Wing (1968)
First All-Star Team Right Wing (1972)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1976)
Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee (1982)
28. Roger Crozier
Crozier became the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy despite playing for the losing Red Wings in 1966.
In 1975, he got one more opportunity as a backup with the Buffalo Sabres but the Flyers deprived him of that chance.
He would be ranked higher on this list but injuries and illness made him a mediocre goaltender after his 1966 playoff performance.
Plus, he was traded to the expansion Buffalo Sabres in 1970 and it took three years for the team to become respectable.
NHL First All-Star Team (1965)
Calder Memorial Trophy (1965)
Conn Smythe Trophy (1966)
27. Brian Propp
Propp didn’t have any luck when it comes to the Stanley Cup. He made it to the finals five times with three different teams (the Philadelphia Flyers in 1980, 1985, 1987; the Boston Bruins in 1990; and the Minnesota North Stars in 1991).
His closest opportunity came in 1987 when the Flyers pushed the Oilers to seven extraordinary games. Brian was one of the best complete players of the 1980’s.
26. Keith Tkachuk *
Tkachuk just completed his 17th NHL season where he reached the 1,000 point plateau. Keith’s style was simple as he followed in the footsteps of Cam Neely as a modern era power forward.
Skate to the net, get punished, and bang in rebounds. However, he played in lousy hockey teams that never journeyed deep into the playoffs.
His only reasonably lengthy playoff experiences came in 2001 and 2002 with the St. Louis Blues. Just like Kariya, his teammate, Tkachuk’s time is running out.
NHL Second All-Star Team (1995, 1998)
25. Bernie Nicholls
Nicholls was a great scorer even before Gretzky settled in Los Angeles; the Great One just made him even better. The first five teams he played for all either won the cup or made it to the finals during his career.
The problem is that Bernie played for them when they didn’t complete this feat. He played a lot of playoff games but he never made to the big show.
24. Eddie Giacomin
Giacomin was late bloomer but settled in as one of the best goaltenders in NHL history. He fought really hard to back into hockey after a career ending accident as a teenager. Eddie became one of the most beloved players in Rangers history and that’s a hard achievement to attain. An even more difficult accomplishment is winning the Stanley Cup and the 1972 finals is the closest that Giacomin came to a championship
First All-Star Team Goalie (1967, 1971)
Second All-Star Team Goalie (1968, 1969, 1970)
Vezina Trophy (1971)
Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee (1987)
23. Paul Kariya *
It seems like yesterday that Kariya played his first NHL game yet he just completed his 14th season. He is approaching near the end of his career and still lacks a Stanley Cup ring.
Paul came close in 2003 when his Mighty Ducks of Anaheim took the Devils to a game seven showdown. He’ll be 35 years old in October and time is not on his side.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1995)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1996, 1997)
NHL First All-Star Team (1996, 1997, 1999)
NHL Second All-Star Team (2000, 2003)
22. Borje Salming
Salming was one of best all-round defensemen in the 1970’s. He was a trailblazer that paved the way for many other Swedish hockey players.
Borje played 16 seasons with Toronto and his final year was with the Red Wings. So, it’s safe to say that he never came close to dancing with Lord Stanley.
First All-Star Team Defense (1977)
Second All-Star Team Defense (1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1996)
21. Phil Housley
Housley is one of the best offensive defensemen in NHL history and debatably the best American born defenseman. In 21 seasons, he only made it to the finals once with the Capitals in 1998.
He wasn’t even able to make the best of it as Washington fell to Detroit in four straight games. He mostly played on teams that were eliminated in the first round.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1983)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1992)
20. Pierre Turgeon
Turgeon unassumingly and quietly built a great career for himself. He seemed to join teams a few years after they already won the cup.
He was traded to Montreal in 1995 and he signed with Dallas in 2001, two years after each team respectively sipped from Stanley’s Cup.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1993)
19. Cam Neely
Neely is another player whose ranking is affected because he only played in 13 seasons; most were considerably shortened by injury. Cam is possibly the first genuine power forward in the league.
He was big, strong, and he had a knack for scoring goals. As a three time 50 goal scorer he would administer devastating body checks. Neely missed two opportunities to win the cup (1988 and 1990) and both came against the Oilers.
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (2005)
18. Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure was one of the most elite snipers in the game before his career was shortened by injury. If he had played more games there is no telling how many goal records he could have broken.
He would also be ranked higher on this list. His only chance for a championship came in 1994 when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Rangers in seven grueling games.
Calder Memorial Trophy (1992)
NHL First All-Star Team (1994)
NHL Second All-Star Team (2000, 2001)
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (2000, 2001)
17. Jeremy Roenick *
Often vocal and never dull, Roenick has lately worn the face of a tired and battered man; a fossil of his old self.
Possibly too fatigued to continue but he keeps chugging for the chance to have the ultimate chug of champagne.
Jeremy’s best chance came early in his career and he hasn’t had another opportunity. His 1992 finals appearance with the Blackhawks is what he'll have to settle for.
* Still Active
16. Mats Sundin*
When you’re a Maple Leafs player for most of your career you may not win a Stanley Cup. Nevertheless, Mats has had a really consistent career.
He’s steadily accumulated over 1000 points in 18 NHL seasons. He’s arguably the most reliable “point per game” player in NHL history.
NHL Second All-Star Team (2002, 2004)
* Still Active
15. Eric Lindros
Many expected much more from the “Big E” but concussions and feuds kept him from notching a few Stanley Cups.
Lindros did, however, reach the finals in 1997 but the Flyers lost to the Red Wings in four straight games.
He didn’t suit up for very many playoff games after this loss. The only reason that he’s not ranked higher is because he only played 13 seasons and he was often too injured to have a larger impact.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1993)
NHL First All-Star Team (1995)
Lester B. Pearson Award (1995)
Hart Memorial Trophy (1995)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1996)
14. Darryl Sittler
If Sittler had stuck around Philadelphia for the 1984-85 season he would have had a chance to compete for the cup. But he was traded to Detroit and the Flyers lost to the Oilers anyway.
Having played for the Maple Leafs for most of his career he never had a chance.
Second All-Star Team Centre (1978)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1989)
13. Dino Ciccarelli
Ciccarelli is one of the best un-drafted players in league history and Stanley loves to avoid Dino.
In his first season (1980-81) Dino was one of the main reasons that the North Stars had a “Cinderella” playoff run only to lose to the dynamic New York Islanders.
He was traded to the Washington Capitals for Gartner in 1989; only a couple of seasons before Minnesota’s 1991 final appearance.
He made it to the cup final a second time with the Red Wings in 1995. Surprisingly, they lost in four straight games to the Devils.
Unfortunately, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 1996-97 season and Detroit finally won the cup that year.
12. Mike Gartner
Gartner’s misfortunes with the cup are well documented as he was traded to from the Minnesota North Stars to the New York Rangers at the 1990 trade deadline.
One year later, the North Stars went to the finals before losing to Pittsburgh in six games.
Mike was traded from the Rangers to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 1994 trade deadline for Glenn Anderson. Although the Leafs made it as far as the Western Conference finals, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (2001)
11. Bernie Federko
Federko is one of the most underrated players in NHL history. In only 13 ½ seasons he topped 100 points four times including a three-season stretch from 1983-84 to 1985-86.
It’s fitting that he’s rated directly after Oates because in 1989 they were traded for each other.
Bernie played in a lot of playoff games but the closest he came to the cup was in 1986 when the St. Louis Blues lost to the Calgary Flames in the Campbell Conference series.
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (2002)
10. Adam Oates
Oates is among the best pure playmakers in NHL history along with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stasny, and Peter Forsberg.
He wasn’t a great goal scorer like Gretzky, Lemieux, and Stasny but he could really dish the puck to a teammate.
It took Oates 12 seasons before he finally played in a Stanley Cup final series but the Washington Capitals eventually lost to Detroit in four games.
He made another run for the ultimate prize in 2003 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. This time it was a heartbreaking seven game series.
Second All-Star Team (1991)
9. Michel Goulet
Goulet is one of the top goal scorers in NHL history but he never a championship. In 16 seasons with the Quebec Nordiques and Chicago Blackhawks, his closest attempt came in 1992 when Chicago lost the cup in four games to Pittsburgh.
First All-Star Team Left Wing (1984, 1986, 1987)
Second All-Star Team Left Wing (1983, 1988)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1998)
8. Jean Rattelle
Ratelle played for 22 seasons without winning a cup. He managed to reach the finals once with the Rangers (1972) and twice with the Bruins (1977 and 1978).
It took a few years for Jean to crack the Rangers lineup, but he became a regular in the late 1960’s. He is considered one of the most gentlemanly players in NHL history with only 276 penalty minutes in 1281 games.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1971)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1972, 1976)
Lester B. Pearson Award (1972)
Second All-Star Team Centre (1972)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1985)
7. Pat Lafontaine
Pat Lafontaine joined the New York Islanders for the 1983-84 season which means he just missed the Islanders fourth straight cup victory.
Pat made it to the finals but the Islanders lost to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. He never reached the finals again in his shortened career.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1995)
Second Team All-Star Centre (1993)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (2003)
6. Dale Hawerchuk
Dale spent most of his career with underachieving teams that never had the opportunity to compete for the cup.
He had seven straight 100 point seasons in the 1980’s with the Winnipeg Jets. But the Oilers and Flames overshadowed a lot of players and teams during this era.
He finally reached the finals in 1997 with the Philadelphia Flyers but they lost in four games to the mighty Red Wings. Fittingly, this was Hawerchuk’s 16th and final season.
Calder Memorial Trophy (1982)
Second Team All-Star Centre (1985)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (2001)
5. Brad Park
Park totaled 18 NHL seasons where he was mostly overshadowed by Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, Rod Langway, and Paul Coffey. He’s one of the best defensemen to never win the Norris Trophy.
Another trophy he never won was the Stanley Cup even though he reached the finals in once with the New York Rangers (1972) and twice with the Boston Bruins (1977 and 1978).
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (1984)
First All-Star Team Defense (1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978)
Second All-Star Team Defense (1971, 1973)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1988)
4. Norm Ullman
He spent the early 1960’s losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in two straight Stanley Cup finals and when he gets traded to Toronto in 1968 they never reach the finals again.
He reached the finals five times (1956, 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1966) as a Detroit Red Wing. By joining the Red Wings in the 1955-56 season he missed out on two straight cup wins in 1954 and 1955.
He played 21 seasons without a Stanley Cup victory.
First All-Star Team Centre (1965)
Second All-Star Team Centre (1967)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1982)
3. Gilbert Perreault
Perreault was one of the most naturally gifted players in NHL history and perhaps one of the most underrated.
He’s one third of the famous French Connection line and he reached the finals in 1975 and never went back. The Philadelphia Flyers beat Perreault’s Buffalo Sabres in six games.
Calder Memorial Trophy (1971)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1973)
Second All-Star Team Centre (1976, 1977)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1990)
2. Peter Stasny
Only Wayne Gretzky had more points in the 1980’s than Stasny. In 15 seasons, he played with three teams, the Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils, and St. Louis Blues. He never reached the finals.
Calder Memorial Trophy (1981)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1998)
1. Marcel Dionne
Even his younger brother won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993. Gilbert Dionne’s talent was nowhere near that of Marcel’s.
Yet, Marcel never even reached a final series. It just proves that it’s about being on the right team at the right time.
Marcel played for 19 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, and New York Rangers. He is fourth on the all-time point list behind only Gretzky, Messier, and Howe.
Art Ross Trophy (1980)
First All-Star Team Centre (1977, 1980)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1975, 1977)
Lester B. Pearson Award (1979, 1980)
Second All-Star Team Centre (1979, 1981)
Hockey Hall Fame Inductee (1992)