The Pittsburgh Penguins lost the 2008 Stanley Cup 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings. In the last few years, the term “runner up’s curse” has been thrown around, as teams who lost the big game have struggled in upcoming seasons. So, the question is—how have the teams who lost the Stanley Cup been effected?
The Florida Panthers were swept in the 1996 Stanley Cup by the Colorado Avalanche. For some, this might be news that Florida has a hockey team, because they haven’t done much since.
In 1997, they lost in the conference quarterfinals 4-1 to the New York Rangers. From 1998-1999, the Panthers did not participate in the playoffs. In 2000 they were swept by the New Jersey Devils. Since then, they have failed to make the playoffs, finishing no higher than third in the division.
In 2006, the Edmonton Oilers lost 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Cup. Since then, the Oilers have not seen the postseason. In 2006-2007, they went 32-43-7. They barely missed the playoffs last season, finishing ninth in the conference.
The Ottawa Senators lost the 2007 Stanley Cup 4-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. The Senators did make the playoffs this season. The Senators are looking like they will be in transition next season after changing coaches in the middle of 2008.
The Carolina Hurricanes did win the 2006 Stanley Cup after losing in five to the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. Other than their Cup win, the Hurricanes didn’t make the playoffs in the other seasons.
In the seasons before their Cup loss, the Hurricanes made the playoffs three out of four seasons. So, while this team may have won the Stanley Cup after losing it, they haven’t been the strong playoff team they were before losing the 2002 Stanley Cup.
In 1998, the Washington Capitals was another victim to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. Since that season, the Capitals have been up and down.
Their only success in the playoffs is just winning games. Their best playoff performance was this season, losing in the quarterfinals in seven. The Caps haven’t had a consecutive playoff run longer than two seasons. But, with the young talent this team has, they could turn things around.
The Calgary Flames lost the 2004 Stanley Cup 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Flames have made the playoffs every season since, they haven’t seen past the first round. Their best postseasons were 2006 and 2008, losing both games in seven.
Losing the 1999 Stanley Cup by a controversial goal in Game Six, the Buffalo Sabres have been inconsistent since. After losing in the first and second round in the two seasons after, they failed to make the playoffs the next three seasons.
But, two out of the last three seasons, the Sabres reached the conference finals. They missed the playoffs last season, but the Sabres look like they could make a Cup run soon.
In 2003, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks lost the Stanley Cup 4-3 to the New Jersey Devils. The Ducks missed the postseason the year after, but turned things around the next two seasons.
After the NHL lockout, the Ducks made it to the conference finals before losing to the Edmonton Oilers. In 2007, they won it all, defeating the Ottawa Senators. This season they lost to the Dallas Stars in the quarterfinals. The Anaheim Ducks have shown that losing the 2003 Stanley Cup did not affect them too much.
The Dallas Stars were a strong playoff contender in the late 1990s, making deep playoff runs, including winning the 1999 Stanley Cup. In 2000, the New Jersey Devils spoiled the Stars repeat bid winning 4-2.
Since then, the Stars haven’t shined as bright in the postseason. In 2001, the St. Louis Blues swept Dallas in the conference semifinals. Then Dallas failed to make the postseason in 2002. The Stars lost again in the conference semifinals the next year.
For the next three seasons, the Stars failed to make it out of the first round. The Stars made it to the conference finals this season, though, losing 4-2 to Detroit. The Stars need to make a Cup run sooner than later because their talent is getting old.
The New Jersey Devils lost the 2001 Stanley Cup 4-3 to the Colorado Avalanche, but have been in the playoffs every single season since. After losing in the conference quarterfinals in 2002, the Devils returned to the Stanley Cup, and won it 4-3.
But, the Devils have faded some since then. In their last four playoff appearances, they haven’t advanced past the second round. Martin Broduer is not getting any younger, so the Devils need to develop some younger talent to be a Cup contender in the future.
The Philadelphia Flyers lost 4-0 to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1997 Stanley Cup. However, the Flyers have been a strong playoff team since, missing the playoffs once since losing the Cup. Although they haven’t returned to the Stanley Cup, they have made three conference finals appearances.
So what does this mean? Why do certain teams struggle after losing the big one? That’s a question for which there is no definite answer.
Some struggle just because of the letdown of not winning it all. Other teams may have had key players retire or leave via free agency. The rest could have just got hot at the right time, and hadn't stayed hot enough to win it all.
So, what will happen with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-2009? That will be answered at this time next year. My speculation is that, with young talented players like Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Maxime Talbot, they could make another Cup run soon.