Alex Ovechkin and 25 Cup-Less NHL Stars: Does Their Legacy Change with a Cup?
An NHL player does not have to win the Stanley Cup to be a great or HoF-worthy player. Players like Peter Stastny, Mike Gartner, Brad Park and many others prove that.
Being cup-less is a source of criticism for some players, like Alex Ovechkin, as a way of saying they're not as great as other players who have won cups.
Winning a Stanley Cup is a team effort though, so it isn't fair to judge players based on whether or not they have won a cup.
However, it does help with one's legacy.
After all, some players may not even be considered among the top current players today without their championship rings.
So, sometimes a Stanley Cup can make or break a player's legacy. Let's take a look at some of today's the top stars who are without a cup and see who would have a greater legacy with one and for whom it wouldn't make a difference.
25. Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin can be one of the most irritatingly inconsistent players in the league.
One season (2009-10), he scores 40 goals and 84 total points. The next, 28 goals and only 54 total points.
Yes, injuries have shortened every season he's been in the league, but Semin draws a lot of criticism for being inconsistent and unable to produce in the playoffs: when it matters most and when others often find a way to overcome their injuries.
Yet Semin is still a highly sought-after forward for his sheer talent. If he could stay healthy and consistent, he could easily be among the top scoring leaders in the league each season.
That will probably be the only way people will view Semin differently. Unless he has a huge impact on the Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup, that won't be enough to change his legacy.
24. Ales Hemsky
Ales Hemsky has been in the NHL, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, since the 2002-03 season. Injuries have cut most of his seasons short, which may be one reason he doesn't garner a lot of attention.
However, Hemsky has been almost a point-per-game player since the lockout, which is a pretty incredible feat considering the team he plays for.
The Oilers have been the worst team in the league the past two seasons, but Hemsky still managed to be almost a PPG player last season and was a PPG player the season before.
Probably because he plays for Edmonton, Hemsky doesn't receive a lot of attention. That will change next summer if he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
If Hemsky can play for a playoff-contending team (whether that's Edmonton one day or he moves to a different team), he'll garner more attention and finally be recognized as one of the top forwards in the game.
If he could win a Stanley Cup with another team, that will showcase his talent even more.
23. Dany Heatley
Heatley puts up a lot of good numbers. He scored more than 100 points two years in a row in Ottawa; in 2005-06, he scored 103 points and the next season scored 105.
He scored 82, 72 and 82 again the next three seasons. Last season was his lowest production since the lockout, with 64 points. That's still a respectable amount though.
However, you rarely hear Heatley's name mentioned among the best players in the game anymore.
This is probably due to Heatley's reputation since rejecting a trade that would have made the Senators better.
Unfortunately for Heatley, even if he can get his production back up and/or win a Stanley Cup, he'll probably always be remembered for the end of his time in Ottawa.
22. Jeff Carter
A few years ago, Jeff Carter was considered one of the top young players in the game. He scored 46 goals in 2008-09 and suddenly, he was one of the best players.
Then, the following season he only scored 33 goals (yes, only) and 61 points. Last season, he scored 36 goals and 66 points.
However, this wasn't commensurate with the new deal he was awarded and so Carter's name stopped coming up in discussions of the game's best players.
This offseason, Carter was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In order to be considered among the game's current best again, Carter will have to greatly increase his production and probably eventually win the Stanley Cup.
21. Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar has played in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings for five seasons and scored more than 60 points each year.
In 2009-10, Kopitar scored 81 points in 82 games and last season, scored 73 points in 75 games. He's almost a point-per-game player, yet receives very little attention for these accomplishments.
As the Kings become a greater contender in the coming years, as they're expected to become with their changing roster, Kopitar should receive the attention he deserves.
Once he does, people will see the great player that he is.
A Stanley Cup would just be icing on that cake for both Kopitar and his legacy.
20. Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau has scored more than 35 goals in each of the last three seasons.
In 2008-09, he scored 38, good for 11th in the league in goal scoring (although four players had 40 goals apiece and two had 39 apiece). In 2009-10, he scored 44, going toe-to-toe with Sidney Crosby for awhile, before falling to fourth place. Last season, he scored 37, good for sixth in the league.
He also plays for the San Jose Sharks, which is one of the most talented teams in the league, despite not being able to get over the hump and get their Stanley Cup.
Marleau really should be considered among the top stars in the game today, but unfortunately, many view the Sharks as an overrated team.
As an overrated team, its roster is considered overrated too.
Basically, the Sharks will need to win a Stanley Cup for their players, like Marleau, to finally elicit the respect they deserve.
19. Ilya Kovalchuk
Despite playing the first eight years of his NHL career for the lackluster Atlanta Thrashers, Ilya Kovalchuk was widely considered one of the league's best goal scorers and players.
After all, the year before the lockout, he scored 41 goals; the year after the lockout, he scored 52; the next year, another 42 goals; another 52 in 2007-08; and 43 in 2008-09.
Not very many players score more than 40 goals and even fewer can score more than 50 in a single season.
Kovalchuk finally got the opportunity to play for a contender when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils.
Then, he was the most highly sought-after free agent of 2010 and had his controversial massive deal, eventually signing with the Devils for a more reasonable deal.
This past season, Kovalchuk scored 60 points. In order to be one of the game's best again, he'll have to do better than that.
He'll probably have a better chance with the changes the Devils have made and getting Parise back this season.
18. Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty is only 21 years old and has only played three seasons in the NHL. However, he's considered to be one of the top young defensemen who will only get better as he continues to get experience.
He's already been nominated for a Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's best defenseman, and probably has a few more nominations and potential wins in his future.
Right now, Doughty is negotiating a new contract with the Los Angeles Kings and his rejection of the Kings' latest offer may negatively affect his image; he may be viewed as being too greedy.
However, once he gets his new deal and can go back to just playing, he'll have the opportunity to prove that he is worth an enormous deal and is among the best defensemen.
That, combined with the Kings' (assuming he remains in Los Angeles) bright future, should help him leave a big mark on the league.
17. Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik was the third overall draft pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Minnesota Wild.
After eight seasons with the team, solid seasons production-wise, Gaborik decided to leave the team when he was a UFA.
He signed with the New York Rangers in 2009 and has played two seasons there.
In his first season as a Ranger, Gaborik scored 86 points in 76 games. Last year, he only scored 48 points in 62 games.
Gaborik will need to either greatly improve his production or win a Stanley Cup, or both, in order to be considered what he was expected to be when he was drafted.
16. John Tavares
John Tavares was the first overall draft pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, drafted by the New York Islanders.
He has played two seasons for the team. In his rookie season, Tavares scored 54 points, which is a very respectable amount considering it was his first in the NHL. And with the Islanders, no less.
Last season, Tavares scored 67 points, another very respectable amount considering the team he plays for.
He just signed a long-term deal with the team, so until the Islanders institute greater changes, they probably won't be a real contender.
So, Tavares will probably continue to be pretty much ignored unless the team experiences great success.
15. Rick Nash
Rick Nash is another very talented player who is pretty much ignored because the team he plays for is typically overlooked.
Nash was selected first overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and has had a few pretty successful seasons with the team.
He has scored 40 or more goals twice in his career and more than 35 three times.
He has scored more than 50 points in each of his NHL seasons—except his rookie season—and 79 points once.
However, until the Blue Jackets become a serious playoff contender and Nash gets a Stanley Cup, he probably will continue to be virtually ignored.
14. Bobby Ryan
The Anaheim Ducks have one of the greatest first lines in all of hockey: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
Perry obviously was last season's Rocket Richard winner, after scoring 50 goals, and Getzlaf has been considered one of the top forwards for years now.
Ryan gets even less attention than the others.
Unfortunately, these three players will really need to get a Stanley Cup together before they all get the credit they deserve.
Yes, Perry and Getzlaf already have a Cup but they still don't get the attention they deserve. Perhaps if the line can win one together, they'll start to get more attention, because Perry and Getzlaf hadn't experienced their best years yet when they won their first Cup.
13. The Sedin Twins
Henrik and Daniel Sedin are two of the top scorers in the NHL today. Henrik won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer in 2010 and Daniel won this past season.
That's a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Where the Sedins are criticized is in their playoff performance. They performed better this past postseason, as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
However, it will probably take the Sedins winning a Stanley Cup for them to finally be taken seriously as consistently two of the best players in the league.
12. Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton is one of the top centers in the NHL during the regular season. Jumbo Joe is a fantastic player.
Unfortunately, he's known for being a choker in the playoffs.
For Thornton, it doesn't matter how many points he puts up in the regular season or even the postseason for that matter, he'll have to win the Stanley Cup to prove he's not overrated and not a choker.
11. Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo is one of the most frustrating goaltenders to watch. He can be so dominant most of the time, but then let in weak goals.
High-pressure situations are the greatest example.
For instance, the Olympics. Canada had the game, but then Zach Parise scored with less than 30 seconds left in regulation.
Then, the playoffs. Luongo was benched in the first round of the playoffs at one point because of his inconsistent play.
In order to combat this, Luongo will have to show he's capable of being consistent and helping his team win a Stanley Cup.
10. Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux was the Philadelphia Flyers' first-round draft pick in 2007. He's scored less than 50 points in two of his three seasons in the league.
Then, he had a breakout year this past season, scoring 76 points and 25 goals to lead the team.
He'll have to take an even bigger role on the team, now that it won't have Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to follow close behind.
It's still too early to tell what Giroux's legacy will be, but no one will be surprised if he's one of the top players, vying for the scoring title year after year.
9. Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene was the third overall draft pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Colorado Avalanche.
In his rookie season, he scored 55 points. Last season, he scored 67 points.
These are very respectable numbers, but Duchene doesn't get any sort of recognition as being a top young player.
Perhaps if the team could get Duchene a playmaker to increase his goal scoring and point production, he could finally get some recognition.
That or a Stanley Cup would really help his legacy.
8. Shea Weber
Shea Weber is one of the best defensemen in the league; he has one of the hardest shots and is huge. He has many Norris Trophies to look forward to in his future.
Once Nicklas Lidstrom retires, Weber will be able to vie more regularly and easily for the Norris Trophy and once he wins one or a couple, he'll get more attention.
However, he already has gotten a lot of respect for his talents as a defenseman.
He doesn't need a Stanley Cup to show that he's among the league's top defensemen, but it certainly wouldn't hurt his legacy.
7. Mike Richards
Mike Richards puts up a fair number of points each season and he's probably one of the most underrated two-way forwards in the league.
He's not afraid to throw his body around or get physical, even though he's on the smaller side.
However, he doesn't get that much recognition as one of the best two-way players in the game or for his physicality.
He started to get a lot of recognition in 2009-10, when the Philadelphia Flyers were in the Stanley Cup Finals.
He'll probably need to actually win a Stanley Cup to consistently get that type of recognition though.
6. Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler scored a personal-best 41 goals last season and had a great year, making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, shining in the playoffs and winning the Selke Trophy as the best defensive-minded forward.
After that season, Kesler will have a lot to do this following season to prove that he can consistently be that player.
If he can do that though, he'll remain in the consideration as one of the game's top forwards.
5. Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist is a fantastic goaltender. Aside from Martin Brodeur, he's arguably the best goaltender in the league, or at the very least, in the top few.
Unfortunately, Lundqvist hasn't had too much extended playing time in the playoffs.
After all, the Rangers haven't been able to advance far in the seasons that they have made it to the postseason.
Despite that, Lundqvist is still recognized as one of the best goaltenders, so he doesn't need a Stanley Cup to prove his legacy.
4. Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is one of the best players in the league, on and off the ice. He's a fantastic leader and beloved member of his community off the ice.
Additionally, on the ice, he is consistently among the top players in goal scoring and point scoring.
I think most of us can agree, Iggy deserves the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup before his career is over and there's a good chance that that won't happen with the Calgary Flames.
However, Iginla doesn't need a cup to cement his legacy in the league.
3. Zach Parise
Zach Parise missed almost all of the 2010-11 season, which means that his talent isn't fresh in everyone's mind.
For those who have forgotten, Parise has been one of the top players in the league the past few seasons and has the potential to perform even better in the future.
He has a new head coach to play under and the New Jersey Devils performed well under DeBoer last season. There's no reason that Parise won't flourish as well.
With the Devils' inevitable future success, Parise will get to shine and show that he's among the top forwards in the league right now.
He doesn't necessarily need a Stanley Cup to show that, but it would cement his status.
2. Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos has only played three seasons in the NHL, but he's already proven himself to be one of the top five forwards in the league right now, right up there with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
In just his second year in the league, Stamkos tied Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy and last season scored another 45 goals.
What's crazy is that his best years are still ahead of him.
Stamkos will likely win a Stanley Cup or multiple cups, but even if he doesn't, he'll still leave his legacy out on the ice.
1. Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin is the most purely talented player in the NHL and probably the entire world.
However, what he gets the most criticism for is the fact that somehow he always comes up short in the biggest situations.
In the playoffs, his team has come up short and is still striving for the franchise's first Stanley Cup. In the Olympics, Russia finished quite disappointed in 2010.
Ovechkin has won all the individual awards and is considered to be a top player, but to once again be called the undisputed best, he'll have to rack up championship rings.
Especially once Stamkos wins a Stanley Cup.