Power Ranking the Stanley Cup Champions of Last 25 Years
The Stanley Cup is the most coveted trophy for those who lace up a pair of skates and hit the ice.
The NHL has seen its share of proud champions, future Hall of Famers and legendary teams who have captured the Cup on the league's grandest stage.
Over the past 25 hockey seasons, through rules changes, era changes and the comings and goings of excellent players, the Cup has been the final resting spot, reserved only for the best of the best teams.
A common debate will always be, yes, these Cup-winning teams are great, but how do they compare to each other?
Looking through the past 25 years, this list will rank these Stanley Cup winners, taking into account the players on the ice, the era of competition and how dominant each team was.
25. 1994-95 New Jersey Devils
How they won: The New Jersey Devils upset the Detroit Red Wings in four games to win the Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Bobby Holik, Scott Niedermayer
Notes: Of all the Stanley Cup winners on this list, this one would likely get picked last in gym class. These guys weren't impressive with the names on the backs of their jerseys, the statistics they put up or even their performance in the regular season.
Struggling at the beginning of a lockout-shortened year, the Devils got hot at the right time, finishing 13-7-4 to clinch a playoff spot.
From there, the team only lost four games leading to a sweep of the Red Wings in the Final.
Brodeur, Stevens, Niedermayer and the New Jersey defense tightened up in the playoffs, recording four shutouts in the process.
There's really not much more to say about this team. It had some great players and played well when it needed to. There are just other teams that were better on this list.
24. 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning
How they won: The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final in seven games to clinch their first ever Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Dave Andreychuk
Notes: The Tampa Bay Lightning tallied the most regular-season points in the Eastern Conference (106), mainly because of a third-ranked offense that notched 2.99 goals per game. While Tampa Bay was considered a strong contender, not facing the favored Detroit Red Wings made the Lightning’s path to the Cup a much easier one.
This season was overshadowed by a pending lockout and, frankly, the hockey played at the time wasn’t much fun. Goal scoring was minimal, as no player scored 100 points or 50 goals that season, and the NHL was in a bit of a lull, missing big-name superstars to boost the brand. That would come after the lockout with the addition of players like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.
Though it should be noted St. Louis would win the Art Ross and Hart trophies this season.
The Lightning were a team void of much history. On a league-wide spectrum, their championship win seemed like a smaller part of the big picture of the NHL lockout.
23. 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes
How they won: The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history since moving to Carolina.
Notable Players: Rod Brind'Amour, Eric Staal, Mark Recchi, Doug Weight, Cory Stillman
Notes: A veteran-laden team mixed with youth, the Hurricanes took little time to figure out the new NHL post-lockout, raking in 112 points and finishing second in the Eastern Conference. Led by a 100-point effort by a young Staal, Carolina ranked third in the league by notching 3.49 goals per game.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford made bold changes during the season, acquiring veterans Recchi and Weight for a Final run.
Carolina loses points for its efforts and ranks near the bottom of this list for a few reasons.
The first being the club needed to go at least six games in all of its playoff series but one and had a tough time finishing off an eighth-ranked Oilers team in the Stanley Cup Final.
Also, while there were a nice amount of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers on the club, guys like Recchi were more or less in the twilight of their careers.
22. 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens
How they won: The Canadiens overtook the Los Angeles Kings in five games to win the Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Patrick Roy, Kirk Muller, Denis Savard, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Guy Carbonneau
Notes: The Canadiens rode the hot goaltending of Roy to clinch their 24th Cup in team history. In beating the Kings, they also beat perhaps the greatest player of all time in Wayne Gretzky.
Montreal certainly wasn't a favored Cup contender, coming out of the Wales Conference as the fifth seed. The Canadiens would face a favorable trio on the way to the Final, squaring off against lower seeds in two rounds and never having to face the favorite Pittsburgh Penguins, who were majorly upset by the New York Islanders.
Because of these reasons, it's hard to look at the Canadiens as more than a great team that had a smooth path to a Stanley Cup victory.
21. 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks
How they won: The Anaheim Ducks capped their first Stanley Cup win with a five-game victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Notable Players: Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Rob Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry
Notes: The Ducks took advantage of a time period in the NHL that lacked a group of dominant teams. Like most champions on this list, the Ducks featured a nice blend of young talent and savvy veterans.
The biggest move for the team was the acquisition of Pronger, who bolstered a defensive unit that already featured captain Scott Niedermayer. A young Getzlaf scored 25 goals that season.
George Parros and his fabulous mustache should be mentioned somewhere in here.
As stated before, parity ruled this era of the NHL directly before and after a lockout, which enabled a team like the Ducks to build a roster able to win the Stanley Cup without having to go through perennial favorites. While a formidable team, they rank low on this list because of that.
20. 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings
How they won: The Los Angeles Kings overtook the New York Rangers in five games to earn their second Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams
Notes: A more polished version of the first Los Angeles Kings team to win the Cup, this grizzled group saw a boost from the acquisition of winger Marian Gaborik, who shined with 22 points in 26 playoff games.
This playoff team will forever be known for its exciting endurance, forcing three straight Game 7s in its first three playoff series. The most impressive series victory was coming back from being down 3-0 against the San Jose Sharks in the opening round.
While the Kings from a few seasons ago were the eighth seed, their dominance of their opponents boosts them and other former champions ahead of this exciting yet inconsistent club.
19. 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings
How they won: The Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Stanley Cup Final to capture their first Stanley Cup championship.
Notable Players: Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter
Notes: The Los Angeles Kings shocked the hockey world as an eighth seed to capture their first Stanley Cup in team history. They impressively shook off the top three teams in the Western Conference on the way to a battle with Martin Brodeur and the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils in the Final.
The biggest moves for the team that season were the additions of Richards and Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, significantly bolstering a forward unit.
In the modern NHL, goaltending and defense are highly emphasized. No player was better than goaltender Quick during the Kings' Cup run. The netminder had a sparkling .946 save percentage along with three shutouts in the playoffs to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy.
With Quick on its roster and an impressive run through the playoffs, this Los Angeles team ranks 19th on this list.
18. 2010-11 Boston Bruins
How they won: The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Dennis Seidenberg, Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Mark Recchi
Notes: The groan-inducing Cup win of the defensively inclined Boston Bruins further leaned the NHL to another Dead Puck Era. This writer's tendency to love offensive hockey aside, this Bruins team was amazing.
It all starts with the 6'9" behemoth, Zdeno Chara. Chara seemed like he played every minute of every game that season, accumulating an average of 25 minutes or more in ice time.
The Bruins were suffocating, allowing the second-least amount of goals per game at 2.3.
A missing element from Boston's recent failed attempts at another Cup is Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner for the team during its Cup season.
Thomas was excellent in the postseason, recording a .940 save percentage with four shutouts.
Krejci and Bergeron were all the offense this team needed during the postseason, each recording over 20 points.
This Bruins team will likely fare well in any era, making it the 18th team on this list. However, in a matchup with other defensive-minded Cup winners, especially the New Jersey Devils from the late 1990s and early 2000s, Boston wouldn't be able to sniff success.
17. 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
How they won: The Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to capture their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Notable Players: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Sergei Gonchar, Marc-Andre Fleury, Bill Guerin
Notes: A rematch against the veteran Red Wings of the previous year's Final was quite a doozy. After going down in the series 2-0, mirroring the previous year's result, the Penguins rebounded to win four of the next five games.
The club fired head coach Michel Therrien midway through the season, as the team was struggling for a playoff position. First-year coach Dan Bylsma took over and rejuvenated the squad.
Malkin turned into a beast during the Eastern Conference Finals and steamrolled to 36 points in the playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe. He also won the Art Ross and Hart trophies with an outstanding regular season.
The midseason addition of veteran and potential future Hall of Famer Guerin was crucial to the success of Crosby's line. Guerin ranked third on the team with 15 playoff points.
This Penguins team will be known for its resiliency during the playoffs, coming back down 2-0 against the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals and taking on and winning a rematch against the Red Wings in the Final.
It also marked the first Cup (and only to this point) for Crosby and Malkin, two of the best in today's game. Despite how great this team was, it'd likely have trouble with the more defensive-minded past champions on this list, as subsequent playoff runs by Pittsburgh have shown.
While the team had Crosby and Malkin playing at a high level, other champions have had more stacked rosters.
16. 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
How they won: The Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.
Notable Players: Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith
Notes: An exciting Stanley Cup run completed with a bad-angle shot by Kane that snuck its way past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton in overtime of a deciding Game 6, ending a 49-year curse in Chicago.
This was the beginning of something special for the Blackhawks, who would go on to win another Stanley Cup a few seasons later.
The championship signified the arrival of superstars Kane and Toews, who took home the Conn Smythe, to the top of the NHL world.
The Blackhawks won 52 games during the regular season, finishing third in the league with 112 points.
The star power on the Blackhawks is notable, but the later Cup-winning team is more impressive. It's hard to gauge this club with other Cup winners from different eras, but it likely would fall somewhere in the middle.
15. 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings
How they won: The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games to earn the Stanley Cup title.
Notable Players: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen
Notes: The Presidents' Trophy-winning Red Wings stomped through the Western Conference, accumulating 115 points and 54 wins in the regular season.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg had perhaps their best seasons as pros, tallying 97 and 92 points, respectively. Zetterberg especially sparkled defensively in the Stanley Cup Final, shutting down superstar Sidney Crosby on his way to a Conn Smythe Trophy.
With a blend of veterans and youth and the coaching of Mike Babcock, this Red Wings team would be a tough out in any era.
That's not even mentioning Lidstrom, one of the greatest defenders of all time. He managed 70 points and an incredible plus-40 rating during the regular season.
How this Red Wings team ranks with the other Detroit championship teams is tough to say. Ultimately, this team might not be as deep as the others. While this team could easily wallop some of the other champions on this list, there's no way it could beat the past iterations of Detroit Cup winners.
14. 1999-00 New Jersey Devils
How they won: The New Jersey Devils upended the Dallas Stars in six games to capture the Cup.
Notable Players: Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski, Jason Arnott
Notes: Ho hum, a dominating, defensive Devils team.
While not as great as the 2002-03 team that will appear later on this list, this team actually had a lower goals against during the playoffs, a minuscule 1.67.
Competing against the Stars, Red Wings and Avalanche, and outlasting all three powerhouse teams, earns this Devils team a high mark on this list.
13. 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche
How they won: The Colorado Avalanche won their first Cup in their first season in Colorado, highlighted by a sweep of the Florida Panthers in the Final.
Notable Players: Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Sandis Ozolinsh, Adam Foote
Notes: This was the year that started one of the greatest rivalries of all time between the Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. The Red Wings completed one of the most impressive regular seasons in NHL history, winning 62 games en route to an incredible 131 points. That wasn't enough to get by the Avalanche, who upset the heavily favored Wings in the Conference Finals.
Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg gave the state of Colorado its first glimpses at a dynamic duo that would take the NHL by storm for the remainder of the decade.
While this might not be the best Avalanche team from the generation, its win over heavily favored Detroit will go down as one of the most exciting in league history.
12. 1989-90 Edmonton Oilers
How they won: The Edmonton Oilers got revenge on the Boston Bruins, who beat them in the Final a year prior, to capture the Stanley Cup in five games.
Notable Players: Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Craig Simpson, Glenn Anderson, Bill Ranford, Grant Fuhr
Notes: The Oilers proved just how outstanding they were yet again, without the benefit of having Wayne Gretzky on the ice. Messier would earn the Hart Trophy, scoring 129 points during the regular season. Ranford earned the Conn Smythe Trophy for his outstanding playoff performance.
Most people forget about the Edmonton teams after Gretzky left, but this one still ranks as one of the best teams ever, earning a top-15 pick in this ranking.
11. 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings
How they won: The Detroit Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers to earn their first Stanley Cup since 1955.
Notable Players: Larry Murphy, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman
Notes: The Red Wings' rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche stirred, as they responded to a Colorado Cup with one of their own.
Led by Shanahan's 87 points, the Red Wings finished third in the Western Conference with 94 points.
In another classic Conference Finals, Detroit took a 4-2 series win over the Avalanche.
The Red Wings would go on to win the Cup again the next season, improving on nearly every aspect of their game.
10. 1988-89 Calgary Flames
How they won: The Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.
Notable Players: Al Macinnis, Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Lanny McDonald
Notes: The Calgary Flames were an amazing assortment of Hall of Fame talents all packed into one team.
Mullen, a 2000 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, led the team with 51 goals and 110 points in a season in which the Flames finished first in the Smythe division with a 54-17-9 record.
2011 Hockey Hall of Fame member Gilmour came over via trade to pot 26 goals and 85 points on the season.
Macinnis, he of the rocket shot, led all Calgary scorers as a defenseman in the playoffs with 31 points and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Oh yeah, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
McDonald would finish his career that season, recording 18 points in limited action. He joined the Hall of Fame in 1992.
That's not even getting into guys like Gary Roberts, Fleury and Nieuwendyk.
This Calgary team was amazing. It was bursting with talent at a time when you needed every little bit of it to compete against the likes of Gretzky and the Lemieux, and it got results. This places the club high, 10th, on the list of past cup champions.
9. 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings
How they won: The Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals to capture their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Notable Players: Larry Murphy, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman
Notes: The Red Wings repeated as champions with much of the same roster the club won with the year prior. Like the previous regular season, the Red Wings weren't the best team in the Western Conference, finishing second to the Dallas Stars.
Hall of Famer Murphy led the club with a plus-35 rating, while Yzerman tallied 69 points to pace the team.
In a tight, defensive NHL, the Red Wings proved too much on offense for the league in the playoffs, scoring a best 3.36 goals per game.
This club ultimately outperformed the 1996-97 team, but the latter faced a tougher Western Conference.
As is the case with all teams from the late 1990s, they rank highly on this list, though these Red Wings clubs dwarf the more powerful club, which would come later.
8. 1998-99 Dallas Stars
How they won: The Dallas Stars triumphed over the Buffalo Sabres in six games to win their first Stanley Cup title.
Notable Players: Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour, Sergei Zubov, Jamie Langenbrunner
Notes: The late 1990s were highlighted by the rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings in the hockey world.
In the 1998-99 season, the Dallas Stars said, "not so fast!"
Led by Hall of Famer Hull, the Stars absolutely destroyed the Western Conference, finishing the season with the NHL's best record at 51-19-12, tallying an incredible 16 more points than the second-place Avalanche.
Modano was prolific, leading the team with 81 points in 77 games. However, it was the goaltending of Hall of Famer Belfour and the Conn Smythe performance of Nieuwendyk that ultimately led the team to the crown.
Perhaps the most important moment of the season was eliminating the dynasty Avalanche in seven games in the Western Conference Finals. The Sabres proved a challenge, but the Stars prevailed in the end, albeit on a controversial goal call in overtime of Game 6.
This Stars team is so highly rated because of the Hall of Famers involved and the fact that they were so dominant over the two best teams in the league during the year.
7. 1993-94 New York Rangers
How they won: The New York Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to wrap up a Stanley Cup win.
Notable Players: Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Alexei Kovalev, Adam Graves, Sergei Zubov
Notes: Everything was about New York during the 1993-94 season. The club hosted the NHL All-Star Game, won the Presidents' Trophy—oh, and it also won the Stanley Cup.
Hall of Famer Messier led what many consider to be one of the greatest teams of all time. Leetch, another Hockey Hall of Famer, won the Conn Smythe with 34 playoff points.
Graves scored an amazing 52 goals during the regular season and added 10 more in the playoffs.
During the season, goalie Richter went on a 20-game unbeaten streak, while the team also went on a 14-game unbeaten streak of its own.
What makes this Cup team so memorable is the fact it was New York's first Cup victory in 54 seasons and was the sixth of Messier's career.
6. 2002-03 New Jersey Devils
How they won: The New Jersey Devils captured a Stanley Cup crown with a seven-game victory over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Notable Players: Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski, Jamie Langenbrunner
Notes: This team's defense was a brick wall. Stevens, Rafalski and Niedermayer were the Big Three of an impenetrable blue line. This elite group was aided by some outstanding defensively minded forwards like John Madden.
During the regular season, this unit gave up just 2.02 goals a game. In the playoffs, the unit buckled down even further, allowing just 1.71 goals a game.
With legendary goaltender Brodeur in net, this team would be an intimidating challenge in any era. Perhaps one of the best defensive teams of all time, they rank sixth on this list.
5. 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins
How they won: The Pittsburgh Penguins took the Minnesota North Stars in six games to capture their first Cup in franchise history.
Notable Players: Mario Lemieux, Mark Recchi, Jaromir Jagr, Tom Barrasso, Ron Francis, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Paul Coffey
Notes: With legend Lemieux missing the majority of the season with back issues, the Penguins finished second in the Wales Conference with 88 points. Lemieux, of course, would come back during the playoffs and win the Conn Smythe.
This was the debut season for all-time great Jagr, who finished with 57 points in 80 games. Future Hall of Famer Recchi led the team with 113 points in the regular season.
Also, it was the season of a blockbuster trade that brought Francis and Samuelsson over to the Penguins.
With a bevy of offensive talent unmatched by most teams on this list and a slew of future Hall of Famers, the 1990-91 Penguins earn a top-10 spot on this list.
4. 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks
How they won: The Chicago Blackhawks won their fifth Stanley Cup after disposing of the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final in six games.
Notable Players: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp
Notes: In a lockout-shortened 48-game schedule, the Chicago Blackhawks were absolutely dominant, going 24 games to start the season without a regulation loss.
The team won its second Presidents' Trophy overall with the league's best record at 36-7-5.
With superstars in their prime like Kane, Toews, Hossa and Sharp, the team has the guns to stick with any other champion on this list, especially on offense.
What may be the most impressive moment of the Blackhawks' season was the fact that the final four teams were all the four previous Cup winners: the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Blackhawks, and Chicago rose above all.
3. 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins
How they won: The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Cup in as many seasons with a sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Notable Players: Mario Lemieux, Mark Recchi (traded), Jaromir Jagr, Tom Barrasso, Ron Francis, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Paul Coffey, Rick Tocchet, Troy Loney
Notes: The Penguins' second Cup again came with a big trade during the season, which saw Recchi leave and Tocchet join the club in Pittsburgh.
Lemieux played 64 games during the regular season, leading the team with 131 points. He'd miss six playoff games, yet would still pace Pittsburgh and the league in scoring, winning his second consecutive Conn Smythe.
On paper, it's hard to distinguish which of Pittsburgh's outstanding Stanley Cup winners of the time period is better. With Lemieux playing the majority of the season and the team sweeping their Final games against the Blackhawks, the nod goes to the 1991-92 club.
Any team with Lemieux and Jagr, as well as several other Hall of Famers, is a top pull on this list. They rank third overall.
2. 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
How they won: The Colorado Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.
Notable Players: Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Raymond Bourque, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake
Notes: The Avalanche took the Cup this season, winning the Presidents' Trophy and taking out the tough Devils in the Final. In an arms race with the rival Red Wings, the Avalanche added Hall of Famer Ray Bourque to the club. After more than two decades in Boston without a Cup, Bourque's dream came true with the Avalanche in one of the best feel-good stories in NHL history.
This time period with New Jersey, Colorado, Detroit and the Dallas Stars battling for the Cup provides some of the best action in NHL history, and it's no surprise Bourque's last season ranks highly with the other rivalry teams on this list.
1. 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings
How they won: The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win the Stanley Cup title.
Notable Players: Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Chris Chelios, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Pavel Datsyuk
Notes: This team has 10 Hall of Famers on it. That's all that needs to be said. When almost half of your lineup is composed of Hall of Famers and you have a Hall of Fame coach in Scotty Bowman, there's no way you can lose.
The Red Wings rolled to 116 points for another Presidents' Trophy, going through the rival Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals in seven games.
Simply the best team of the past 25 years.
All statistics, awards and results courtesy of NHL.com.