Hoisting the iconic Stanley Cup signifies the pinnacle achievement in hockey. But several NHL clubs are still searching for that elusive first title. This in-depth guide explores the current and historical NHL teams yet to capture hockey’s ultimate prize – their agonizing near-misses, devoted fanbases, and championship prospects.
Current NHL Teams Without a Cup
Several active NHL franchises have never claimed the Stanley Cup over 100+ years of hockey history. These hungry teams strive to soon change that:
Joined NHL in 1970 from the Western Hockey League without a title. Reached the Cup Finals thrice (1982, 1994, 2011) but fell short each time. Boasts loyal fans and stars like the Sedin twins, but seek their first banner.
Part of the 1970 NHL expansion class. Lost in 1975 Finals to the “Fog Game” goal. Superstars like Gilbert Perreault, Dominik Hasek, and Jack Eichel electrified fans, but couldn’t deliver a title during competitive stretches.
San Jose Sharks
Bay area NHL newbies in 1991. Cashed in 2016 Finals trip for first-ever appearance but lost to Pittsburgh. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Owen Nolan and Logan Couture led competitive clubs. But their biggest fish remains the elusive Cup.
Joined NHL in 1993 expansion and quickly reached 1996 Finals before four-game sweep to Colorado. Despite talents like Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo, and Barkov, they’ve managed just 5 playoff appearances since. Seek playoff success before first Cup.
Returned to NHL in 1992 after 60-year absence. Reached one Final in 2007 but lost decisively to Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Erik Karlsson led strong teams recently, but Ottawa lacks the Cup triumph seen during their original tenure.
Formerly the Winnipeg Jets, the franchise relocated to the desert in 1996 without a Cup. Came agonizingly close in 2012, reaching the West Finals before an overtime loss in Game 5. Shane Doan played over 20 years still chasing a ring there before retirement without one.
Awarded an expansion franchise in 2000. Quick successes with talents like Gaborik, Koivu, Parise, and Suter raised expectations but no titles followed. Reached one conference final in 2003 but were handled easily by Anaheim.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Joined the league in 2000 expansion. Rising stars like Rick Nash and Artemi Panarin energized the Ohio crowd but years of rebuilding followed their lone playoff series victory in 2019. Seek playoff consistency before embarking on a difficult first Cup quest.
Though these Stanley Cup contenders stay hungry for a first sip, history shows even perennial losers can eventually complete the ultimate turnaround.
Defunct NHL Teams Without a Cup
Several teams competed for many seasons without ever winning it all before franchise shifts or closures:
Operated from 1967-1978 in Oakland and Cleveland. Featured legends like Fred Glover and Gilles Meloche but never contended, making the postseason twice. Merged into the North Stars in 1978 without a Cup.
Played in Georgia from 1972-1980 after relocating from Canada. Had one deep playoff run in 1974 but got swept by eventual champion Philadelphia Flyers. Moved north to become the Calgary Flames in 1980.
Kansas City Scouts
A 1974 expansion franchise that lasted just two seasons before moving. The Scouts won only 27 total games in Kansas City, swept in their lone playoff series. Became the Colorado Rockies in 1976.
Not to be confused with the former California franchise, this Cleveland club competed in the AHL and NHL throughout the 1930s-1970s without winning a title. Lost in the Calder Cup finals five times.
SHIFL and WHA squad from 1972-1979 and an NHL team from 1979-1995 before relocating to become the Colorado Avalanche. The Nords appeared in two WHA finals and one NHL conference final but no Cup victories.
A longtime WHA icon that joined the NHL in 1979 after a merger, lasting in Connecticut until 1997. The Whale reached one Wales Conference finals in 1986 but fell to Montreal. Became the Carolina Hurricanes.
Began play in 1999. Appeared in just one postseason in 2007, getting swept immediately by the Rangers. Relocated north to become the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 with no banners.
Though these dissolved teams came up empty, new franchises and fanbases eventually claimed their first Stanley Cups after years of waiting – giving hope to current luckless clubs.
Notable Players Without a Cup
Several hockey legends ended illustrious careers still seeking the one prize that eluded them:
Hall of Fame center with 731 goals, 1,771 points. Best years with Kings saw deep playoff runs but no titles. Lost 1979 semifinal in 5 games.
One of the most prolific American goal scorers with 468 tallies and 1,013 points, but couldn’t lift the Sabres or Islanders atop the league during his tenure.
The dynamic Russian Rocket electrified Vancouver and Florida with blazing speed and scoring, but couldn’t power either franchise to a championship round.
Dependable Quebec/Toronto captain, all-time Leafs scorer with 555 goals. Carried lackluster Leafs squads but never broke through, losing twice in conference finals.
Ranking among the NHL’s all-time wins leaders but never secured an elusive Cup. Backstopped Vancouver to 2011 Finals but fell short.
Photoesque Jets scorer with 1,409 career points. Winnipeg’s struggles prevented a title during his prime years. Reached one Campbell Conference finals in 1985 before being upended by Gretzky and the Oilers.
“Finnish Flash” blazed with 76 goals as a rookie, remained a beloved Ducks icon, but failed to finish the job during a 21-year journey. Lost 2003 Finals versus New Jersey.
Star players enhance their legacies by earning that one missing trophy. For all-time greats without one, the Cup continues driving their hunger.
Agonizing Near Misses for a First Cup
In their quests to win that inaugural title, some runners-up stung more than others:
- 1999 Buffalo Sabres – Controversial Stars’ Cup-winning goal scored on a blatant crease violation that wasn’t called back.
- 2006 Edmonton Oilers – Upstart eight-seed came excruciatingly close, losing a wild Game 7 in Carolina after nearly winning down 3-1 in the series.
- 2011 Vancouver Canucks – Presidents’ Trophy winners primed for first-ever Cup but collapsed on home ice in Game 7, rioting ensuing.
- 2012 Los Angeles Kings – Lowly eight-seed shocked Canucks by winning Game 5 in overtime to advance and eventually take their first title.
- 2006 Senators – Stanley Cup seemed in sight after two earlier playoff rounds won in just 5 games apiece. But thudded in five straight against Anaheim in the Finals.
Razor-thin margins in key moments haunt franchises wondering what could have been if the puck bounced differently.
Which Current NHL Team Has the Best Cup Odds?
Based on recent competitiveness, experts believe a few franchises stand out as closest to potentially capturing that inaugural title:
Strong 2022 Presidents’ Trophy winners look primed after breaking playoff drought. Adding pieces around burgeoning core could get them over hump. Still need playoff success.
Vegas Golden Knights
NHL’s newest team exploded onto the scene, instantly reaching 2018 Cup Finals in their debut season. Remaining a high-scoring perennial playoff threat.
Flashed potential with consecutive playoff appearances before injuries derailed momentum last season. Young stars in Pettersson and Hughes must now elevate surrounding cast. Time will tell if championship caliber.
Of course, the ultimate underdog could always rise out of nowhere if the right Cinderella run of luck and timely goals materializes. After decades of waiting, just one breakthrough season is all it takes to realize the dream.
Key Takeaways on NHL Teams Seeking a First Cup
- A number of current teams entered the league in the 1990s and 2000s expansion eras, meaning they have limited franchise history.
- Other teams relocated from previous cities, inheriting a championship drought spanning multiple decades.
- Agonizing near-misses and playoff collapses stay fresh in memory of still-waiting fanbases.
- Star players enhance legacies by finally winning the big one after a long quest.
- Experts believe a few franchises like the Panthers and Knights are on the verge of breaking through.
- With parity reigning in hockey, any team can suddenly catch fire and realize the ultimate turnaround.
The thrill of the chase keeps passionate supporters invested until the moment their team finally lifts the Cup that has eluded it for so long. That sweet victory only grows sweeter as the years without a title pile up.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cupless NHL Teams
Which NHL team has gone the longest without winning a Stanley Cup?
The Toronto Maple Leafs, last victorious in 1967, carry the longest active Cup drought having not returned to the Finals since then. Previously won 13 titles through 1967.
What team lost the most Stanley Cup Finals without ever winning?
The Vancouver Canucks lost 3 Finals – in 1982, 1994 and 2011. The St. Louis Blues also lost 3 (1968, 1969, 1970) before finally winning in 2019.
Has an NHL expansion team ever won the Cup in its inaugural season?
No expansion franchise has won the Stanley Cup in its very first season. The Vegas Golden Knights came closest, reaching the 2018 Finals before losing to Washington.
Which non-Original Six team was the first to win a Stanley Cup?
The Philadelphia Flyers became the first expansion franchise outside the Original Six to win the Cup, defeating Boston to claim their first title in 1974 after joining the league in 1967.
How many current NHL teams have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals?
Five teams have yet to play in the championship round: Blue Jackets, Wild, Jets/Thrashers, Senators and Panthers. All except Ottawa are 1990s or later expansion teams.
Which team had the longest wait before finally winning their first Stanley Cup?
The St. Louis Blues, an expansion club added in 1967, waited 49 seasons before finally winning their inaugural title by defeating Boston in 7 games in 2019.