NHL Teams Without a Cup – Stanley Cup Droughts Explored

Posted on May 20, 2024 by Dan Kent
Original Stanley Cup

Winning the Stanley Cup is a difficult task. Most experts agree that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in professional sports, primarily due to how difficult it is to win the 16 games necessary in the postseason to achieve the task.

For this reason, quite a few teams have never been Stanley Cup champions. Some have played in the league for five decades, while some are relatively new teams. In this article, we'll go over all of the teams in the National Hockey League that have never won a Stanley Cup, highlighting the team's struggles, successes, and close calls, if they had any.

What are the NHL teams without a Stanley Cup?

  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Florida Panthers
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Nashville Predators
  • Winnipeg Jets
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Seattle Kraken

Buffalo Sabres

Founded in: 1970

Stanley Cup Final appearances: 2 (1975 and 1999)

The Buffalo Sabres are in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. Since their 1970 debut, they've been to the cup finals twice.

If there's one thing you can give the Sabres credit for, it's the fact they've had some notable events happen in both their trips to the cup finals.

First, they played the infamous "Fog Game" in their 1975 Stanley Cup loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. A rare heat wave in Buffalo, combined with the building's air conditioning not working properly, caused fog to develop over the ice. The game proceeded despite players not being able to see the puck.

The second would be the foot in the crease incident, where the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Dallas Stars in triple overtime of game 6. Back then, a goal would be disallowed if any part of a player were inside the crease. However, the league ruled that despite Brett Hull having his foot in the crease, an overtime goal he scored would still stand, and the Dallas Stars would go on to win the cup over the Sabres that game.

The Sabres have been on a multi-decade drought when it comes to playoff success, and have barely qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since this loss.

The franchise has been home to plenty of the best players, including Gilbert Perreault and one of the best goaltenders ever to play the game, Dominik Hasek.

Florida Panthers

Founded in: 1993

Stanley Cup Final appearances: 2 (1996 and 2023)

The Florida Panthers play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and are based in Sunrise, Florida. Despite two teams from Florida (the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning), they hold the state name.

The Panthers got off to a hot start in their NHL tenure, making it to the cup finals just three years after their first season. The 1996 run to the cup finals is well known for the rats fans would throw on the ice.

The tradition stemmed from Scott Mellanby, a former Panthers player, killing a rat in the dressing room with one of his sticks. He would then score two goals in the game, and fans introduced the tradition of throwing toy rats on the ice after each goal.

The team's 2023 run to the Stanley Cup Final was, much like 1996, a Cinderella story. The Panthers would barely make the playoffs before upsetting some of the best teams in the league, the Boston Bruins, who went on to post the best regular season record in NHL history, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They would fall to the Vegas Golden Knights as the team ran out of gas and into some injury trouble.

The team's most notable player is Pavel Bure, who would play some of the best seasons in his shortened career with the Panthers, Roberto Luongo, and one of the primary pieces behind their 1996 Cinderella run to the cup final, goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.

San Jose Sharks

Founded: 1991

Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2016)

The San Jose Sharks are in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and played their first NHL season in the same year the Florida Panthers did in 1991. The Sharks are one of the teams that drove a lot of interest in hockey in the Bay Area in California and have amassed a large fanbase there.

Despite being a dominant team for many years, their lone Stanley Cup appearance came in 2015-2016 when they faced the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins. This Stanley Cup Final contained immense firepower, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton of the Sharks faced off against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins. They would lose in 6 games and haven't come close to a cup since.

The franchise is home to some sure-fire hall of famers, of which I highlighted earlier, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Patrick Marleau has played the most games in NHL history, while Joe Thornton is one of the greatest playmakers ever.

Vancouver Canucks

Founded: 1970

Stanley Cup Appearances: 3 (1982, 1994, 2011)

The Vancouver Canucks also play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and is the Canadian team to go to the cup finals the most without actually taking home a Stanley Cup.

In 1982, the team would be a severe underdog against the powerhouse New York Islanders and fall in just five games. This would be the Islander's third straight cup on the back end of an outstanding dynasty.

In 1994, the teams were more evenly matched, and Vancouver would lose in 7 games to the New York Rangers. Unfortunately, this Stanley Cup final run would be soured by the intense riots in the city after the team lost, injuring over 200 people and causing over $1.2 million in damages.

In 2011, the Vancouver Canucks would head into the Stanley Cup Finals as favourites, winning the President's Trophy that year. Still, they would ultimately run into a very hot Boston Bruins team. The Canucks had a 2-0 and 3-2 series lead but would fail to capitalize. Unfortunately, much like 1994, this would cause intense riots, injuring 140 people and causing nearly $10 million in damage.

Over the years, the team has not been short of superstars and hall-of-fame players, including Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Roberto Luongo, Markus Naslund, and the Sedin Twins.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Founded: 2000

Stanley Cup Appearances: 0

The Columbus Blue Jackets play in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference. They are one of the youngest teams on this list. The team has yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. 

In fact, not only have the Blue Jackets not made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but they've only won a single round in the 2018-2019 NHL season. However, it was a notable one. They would sneak into the playoffs as the second wildcard and stun the Tampa Bay Lightning, the best team in the league during the regular season, sweeping them in 4 games.

In terms of notable players, the team hasn't been around to establish any solid hall-of-fame players. Still, it would end up drafting and developing a 437-goal scorer in Rick Nash and one of the best goaltenders in the league during his time, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Nashville Predators

Founded: 1998

Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2017)

The Nashville Predators play in the Central Division of the Western Conference. Despite being founded in 1998, the team has amassed a dedicated fanbase. It is often known for having one of the best-looking logos and jerseys in the league.

The Predator's lone Stanley Cup appearance was during a Cinderella run in the 2016-2017 season. They made the playoffs as the final seed and ended up defeating some of the best teams in the league, including the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks. One of the most notable elements of the Predator's game during these times was the strength of their back end, where they hosted some of the best defensemen in the entire NHL. They would eventually lose to the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins.

The team's most notable players would be the likes of Pekka Rinne, who was an 8th-round draft pick who ended up being one of the premiere goaltenders in the NHL for more than a decade, and Shea Weber, a hulking defenseman who had one of the most powerful shots in the game, resulting in him scoring ten or more goals a season 8 times in a 9-year stretch.

Winnipeg Jets

Founded: 1972 (moved to become the Phoenix Coyotes) and 2011 (After the league moved the Atlanta Thrashers)

Stanley Cup Appearances: 0

The Winnipeg Jets are currently on their second stint in Winnipeg and play in the Central Division of the Western Conference. The team has not made a single appearance in the cup finals, and the farthest they've been in the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion team's first year in the league.

The team is home to a wide variety of hall-of-fame NHLers, however. Teemu Selanne would score the all-time record in goals for a rookie with 76, and Bobby Hull, regarded as one of the best players to ever put on skates.

Minnesota Wild

Founded: 2000

Stanley Cup Appearances: 0

The Minnesota Wild play in the Central Division of the Western Conference and are arguably located in one of the most dedicated areas of the United States regarding ice hockey. The fans are knowledgeable and plentiful.

The team was an expansion team. However, hockey had existed here prior. The Minnesota North Stars were relocated to Dallas in 1993 before the NHL decided to bring a team back to Minnesota in 2000.

The team has zero Stanley Cup Final appearances, and its most notable playoff run came more than two decades ago when it reached the Western Conference Finals before losing to Anaheim in 2002-2003. Anaheim would then lose to the New Jersey Devils in the cup final.

The team has long been known for its defensive style of play and trap-like hockey with little to no forecheck. However, in recent times, that has changed, and the team is becoming more competitive on the offensive front.

Notable players include long-time NHLer Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, and goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who would play into his 40s.

Arizona Coyotes

Founded: 1997 (Relocated from the Winnipeg Jets)

Stanley Cup Appearances: 0 

The Arizona Coyotes play in the Central Division of the Western Conference and have had a rough go about things in their nearly 30-year NHL history. The team was relocated from Winnipeg in the early 90's and has failed to do much during its time there.

The team has zero Stanley Cup Final appearances, and the closest it has come was the 2011-2012 Western Conference Finals, in which it lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

The team does have some prominent players, however. Shane Doan spent more than two decades and his entire career with the Coyotes and is no doubt the face of the franchise. It would also have the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, and Nikolai Khabibulin suit up for the team. You could argue that all three of these players deserve a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but as of right now, they are not in it.

Ottawa Senators

Founded: 1992 (Most recent iteration of the team)

Stanley Cup Appearances: 1 (2007)

The Ottawa Senators are in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, and it's important not to mix up this iteration of the team with the one of the past. These Senators, founded in 1992, were a revival of the old Ottawa Senators, which won three Stanley Cups before folding in 1934.

The Senators were a powerhouse team in the 2006-2007 NHL season, making it to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Anaheim Ducks. If the Anaheim Ducks had not won that series, their name would also be included on this list, as it was their first and only Stanley Cup. The loss stung Canadian fans of the game, as it marked the third consecutive year a Canadian team had made it to the Stanley Cup finals but lost.

The Calgary Flames would lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, the Edmonton Oilers to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and the Senators to the Ducks in 2007. 2005 would be a lockout year.

The team had some notable players in its history, including Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and a controversial two-time 50 goal-scorer, Dany Heatley.

Seattle Kraken

Founded: 2021

Stanley Cup Appearances: 0

The Seattle Kraken are in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, and this section will be relatively short. They simply don't have enough history in the league yet. It would be a notable achievement if they had made an appearance in the finals already.

However, they made a strong effort in the 2022-2023 playoffs and are one of the up-and-coming teams to watch for in the National Hockey League.

Who has the most NHL games without a Stanley Cup?

Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks holds the record for most games played without a Stanley Cup. Marleau has the record for games played in the National Hockey League and is arguably one of the best players to never hoist a cup, accumulating just shy of 1200 points through 1779 games.

Even though he has never won a cup, there is little doubt that Marleau will be in the Hall of Fame one day.

What team has 24 Stanley Cups?

The Montreal Canadiens have the most Stanley Cups at 24.

What is the least successful NHL team?

If you're speaking solely on playoff success, the Columbus Blue Jackets would likely be the least successful team in the National Hockey League. However, if we go by the overall popularity of the team, it would be hard to argue with the Arizona Coyotes.

The team struggles to fill the building, and if it weren't for a run to the conference finals one year, they would have the same type of success Columbus has.

Has an NHL team ever won the Stanley Cup without losing a game?

There has, yes, but likely not in the playoff format you are used to. When only eight games were required to win the Stanley Cup, the Montreal Canadiens did so. But no team has done it in the modern era, where you must win 16 games. The closest to come to doing it was the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, along with Wayne Gretzky, who would lose only two games in the entire playoffs.

Has any NHL team ever been to the Stanley Cup?

Yes, a few teams have never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

  1. Arizona Coyotes
  2. Columbus Blue Jackets
  3. Minnesota Wild
  4. Seattle Kraken
  5. Winnipeg Jets

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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