NHL Column: Will a Canadian team ever win the Cup again?

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) crashes over Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) after colliding with Ron Hainsey (2) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)

Hockey may be Canada’s favorite sport, but success has been scarce in the far north for many years. A Canadian based team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens hoisted it in 1993. In the 25 years since, 13 different American teams have brought Lord Stanley home.

It is ironic that Canada loves the game of hockey so passionately, yet has not enjoyed a cup raising of their own in two and a half decades. And for fans of teams besides the Canadiens, it has been even longer. The Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks have never won the Cup at all. The Toronto Maple Leafs last won in 1967, a mighty 51 years ago. Edmonton Oilers fans have waited since 1990, and the days of Wayne Gretzky. The Calgary Flames are going on a 30-year wait, having last won a championship in 1989.

It is safe to say that Canada is dying for one of its seven teams to bring home the sports’ most glorious trophy. Without taking into account the actual quality of the teams, you would expect one of the Canadian teams to win it all approximately once every 4.3 years.

Canada has had plenty of success on the international stage, winning seven gold medals between the men and women during the nation’s cup drought. In that same time frame, they have won 16 gold medals in World Juniors.

This is proof that Canada is the home of the best players in the world, but such success does not translate to the franchises founded beyond in the country. And while gold medals are nice, they mean little compared to the Stanley Cup.

Poor management, media scrutiny and some bad luck are to blame for the failures of Canada’s teams. The teams that have built dynasties over the past 20 years have done so by learning how to grow talent and improve under a cap system. Without a front office that intelligently manages assets, teams will never reach the pinnacle of the hockey world. Teams in Canada have all been unable to do this often, and when they have, they have fallen just short.

The 2004 Calgary Flames are a prime example of the bad luck aspect of Canadian failures. The Flames held a 3-2 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Stanley Cup Final that season, just one win shy of a championship. Game 6 was tied 2-2 in the third period when the Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin appeared to make an outstanding save. Replays showed, however, that the puck completely crossed to goal line, signifying to fans and broadcasters that it was a goal. Despite this, the play was never reviewed and the no goal call stood. The Lightning went on to win that game in overtime, and then won Game 7 to win the series.

The next two seasons, Canadian teams fell short in the finals as well. After the lockout in 2004-05, the Edmonton Oilers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in a seven game 2006 Stanley Cup Final. The next year, the Anaheim Ducks trumped the Ottawa Senators in the finals.

The Oilers’ loss sparked a major downfall where they would finish near the bottom of the league for many years. Mismanagement continues to keep them anchored far off from cup contention. The Senators kept having some solid years, and came within one game of going back to cup final in 2017 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Since then, the Senators have plummeted, becoming the laughingstock of the league. Like the Oilers, incompetency in management has left the team in dismay and without much hope for a bright future.

The Vancouver Canucks lost a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 as the New York Rangers defeated them. In 2011, it happened again when the Boston Bruins embarrassed them on their home ice in a 4-0, Game 7 shutout. The loss was yet another chance squandered by a Canadian team. They have come close on so many instances in the last 25 years that one can easily wonder how it is possible that they have come away empty handed each time.

Are their losing ways pure coincidence? Is it a result of Canadian teams cracking under the pressure? The expectation to bring the sport’s most coveted prize back to the home of the game could certainly weigh heavily on players’ shoulders. More likely, it is a mixture of these ideas along with other factors.

But there is still hope for Canada, of course. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets are two of the prime cup contenders this season. These two teams are so hot, that they were even showcased on national television in America last night. Young superstars like Patrik Laine for the Jets and Auston Matthews for the Maple Leafs make them poised to win the cup for Canada. But will the curse-like plague be too much for even these powerhouses to overcome? All droughts come to an end eventually, but when?


Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.