What NHL teams have never won the Stanley Cup? A guide to futility

The Stanley Cup is one of the most prized possessions in all of sports. It is awarded to the NHL team that survives the gruelling two months of playoff hockey. There are 31 teams in the NHL… so, which teams have not won the Stanley Cup? 

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The Vancouver Canucks bench looking dejected during their loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 finals.


In the NHL there are currently 11 teams that have been unable to capture hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup: Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vegas Golden Knights and the Ottawa Senators (modern franchise).


The original Ottawa Senators (1883 to 1934) did win the Stanley Cup 11 times; however, neither the new version Ottawa Senators (founded 1992) nor the NHL claim that there is any continuity between either team. 

The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks are the two teams who have been in the NHL the longest without winning a Stanley Cup. Both of those teams came into the NHL for the 1970 season, but neither have won the Stanley Cup.

Both of those teams can take some hope from the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues, who each ended their long non-Stanley Cup droughts in the past two NHL seasons. The Washington Capitals won in 2018 after 44 years, and the St. Louis Blues won in 2019 after 52 years. 

Here is a look at the Stanley Cup playoff futility of each team, featuring the year they came the closest to claiming the Stanley Cup.

#1: Ottawa Senators


The original Ottawa Senators (also known as the Ottawa Silver Sevens) of the NHL did win 11 Stanley cups. Some of these predate the NHL, but by the time the team had moved to St. Louis in 1934, they had captured 11 of them. 

So hasn’t Ottawa won the Stanley Cup? Well, the best answer is no. When Ottawa was finally awarded another franchise (54 years later) for the start of the 1992 season, they had used the name the Senators in securing the bid but never claimed any continuity with the old team.

Neither the Ottawa Senators hockey club nor the NHL recognize any ties between the current club and the Senators club that ended in 1934. I think it is safe to say that the current version of the Ottawa Senators have never won the Stanley Cup.


Closest Time to the Cup:

The only time the Ottawa Senators have reached the finals was in the 2006-2007 season against the Anaheim Ducks. 

SeasonOpponentSeriesSeries
2006-07Anaheim DucksStanley Cup Finals1-4
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In their Stanley Cup run in 2007, the Senators had a number of high-end scorers including Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. They were led to the finals by goaltender Ray Emery.

The first three rounds of the playoffs pretty much went Ottawa’s way with each series against Pittsburgh, New Jersey and then Buffalo going to Ottawa in identical 4-1 fashion. However, the finals would see a reversal with the Ducks sending out Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer to neutralize Ottawa’s offence and stopping them 4 games to 1. 


#2 Buffalo Sabres


As stated earlier, Buffalo has been in the NHL since 1970 and has never won the Stanley Cup. This is a particular shame because the people of Buffalo love their hockey and are truly passionate and knowledgeable fans.


Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponentSeriesSeries
1974-75Philadelphia FlyersStanley Cup Finals2-4
1998-99Dallas StarsStanley Cup Finals2-4

The Buffalo Sabres have managed to reach the Stanley Cup finals twice.

The first time in 1974-75 was their fifth season of existence and they faced a formidable squad in the Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Broadstreet Bullies. The Sabres lost the first two games of the series before fighting back to tie it up at 2 games apiece. Notably, games 3 and 4 of the series had to be stopped multiple times due to fog developing inside the arena because of a heatwave in Buffalo. The arena maintenance staff would skate around the ice with bedsheets to clear the fog.  Ultimately, the Sabres would lose the next two games and the series 4-2.

The Sabres did not make it back to the finals until 1988-89, this time on the back of the amazing play of goaltender Dominik Hasek. Hasek won the Hart trophy for Most Valuable player and Vezina for best goaltender. However, that was not enough to erase the sting of losing in triple overtime to the Dallas Stars on a controversial goal by Brett Hull.

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At this point in NHL history, it was illegal to score a goal if a players skate was in the goal crease and replays showed that Brett Hull’s skate was in the crease. However, NHL officials deemed that Brett Hull’s two shots on goal were all part of a single possession which voided the skate in the crease rule.


#3 Vancouver Canucks


The Vancouver Canucks also share the unfortunate distinction of the longest time in the league without a Stanley Cup. They have been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times, losing two of those matchups in heartbreaking seventh games!


Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
1981-82New York IslandersStanley Cup Finals0-4
1993-94New York RangersStanley Cup Finals3-4
2010-11Boston BruinsStanley Cup Finals3-4

The first time the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup finals, they had the misfortune of facing off against the dynasty of the New York Islanders. Vancouver managed to get to the finals on the heels of Richard Brodeur’s strong play, but were no match for the powerful Islanders; they were dispatched quickly in 4 games.

The second time the Canucks made it to the finals was against the New York Rangers. The Rangers who were favoured to win the Cup and led by Mark Messier got out to a 3-2 series lead and went back to Vancouver trying to end their own playoff drought of 54 years. Led by Trevor Linden, the Canucks managed a 4-1 win to send it back to New York. However, in what some consider to be the best game 7 in league history, Mark Messier led the Rangers to their fourth Stanley Cup.

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The Canucks managed to make it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals again in 2011, but this time it would be against the Boston Bruins. The Canucks were up 3-2 but lost game six to the Bruins to force a game 7 in Vancouver. Led by the Sedin twins, Hendrik and Daniel, as well as goalie Roberto Luongo, this was the best chance that Vancouver ever had to win a cup. Devastatingly for Canucks fans, the game was never close as the Bruins won 4-0.


#4 San Jose Sharks


For the past ten years to 15 years the San Jose Sharks have arguably been the best and most consistent franchise in the NHL. They have had great teams and have even been favoured to win the Stanley Cup on a number of occasions, but have always come up short of expectations. 

Closest Time to the Cup: 

SeasonOpponent
Series
2015-16Pittsburgh PenguinsStanley Cup Finals2-4

The San Jose Sharks have been a model of consistency in reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs — they have achieved this feat in 21 out of 27 seasons! They have even won a number of rounds in those 21 playoff runs, but have only reached the Stanley Cup Finals once. 

In 2015-16, all of the Sharks talent finally came together to push them to the finals to play the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Penguins went up 2-0 in the series; they seemed to control the series from the beginning, and eventually won the cup 4-2. 

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#5 Winnipeg Jets (1979-96)/Arizona Coyotes (1996-Present)


The original Winnipeg Jets franchise were consistent in one thing: not having playoff success. In their 17 NHL seasons, they won a total of two playoff rounds. That is not a typo — two rounds ever! They never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs.

The Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes have not been much better since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix. It took fifteen years for Phoenix to win a playoff round, and in 2011-2012, they actually won 2 rounds making it to the Conference Finals before losing to the (eventual Stanley Cup champion) Los Angeles Kings. 

Two years later, the Phoenix Coyotes changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes, but their playoff futility has not changed… they have now missed the playoffs seven years in a row!


Closest time to the Cup: 

SeasonOpponent
Series
2011-2012Los Angeles KingsConference Finals1-4


#6 Florida Panthers


The Florida Panthers have not been a successful franchise (this is a large understatement). They have basically had one good year, and then nothing else to show for their efforts.


Closest time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
1995-1996Colorado AvalancheStanley Cup Finals0-4

The Florida Panthers’ inaugural season was in 1993-94, and in just their third season, the upstart Panthers made a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals. They upset both the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers (in the second round) AND the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round. However, the heavily favoured Colorado Avalanche made short work of the Panthers, beating them in 4 straight games.

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This playoff success for the Panthers would immediately end, as they have only made the playoffs 4 times in the 22 years that have followed; they’ve never won a round in the playoffs since that magical run to the finals. 


#7 Nashville Predators


The Predators came into the league for the 1998-99 season, and it took them until their 6th season of existence to qualify for the playoffs and their 12th year to win a round in the playoffs. 


Closest time to the Cup: 

SeasonOpponent
Series
2016-2017Pittsburgh PenguinsStanley Cup Finals2-4

The franchise seemed to always being treading in the mediocre levels of the NHL until their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016-2017.  Despite coming into the playoffs as the 8th and last seed of the playoffs, the Predators would go onto upset the top-seeded Blackhawks before dispatching the Blues (2nd round) and Ducks (3rd round) to qualify for the Stanley Cup Finals. The Predators played a hard fought finals but ultimately lost to the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins 4-2. 

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#8 Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets


Well, if you are looking for a team that has been around for a long time without success you have a great option in the Thrashers/Jets franchise.

The Thrashers came into the league in 1999 and played in Atlanta until 2011. Do you think that part of the reason that they left was that in 12 NHL seasons they only made the playoffs once? And, in that playoff appearance in 2007 they won a total of zero games against the New York Rangers. That would be a tough team to support by buying a ticket!

They have improved since they moved to Winnipeg. Of the 8 years they have been in Winnipeg, they have made it 3 times to the playoffs, including the past 2 years.

Even better is that they made it to the Conference Finals two playoffs ago, before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights.  Winnipeg has a good young team and should have more success in their playoff future, and maybe even a Stanley Cup.


Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
2017-18Vegas Golden KnightsConference Finals1-4


#9 Minnesota Wild


The Minnesota Wild started in the NHL during the 2000-01 season. They didn’t make the playoffs that year but they had a respectable record. By their third season they made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs and had an amazing run — making it to the Conference Finals, before losing to the Mighty Ducks.

The Wild have had limited playoff success since then. They have made it to the playoffs a respectable 8 more times but have only won a playoff series twice. In addition, they lost in the first round three times in a row in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before not qualifying in the playoffs in 2019.


Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
2002-2003Anaheim Mighty DucksConference Finals0-4


#10 Columbus Blue Jackets


The Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a Stanley Cup. Oh wait, they had never actually won a playoff round until this year (2018-2019)! 

That is right since coming into the league in 1996, it took them 23 years to win the franchise’s first playoff round! Wow, talk about long-suffering fans. 👏

When the Blue Jackets did make it to the playoffs, they got swept 4 games to 0. So, the odd, odd time they made the playoffs they did not even win a game.

What I will give them is that when they finally owned their first playoff series, they did do it in dramatic fashion. As heavy underdogs, they knocked off the top team in the regular season — Tampa Bay Lightning — 4 games to 0. Hopefully, their team can learn from this and it won’t be another 23 years until they win another. 


Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
2018-2019Boston Bruins2nd Round2-4


#11 Vegas Golden Knights


Wow, wow, wow! That is all you can say about the Golden Knights’ first year in the NHL. In case you missed it, Vegas Golden Knights had their inaugural season in the NHL during the 2017-18 season. They went to the Stanley Cup finals!

In the world or competitive sports, this is unheard of. It really is one of the most remarkable sports stories of this century. Led by the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas was able to beat three great teams before finally falling to the Washington Capitals in 6 games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Closest Time to the Cup:

SeasonOpponent
Series
2017-2018Washington CapitalsStanley Cup Finals2-4

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