The 2013 NHL season was shortened because of the lockout, which was totally necessary. But the Blackhawks were dynamite right out of the gate, then they went on to beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals and get their names engraved on the Holy Grail for the second time in four years. It was a pretty magical run. The big question is, can they do it again?
It’s not easy to make back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Finals. The path is long and winding and steep, and after you’ve made it to the end you’re tired as hell. That’s why, more often than not, the teams that are still playing on the last day of the hockey season experience a letdown the following year. It’s called a Stanley Cup hangover.
Of course, not every team experiences the Stanley Cup hangover, and some have minor symptoms but get over quickly. Pittsburgh and Detroit played each other in back-to-back finals in 2008 and 2009, and the Kings were flat out of the gate last year before getting into shape and making it back to the Western Conference Finals. But a lot of other teams haven’t done so well.
Today, in honor of the start of the 2013 NHL season, we’re going to take a look at the nine worst Stanley Cup hangovers of the past 20 years. The 2013-14 Blackhawks? They got off to a good-enough start with a win over the Capitals. But there’s a long way to go.
The Devils were a good team in 2011-12, going 48-28-6 for 102 points. However, that was just fifth in the Eastern Conference, and nobody really expected them to make a run to the Finals—but of course, they did. And there they got smoked by the force of nature that was the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
Unfortunately, the Devils' 2012 Finals appearance was the beginning of a slide. In 2013, while the Kings got over a sluggish start to finish a respectable 5th in the West and make it back to the Conference Finals, the Devils lost free agent Zach Parise and wound up limping to a record of 19-19-10. They missed the playoffs by seven points.
9. New Jersey Devils (2012)
In the spring of 1998, led by Peter Bondra and Adam Oates (who is now their coach), the Washington Capitals made one of those Cinderella runs to the Stanley Cup Finals that nobody sees coming. That's not to say they weren't a good team, because at 40-30-12 and 92 points, they were. But they weren't great, either. They just got hot at the right time, and the Senators managed to pull off an epic upset of the first place, 107-point Devils in the first round, clearing the path.
For the 1998-99 season, they came crashing back down to earth. Bondra and Oates were still there, but their production was down by about 20 points a piece. As a result the Caps went 21-45-6 and missed the playoffs.
8. Washington Capitals (1998)
The 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes, like the 1997-98 Washington Capitals, were Stanley Cup Cinderellas. They won the Southeast Division with a record of 35-26-16-5, which was good for 91 points. But they were not the cream of the crop in the East. The Leafs and Bruins each broke the 100-point mark, and the Flyers, Islanders, and Devils were close behind in the upper 90s. (Yes, the Leafs had 100 points and the Islanders were contenders. It was a different time.) So when the Hurricanes beat the Devils, Canadiens, and Leafs to reach the finals against the Red Wings, it was a surprise.
Of course, the Canes didn't win the Cup in 2002. And in 2002-03, they crashed back to earth pretty hard, going 22-43-11-6 for 61 points—dead last in the Eastern Conference.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (2002)
At No. 6 we have yet another Cinderella team. Are you starting to pick up on a pattern, here?
Anyway, yes, the Oilers made a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of '06. They weren't a bad team at all, having finished 41-28-13 with 95 points. However, that was only good enough to earn them the 8th seed in the West, and to get past the first round they had to upset the 124-point Detroit Red Wings. After that they beat the Sharks (99 points) and Ducks (98 points) to reach the finals against the Hurricanes—which they lost after an amazing 7-game battle.
After that, the Oilers were not the same. They lost Chris Pronger to free agency—he promptly won a Cup with Anaheim—and finished 32-43-7, third-last in the West.
6. Edmonton Oilers (2006)
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—that's what they were called back then—upset the No. 2 seed, 110-point Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2003 playoffs because Jean-Sebastien Giguere made about 6,000 saves. Then they rode his hot goaltending all the way to the Finals, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils.
Unfortunately, in 2003-04, Anaheim lost their mojo. Sure, they were still technically called the Mighty Ducks, but they didn't play like it. The team finished with a record of 29-35-10-8, which earned them just 76 points—15 points shy of the last playoff spot.
5. Anaheim Ducks (2003)
At No. 4 we have the oldest entry on the list: the 1993-94 Los Angeles Kings.
As you will certainly recall if you are old enough, in 1988 the Kings made one of the most unlikely runs to the Finals in modern NHL history based on their regular season point total. That year they finished just 39-35-10, for 88 points. However, they also had a number of injuries to overcome—most notably to some guy named Wayne Gretzky. Once they were actually healthy, their roster was filled will future Hall of Famers: Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Rob Blake* and, of course, Paul Coffee. So when they lost to Patrick Roy and the Canadiens in the 1993 Cup Finals, people thought they'd have maybe one more good run in them.
Not so. The King were terrible in 1993-94. The won just 27 games, accumulated just 66 points, and obviously missed the playoffs.
*Okay, Rob Blake isn't a Hall of Famer yet, but he might be.
4. Los Angeles Kings (1993)
Why are the top three the top three? Because these teams all won the Cup, only to follow that with a lame season.
First up it's the Hurricanes. They won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and it was no fluke. They were good, going 52-22-8 for 112 points, which was second in the East. However, the following season they were flat—not bad, mind you, but exhausted. Their record was a respectable 40-34-8, which netted them 88 points. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough in 2006-07, and then missed the playoffs by four points the year after they won it all.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (2006)
The Devils came within a Game 7 overtime goal of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994, so you might have thought they'd have a mini hangover for 1995. However, that year a strike shortened the season, giving teams a little extra rest. So come playoff time, despite going just 22-18-8 in the regular season, the Devils found their groove and went on to beat the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In 1995-96, the Red Wings suffered no Stanley Cup hangover whatsoever, going a ridiculous 62-13-7 and making it back to the Western Conference Finals. However, the '95 champs were utterly deflated. The Devils went just 37-33-12 the year after they won the Chalice, missing the playoffs by two points.
2. New Jersey Devils (1995)
The 1994 Rangers made a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals that culminated with seven-game series wins over the Devils and Canucks and their first championship in 50 years. After that they were the kings of New York.
Unfortunately, there would be no repeat. In 1994-95, the Rangers went 22-23-3 for 47 points in the strike-shortened season. They still made the playoffs, because the Eastern Conference was kind of bad that year, but just barely. Then they got swept out of the second round by the far-superior Philadelphia Flyers.
So how can you tell this was a real hangover and not just the end of an era? Because the next season the Rangers went 41-27-14 for 96 points, which was third in the East. The 1994-95 season was just the result of a post-championship funk.
1. New York Rangers (1994)
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