11 times Canadian teams came close to ending the 25-year Stanley Cup drought

May 15 2018, 5:09 am

The Winnipeg Jets have a terrific chance to do something no Canadian team has been able to do in a very long time: win the Stanley Cup.

The last team from Canada to win the big prize was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. The Cup has gone to Colorado, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Anaheim – cities that didn’t even have a team playing when Montreal last hoisted the Cup.

Winnipeg has seen a team leave and another one arrive in that time.

So yeah, 25 years is a long time.

This year, the Jets have a great opportunity.

With 114 points, the Jets posted the best record of any team from Canada other than the 2011 Vancouver Canucks in the last 25 years. No other team still alive in the postseason had as many points as Winnipeg did during the regular season.

But we’ve been down this road before.

Here are 11 times Canadian teams came close to winning the Stanley Cup since 1993:

11. Cujo’s first year in Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs, 1999)

The Red Sea parted for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the spring of 1999.

With Mats Sundin leading the way, the Leafs were the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs. By the time the second round began, Toronto was the highest seed left, as all other series in the East were won by the underdog.

With Pat Quinn behind the bench and Curtis Joseph in net, Toronto was eventually beaten by Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres in five games in the Conference Final.

10. Another one (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2002)

Three years after being upset in the Conference Final, the Leafs were back again in 2002, and once again were the favourite.

Finishing the year with nine more points than the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto felt it was their year to get to the Stanley Cup Final. Carolina was a team of destiny though, winning three games in overtime to take the series in six.

9. Carey Price gets injured in the Conference Final (Montreal Canadiens, 2014)

Though the Montreal Canadiens had been to the Eastern Conference Final four years earlier on the back of Jaroslav Halak, the 2014 edition felt like a team that could seriously make a run for the Stanley Cup.

After dusting off Tampa Bay in a four-game sweep before edging the Boston Bruins in seven games, the Habs entered the third round with high hopes. Those hopes were given a crushing blow early on though, as Chris Kreider collided with Carey Price in Game 1, knocking him out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury.

Montreal stretched the series to six games, but were effectively done the moment Price went down.

8. Back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies (Vancouver Canucks, 2012)

After coming agonizingly close to winning it all a season earlier, the Vancouver Canucks were anxious to take another run at the Stanley Cup in 2012.

Though not as successful as the 2011 team, the core of the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo – among others – was still intact. The Canucks finished with the league’s best record for the second year in a row during the regular season, but an untimely injury to Daniel Sedin weakened their lineup at the wrong time.

Vancouver ran into the eventual Stanley Cup winning LA Kings in Round 1, a cruel reward for a Presidents’ Trophy team.

7. The Sens finally get through (Ottawa Senators 2007)

After posting great regular season records only to disappoint in the playoffs seemingly every year, the Ottawa Senators finally made it to their first Stanley Cup Final in 2007.

They breezed through the first three rounds, winning each series in five games. Unfortunately, they were no match for their opponent in the final, as they lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.

6. One game away (Ottawa Senators, 2003)

Though they didn’t make the Stanley Cup Final like the 2007 team, the 2003 Ottawa Senators were probably closer to winning it all.

The Presidents’ Trophy winners in the NHL that season, Ottawa faced a battle-tested New Jersey Devils team in the Conference Final.

Battling back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7, Jeff Friesen scored the game-winner for New Jersey with just over two minutes left to win it. Waiting for Ottawa in the Stanley Cup Final was Jean-Sebastian Giguere and the surprising Anaheim Ducks – a very beatable team.

5. Hasek injured at the Olympics (Ottawa Senators, 2006)

The best team in the Eastern Conference, Ottawa was loaded during the first season after the lockout in 2005-06.

A motivated Dany Heatley scored 50 goals that year, while Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Martin Havlat were also at the top of their games. On defence, the Sens boasted the likes of Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, and Chris Phillips.

And in goal, the Senators had Dominik Hasek, who would go on to play his last truly great season in the NHL at age 41, finishing the regular season with a .925 save percentage.

Unfortunately for Ottawa, 2006 was also an Olympic year. Hasek suffered a season-ending groin injury while playing for the Czech Republic in Turin, which was a crushing blow to their playoff hopes.

Without Hasek, the Sens had to turn to rookie goalie Ray Emery, who wasn’t good enough to get them past Buffalo in the second round.

4. Miracle run to Game 7 (Edmonton Oilers, 2006)

The first of four Game 7 losses on this list, the Edmonton Oilers had no business being in the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

The Oilers were the Cinderella team of the playoffs, defeating a 124-point Detroit team in Round 1. Facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes for a chance to win it all, they were able to come back from a 3-1 series deficit despite an injury to starting goalie Dwayne Roloson.

They came darn close in Game 7, too, trailing by one goal in the third period before the Hurricanes iced it with an empty-netter.

3. LaFayette hits the post (Vancouver Canucks, 1994)

Mention the name “Nathan LaFayette” to Canucks fans and they’ll tell you about his most famous moment.

With the Canucks down 3-2 late in the third period of Game 7 of the final, LaFayette hit the post, which could have forced overtime against the New York Rangers in 1994.

The Canucks underachieved during the regular season, but had a tremendous amount of talent on their team that season with Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, and Kirk McLean playing at the top of their game.

2. The best Canucks team ever (Vancouver Canucks, 2011)

It was set up perfectly for the Canucks to win it all in 2011. After dominating the regular season with 117 points – the most by a Canadian team since 1993 – the Canucks were favoured against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.

In one of the nastiest series in recent memory, Vancouver blew 2-0 and 3-2 series leads before dropping Game 7 on home ice.

1. Martin Gelinas (Calgary Flames, 2004)

There are a lot of people in Calgary that believe the Flames were robbed of the 2004 Stanley Cup, and you can understand why.

Led by Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary carried a 3-2 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice. With Game 6 tied 2-2 in the third period, Martin Gelinas appeared to score the go-ahead goal with under seven minutes left.

Camera angles available to the NHL were inconclusive though, and the game continued into overtime where Martin St. Louis eventually scored the winner. Tampa Bay won Game 7 by a thin margin also, winning 2-1 on home ice to capture the Stanley Cup.

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