We’re less than a week away from hockey returning. The NHL’s journey towards the 2020 Stanley Cup Final begins Saturday.
Every postseason features those players who have spent their entire careers chasing the Cup, but fallen short. Time is running out for many and this could be their last best chance at glory. Moments provided by Ray Bourque, Dave Andreychuk, and Rod Brind’Amour are among those that stand out.
Today’s NHL Power Rankings feature 10 Cup-less players we’ll be rooting for during these playoffs.
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for in Return to Play
1. Patrick Marleau, 40 – Penguins: The second-oldest player in the Return to Play, behind Zdeno Chara, the forward has played 1,723 regular-season games (fifth in NHL history) and 191 playoff games without lifting the trophy. That combined 1,914 games played is an NHL record for players who’ve yet to win the Cup. His only Cup Final appearance came in 2016, a losing effort in 2016 versus Pittsburgh.. He’ll be 41 in September and free agent this off-season. How many more opportunities will he get?
2. Henrik Lundqvist, 38 – Rangers: When the games begin this weekend, Lundqvist may be sporting a baseball hat and watching from the bench. But given Igor Shesterkin‘s inexperience, there is always the chance David Quinn’s leash on the rookie is short and he goes with the veteran. The Rangers have reached three conference finals and one Cup Final since Lundqvist joined the team in 2005-06. He has one more year left on his contract, but signs point to this being The King’s final run in New York.
3. Jason Spezza, 37 – Maple Leafs: There’s no guarantee Spezza, a pending unrestricted free agent, will hook up with a team for the 2020-21 season. With 80 career playoff games under his belt, the forward has only reached the Cup Final once, and that ended in a five-game defeat to the Ducks.
4. Pekka Rinne, 37 – Predators: The Finn’s lone chance at a Cup came in 2017 when Nashville fell to the Penguins. It remains to be seen if John Hynes will start their Qualifying Round series against the Coyotes with Rinne or go with Juuse Saros. He’s the third-oldest goaltender in the Return to Play and has the third-most playoff appearances among active goaltenders (89).
5. Mikko Koivu, 37 – Wild: Is this it for the Minnesota captain? Koivu hasn’t divulged what he plans to do next season. His contract is expiring and there’s the chance he decides to return home to finish his career in Finland. The Wild have not advanced beyond the second round in his career, and six of his eight appearances ended in a first-round exit. A Cup win would also be a nice “back nine of the career” achievement for fellow old guys Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who are both 35.
6. Ilya Kovalchuk, 37 – Capitals: It’s been quite a ride the last few seasons for the Russian star. He returned to the NHL in 2018 after five seasons in the KHL. But his time in LA was forgettable. A trade sent him to Montreal where he was rejuvenated. The Canadiens later dealt him to Washington where he reunited with old friend Alex Ovechkin. Kovy has won a Gagarin Cup and Olympic gold medal, but fell short in his only Cup Final appearance. Would a Cup ring cement his status as a future Hall of Famer?
7. Mark Giordano, 36 – Flames: The defenseman broke into the NHL the season after Calgary last made the Cup Final (2003-04). Since then, however, the Flames have not had much playoff success. In fact, Giordano has skated in only 13 career playoff games with injuries costing him the opportunity to play in three other postseasons.
8. Joe Pavelski, 36 – Stars: Like his former Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau, Pavelski is up there in postseason games played without a Cup. His 134 puts him 11th among active players. Now he gets another shot in Dallas following 13 seasons in San Jose. He has four conference finals and one Cup Final appearance on his resume, and now gets a chance with a blossoming Stars team.
9. Shea Weber, 34 – Canadiens: Nine playoff appearances and zero experiences in the conference final or Cup Final. His massive contract doesn’t end for another six years, so maybe there will be a few more opportunities down the line. Maybe, just maybe, it will be with Alexis Lafreniere in the Canadiens’ lineup should they lose to Pittsburgh and succeed in Part 2 of the draft lottery.
10. Brian Boyle, 35 – Panthers: There was plenty of heartbreak in successful seasons for Boyle a few years ago. After dropping the 2014 Cup Final as a Ranger, he lost the 2015 Cup Final with the Lightning. The next season Tampa lost in the Eastern Conference Final to the eventual champion Penguins. Since then? Three first-round exits. After beating chronic myeloid leukemia two years ago while dealing with health issues regarding his son, a Boyle Cup lift would be a wonderful sight to see.