We’ll Be Back Next Year? History Tells us Otherwise

It’s the rallying cry of Stanley Cup Runner Ups every year. “It’s okay, we’ll be right back here next year!” While it’s a comforting thought for a fanbase who just had their heart broken, it’s not always accurate. Looking back to 1968, when the league expanded past 6 teams, Stanley Cup Runner Ups have had a mixed performance in the following year.

Note: “Best Year Following” only refers to teams that have not made the Stanley Cup after their last loss in the Final.

Year Team Next Year Result Next FinaApperance Won? Best Year Following Finish
2016 Sharks Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2017 Lost 1st Round
2015 Lightning Lost ECF N/A N/A 2016 Lost ECF
2014 Rangers Lost ECF N/A N/A 2015 Lost ECF
2013 Bruins Lost 2nd Round N/A N/A 2014 Lost 2nd Round
2012 Devils Missed Playoffs N/A N/A 2014 6th in Metro
2011 Canucks Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2012 Lost 1st Round
2010 Flyers Lost 2nd Round N/A N/A 2011 Lost 2nd Round
2009 Red Wings Lost 2nd Round N/A N/A 2011 Lost 2nd Round
2008 Penguins Won Stanley Cup 2009 Yes
2007 Senators Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2017 Lost ECF
2006 Oilers Missed Playoffs N/A N/A 2017 Lost 2nd Round
2005 N/A
2004 Flames Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2015 Lost 2nd Round
2003 Ducks Missed Playoffs 2007 Yes
2002 Hurricanes Missed Playoffs 2006 Yes
2001 Devils Lost 1st Round 2003 Yes
2000 Stars Lost 2nd Round N/A N/A 2008 Lost WCF
1999 Sabres Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2007 Lost ECF
1998 Capitals Missed Playoffs N/A N/A 2016 Lost 2nd Round
1997 Flyers Lost 1st Round 2010 No
1996 Panthers Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2016 Lost 1st Round
1995 Red Wings Lost WCF 1997 Yes
1994 Canucks Lost 2nd Round 2011 No
1993 Kings Missed Playoffs 2012 Yes
1992 Blackhawks Lost 1st Round 2010 Yes
1991 North Stars Lost 1st Round 1999 Yes
1990 Bruins Lost ECF 2011 Yes
1989 Canadiens Lost 2nd Round 1993 Yes
1988 Bruins Lost 2nd Round 1990 No
1987 Flyers Lost 1st Round 1997 No
1986 Flames Lost 1st Round 1989 Yes
1985 Flyers Lost 1st Round 1987 No
1984 Islanders Lost 2nd Round N/A N/A 1993 Lost ECF
1983 Oilers Won Stanley Cup 1984 Yes
1982 Canucks Lost 1st Round 1994 No
1981 North Stars Lost 1st Round 1991 No
1980 Flyers Lost 2nd Round 1985 No
1979 Rangers Lost 2nd Round 1994 Yes
1978 Bruins Lost Semi Finals 1988 No
1977 Bruins Lost Stanley Cup 1978 No
1976 Flyers Lost Semi Finals 1980 No
1975 Sabres Lost 2nd Round 1999 No
1974 Bruins Lost 1st Round 1977 No
1973 Blackhawks Lost Semi Finals 1992 No
1972 Rangers Lost Semi Finals 1979 No
1971 Blackhawks Lost Semi Finals 1973 No
1970 Blues Lost 1st Round N/A N/A 2016 Lost WCF
1969 Blues Lost Stanley Cup 1970 No
1968 Blues Lost Stanley Cup 1969 No

A few interesting observations came from this.

  • Only the 1983 Oilers and the 2008 Penguins were able to overcome a Stanley Cup loss and return to win the Cup the following year. Coincidentally, both of these teams beat the team that they had lost to the previous year (Oilers d. Islanders and Penguins d. Red Wings).
  • Of the 48 SCF Runner-Ups listed, only  13 teams won the Stanley Cup in the next appearance. Only 8 teams were able to win a Cup within 5 years of their SCF loss.
  • 17 franchises are still waiting for their return to the Final and chance at redemption.
  • The Bruins and Flyers appear on this list the most with 6 SCF losses. The Bruins did win a Cup in 2011, while the Flyers have lost 6 SCF in a row.
  • Only teams not to appear on this list are the Maple Leafs, Coyotes, Jets, Blue Jackets, Wild, and Avalanche. The Leafs have not appeared in a Final since 1967, the Avalanche are the only team never to have lost a Stanley Cup Final, and the Coyotes, Jets, Blue Jackets, and Wild have never appeared in the Final

So what can be concluded from this? Well, not a whole lot. For some teams, a loss in the Stanley Cup Final is the motivation they needed to come out and win the Cup the next year. For others, the loss represented their only shot at a championship. A Stanley Cup Final appearance is never guaranteed. The only constant among these teams is that they all experienced a heart-breaking loss.

So will Nashville be able to return the the Final in 2018? Maybe they will or maybe they won’t. The only thing that is certain is that nothing is guaranteed.


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