Stanley Cup History: Six Times Canadians Nearly Ended Three Decades of Hurt
It was business as usual for the Montreal Canadiens. The most successful team in the history of the NHL won the Stanley Cup for the 24th time, beating the Los Angeles Kings in five games. It had been seven years since Montreal last won the Cup, and their previous title came another seven years before that.
So much for that Seven-Year Itch. That 24th Cup was claimed way back on June 9, 1993. Patrick Roy was in net for the Canadiens, and the Kings team Roy vanquished (winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts) was led by none other than Wayne Gretzky.
Not only did the Habs fail to win another title in the ensuing 30 years – easily their longest drought in Stanley Cup history – neither did any Canadian-based team. Even if slightly less than half of all NHL players are from the Great White North, this hockey-mad country is in crisis, the kind that can take a Calgary Flames fan and make them cheer for the Edmonton Oilers, or any other Canadian team that’s on a deep playoff run.
It’s almost insane how long this drought has lasted. Canadians have been represented six times at the Stanley Cup Final since 1993; if you take the NHL odds for each of those teams heading into the Final and do the math, the chances of getting swept 6-0 work out to around 2.5%. And that’s not taking into account the Stanley Cup betting lines for all the other Canadian clubs during those three painful decades.
To honour those fallen heroes of the world’s greatest sport, Bodog Sportsbook is proud to present the six Canadian Stanley Cup finalists from 1994 to today, and what made those teams so great despite their lack of championship success. Exact closing prices aren’t always available, but each team is shown with their Cup series odds at or near the start of the Final.
1994: Vancouver Canucks (+250)
The NHL was a very different place in 1994. The salary cap had yet to be enforced via lockout, and the league had six more teams yet to add, all of them American – although the Atlanta Thrashers did become the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, after the original Jets had moved to Phoenix in 1996. Oh, and the Colorado Avalanche were still the Quebec Nordiques.
While the defending champions from Montreal had the shortest preseason Cup odds of any Canadian team at +600 (third overall behind Pittsburgh at +400), the Canucks weren’t far behind at +800. This would be the second of back-to-back 60-goal seasons for Pavel Bure. Trevor Linden (32 goals) was their beloved captain, and Kirk McClean – well, he was beloved too, but this wasn’t his best season between the pipes (.891 save percentage).
The Canucks needed seven games to eliminate Calgary in the first round after falling behind 3-1, and they took out another Canadian team in the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Western Conference before falling in seven to Mark Messier and the New York Rangers.
2004: Calgary Flames (+190)
It took 10 years for Canada to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final. Still no salary cap at this point, and the NHL had yet to expand to Las Vegas and Seattle, but the league had already pushed deep into the US market, putting teams in unexpected places like Nashville and Columbus.
Speaking of unexpected, the 2003-04 Flames were second from the bottom at +10000 to win the Cup, nowhere near the top contenders from Detroit and Colorado at +450 – or even the top Canadian contenders, the Ottawa Senators (+700). This was Calgary’s first full season under head coach Darryl Sutter, who had taken over in December 2022 as the team was in the midst of its seventh straight season outside the playoffs.
It was quite the turnaround, and almost led to one of the biggest ever Stanley Cup shocks. Led by Jarome Iginla’s 41 goals and the arrival of Miikka Kiprusoff (.933 SV%) in net, the Flames finished third in the Northwest Division, then got their first-round revenge on the Canucks in seven before eventually succumbing to Tampa Bay in the Final – also in seven, after blowing a 3-2 series lead.
2006: Edmonton Oilers (+120)
The 2004-05 NHL lockout was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. With the salary cap in place, pretty much any team could be competitive regardless of market size – but that security came at a very high price. The Oilers, for example, would never again be able to assemble a team with the likes of Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey et al. on the same roster.
They did a pretty good job in 2005-06, though. The Oilers were able to pry star defenceman Chris Pronger from cap-strapped St. Louis, then began the year as +2500 Cup outsiders (Ottawa was second at +700, behind Philadelphia at +500), and finished third in the Northwest with a well-rounded lineup supporting winger Ryan Smyth (36 goals).
That still left Edmonton as the No. 8 seed in the West. But they rode the hot goaltending of midseason pick-up Dwayne Roloson (.927 playoff SV%) and took advantage of an upset-laden Western bracket – another “feature” of the salary cap era – to earn their place in the Stanley Cup Final. Seven games later, the Carolina Hurricanes were champions for the first time in that team’s history.
2007: Ottawa Senators (EVEN)
Because they were so bad for so long – both before and after – it’s hard to remember how good the Senators were in the early and mid-Aughts. The 2006-07 squad was one of their better teams on paper; Dany Heatley scored 50 goals, captain Daniel Alfredsson added another 29, and the team’s defense was strong in front of Ray Emery (.918 SV%).
It was still a struggle just to make the playoffs. The 2005-06 team (with Dominik Hasek in goal and Zdeno Chara on defence) had finished first in the East, and the Senators were +900 preseason favourites the following year, but this stripped-down version finished second in the Northeast Division before heating up in the playoffs and upsetting first-place Buffalo in the Conference Finals.
That’s as close as the Senators would come to winning their first Cup. They were slight underdogs to the Anaheim Ducks at the Final, but in retrospect, Anaheim (Teemu Selanne up front, Pronger on defence and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in goal) was better in just about every facet of the game. The Ducks won their first and only Cup in five games, outscoring Ottawa 16-11 in an otherwise competitive series.
2011: Vancouver Canucks (–230)
This was the team that was supposed to end our national nightmare. The 2010-11 Canucks were fourth on the preseason Stanley Cup odds board at +900 (Pittsburgh was first at +550), but this was very much a program on the rise; Henrik Sedin had just won both the Hart and Art Ross Trophies, and his twin brother Daniel would go on to deliver an MVP-quality performance (41 goals, 63 assists) as Vancouver won their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.
Their first sign of trouble came in the first round: The Canucks went up 3-0 on the Chicago Blackhawks, then dropped three straight before winning Game 7 in overtime. Nashville and San Jose would prove easier to kill, then came the Stanley Cup Final versus the Boston Bruins, a team that had suffered its own share of heartbreak since their last title in 1972.
All was going to plan after the first two games, which Vancouver won at home by one-goal margins, then Boston destroyed the Canucks at the Garden to even the series. The same dynamic happened in the next two games, setting up what was supposed to be a dramatic Game 7 at Rogers Arena. But the Canucks lost 4-0, riots ensued, and the drought continued.
2021: Montreal Canadiens (+190)
Honestly, no one expected the Habs to make the Final in 2021. This was the “bubble” season for the NHL during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the Canadian teams put in their own division – and the Maple Leafs were still No. 4 on the Cup odds list at +1400, half the price of the favourites from Colorado. Montreal (+2800) was a fringe candidate at best.
The Habs did have one thing going for them: Carey Price. The former Hart Trophy winner had one decent year left in him before injuries derailed his career, and it was this one; Price posted a .924 playoff save percentage to lead Montreal to the Cup Final and was instrumental in their first-round upset of the Leafs, who were ahead 3-1 after four games.
Alas, after sweeping Winnipeg in the second round and dusting off Vegas in six, Price and the Habs were soundly beaten by Tampa Bay in the Final, scoring just eight goals in their five games. But at least they gave Canada hope that they’d taste Cup champagne for the first time in nearly 30 years. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 30 to end this drought.
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