Puckheads like to brag that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in the four major North American pro team sports. Let us explain.
Because the NHL features two seasons in one — the more finesse regular season followed by the more intense and physical playoffs — participants have to be twice as good and lucky to survive both. No league has less of a home advantage. No sport has more random bounces. Only the NBA has as many as 16 postseason teams. And no sport is more physical with a higher attrition rate than the NHL. Sorry, NFL, you’re a close second.
All of these factors are conducive to skewed results in the NHL postseason, where intangibles such as grit and puck luck can neutralize sheer talent. In the NBA, major upsets happen about as often as Don Cherry wears a navy blue shirt. On the ice, they happen all the time. And the more upsets there are, the more really good teams are on the wrong side of the handshake line.
Some great NHL teams never get to hoist the Stanley Cup. These are the best of the worst underachieving teams in NHL history.
Note: The rankings are based on points total, goal differential, Simple Rating System (a combination of average goal differential and strength of schedule, per Hockey Reference), the eye test and whatever the heck else we feel is pertinent.