We recently sorted out our Yearbook predictions for 2014-15, which included projected standings and which team will win the Stanley Cup. Without giving it away, our anticipated winner has been to the promised land before. Which mathematically, should not be surprising. Only 12 of the NHL's 30 teams have never won the league title and it's hard to say who will be next. When the Los Angeles Kings won their first Cup in 2012, they broke a streak of futility that had stretched back to 1968 when the team originally entered the league. The following teams would like to join them:
Columbus Blue Jackets
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
*I probably shouldn't have to explain this, but the Senators are not the same Ottawa Senators that won Cups back in the 1920s - that franchise moved to St. Louis in 1935 before folding one season later and has no ties to the current incarnation. So the city of Ottawa has won a Cup, but not the NHL franchise. Cool? OK then…
Looking at the current state of these franchises, it would be easy to say that St. Louis and Minnesota are the next candidates to win, since both the Blues and Wild are well-built teams who will almost assuredly make the playoffs and have the potential to do damage.
On the other hand, both play in the Central, where they will have to go through not only each other, but the Chicago Blackhawks, just to get to the conference final. There, they will most likely face either Anaheim or Los Angeles (and if the Ducks have beaten the Kings to get there, watch out). It's a tall order.
Another way to look at this debate is through a long-term lens. Perhaps Buffalo, with its growing cadre of top prospects, will be the answer. After all, the Sabres may get another high pick in 2015, which could result in adding Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel to the roster. And if the Islanders fall apart, the Sabres will get two high picks in a loaded draft thanks to the Thomas Vanek trade. Remember: I didn't ask which franchise will break its Cup curse this year, I just said next.
It's very possible past winners such as L.A., Chicago, Tampa Bay, Boston or Montreal win the next few titles, but the Sabres get their first rings in 2019.
Many of the Cup-less teams are in the mushy middle right now. Columbus is on the upswing and San Jose is San Jose, but the others are either rebuilding or on the bubble to make the playoffs. In the past decade, four teams won their first titles – the Kings, Ducks, Hurricanes and Lightning. But it may be awhile before anybody joins them.