It’s the “Best Teams to Never Win a Championship” week on the SB Nation network. The Second City Hockey team selected the 2013-14 team as the best Blackhawks team to never win a Stanley Cup with honorable mention nods to three others.
The most obvious argument for the 2013-14 team being the best Blackhawks team to never win the Stanley Cup is the teams before and after it did hoist hockey’s holy grail and with largely similar rosters.
All the big names are here: Patrick Kane with a nice 69 points in 69 games, the third point-per-game season of his career (he’s had three more since) even though he missed the final 12 games of the season due to a leg injury. Patrick Sharp with 34 goals in 82 games, the final 30-goal season of his career. Jonathan Toews with 68 points in 76 games, Marian Hossa with a 30-30-60 season. On defense, the top four that guided Chicago to two if its recent three titles — Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya — are all on the roster. A blossoming Nick Leddy and veteran Michal Rozsival — before a gruesome ankle injury in the 2015 playoffs — comprised the third pairing.
Additional depth players include another blossoming youngster in Brandon Saad, the defensively responsible Marcus Kruger and the always energetic Andrew Shaw. Behind all of that in net was Corey Crawford, who was cementing his place as one of the game’s top goalies in the mid-2010s (whether it was recognized outside Chicago or not).
This team had 107 points in the regular season and then disposed of Central Division foes St. Louis and Minnesota to open the playoffs. Chicago ran into the only team capable of stopping it from a repeat as Cup champions: the Kings. For seven games, these two loaded teams provided some of the best hockey seen in years, with the sport played at a pace and skill level that remains in the conversation of best playoff series in League history. The exclamation mark came during the first overtime of Game 5, a dizzying eight-minute stretch where the teams exchanged scoring chances at frantic paces while the United Center crowd lived and died and lived and died again with every shot:
The fact it took a fluky bounce off Leddy’s back to decide the series in overtime in Game 7 is indicative of how close these two teams were. How the Kings dispatched the Rangers in five games in the Stanley Cup Final suggests the Blackhawks would’ve enjoyed a similar conclusion had they beat LA.
The 1966-67 Black Hawks team was loaded with talent, played at both ends of the ice and dominated the six-team NHL. They were 41-17-12 and finished atop the NHL for the first time in franchise history with a 17-point lead on Montreal, and led the League in multiple categories: points (94), wins (41), fewest losses (17), points percentage (.671), goals for (262), fewest goals against (170), power play percentage (21.98) and shorthanded goals (10).
Stan Mikita was the star of the team and the NHL, winning the Art Ross, Hart Memorial and Lady Byng trophies. His League-best 97 points (35 goals, 62 assists) tied the NHL record set by teammate Bobby Hull one season earlier. Hull scored an NHL-high 52 goals and his 80 points were second in the League to Mikita. Kenny Wharram was third in goals (31) and fourth in points (65).
In his final season in Chicago, Glenn Hall took the backup role behind Denis DeJordy. The duo won the Vezina Trophy, which at the time was awarded to the goalie tandem with the fewest goals against.
DeJordy: 22-12-7, .923 SV%, 2.46 GAA, four shutouts
Hall: 19-5-5, .922 SV%, 2.38 GAA, two shutouts
Despite being the top seed, Chicago played the third-seeded Maple Leafs in the first round and dropped the series 4-2. The Blackhawks struggled to stay out the penalty box and Toronto capitalized with six power play goals, including at least one in each of the first five games. The Maple Leafs met the Canadiens, who swept the Rangers in the semifinals, in the Cup Final and defeated Montreal in six games.
After back-to-back Western Conference Final appearances, the Blackhawks traded Denis Savard to Montreal for Chris Chelios and a second-round pick (Mike Pomichter), had three players retire (Al Secord, Bob Murray and Duane Sutter) and had rookie goaltender Ed Belfour in net. Steve Larmer and Jeremy Roenick, who each had 90-plus points and 40-plus goals, Chelios and Selke winner Dirk Graham helped the team win the Presidents’ Trophy with a 49-23-8 record and 106 points (.663 points percentage). The team had depth too with five 20-goal scorers and six players with 50-plus points.
And Belfour? He did pretty well, winning almost every trophy he could with the Calder as the League’s top rookie, Jennings for the fewest goals allowed and Vezina as the NHL’s best goalie.
Chicago also scored the most shorthanded goals (20) even though they logged the most penalty minutes per game (30.2). The Blackhawks had strong special team play as well with the second-ranked penalty kill and fourth-ranked power play.
The Blackhawks went 10-2-3, including a five-game winning streak, in March but had their Cup dreams dashed in six games to the Minnesota North Stars. Chicago had a 2-1 series lead before Jon Casey held the Blackhawks to only two goals the rest of the series.
The Blackhawks won the Western Conference in the regular season and came nine points short of the 118-point Capitals. Then the Blackhawks were swept by Nashville in the first round, meaning they beat the Lightning to the punch twice in the past five years.
It’s important to get the line of Artemiy Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on here somewhere, and it feels like the 2016-17 team was better than the 2015-16 group. Yes, the Blackhawks did get swept, in hindsight it was to a Predators team that disappointed in the regular season and then went on to the Cup Final. It was probably the worst matchup the Blackhawks could have had in the first round.
Plus, it was the last season of Hossa and Hjalmarsson in Chicago. Keith had six goals, there was strong goaltending from Crawford (.918 save percentage, two shutouts) and Scott Darling (.924 save percentage, two shutouts) and Richard Panik was a surprise contributor with 22 goals.
That team came up against a Nashville squad with one of the most stacked defenses of the past decade with an inability to transition effectively.
Agree or disagree? Is there another Blackhawks team you think should be in the conversation as the best to never win a Cup? Let us know in the comments.