The St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup after a 51-year wait. Are the Vancouver Canucks next in line to end their only championship drought?
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of Vancouver Canucks fans were rejoicing as they watched the St. Louis Blues defeat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday, capturing their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Eight years after the Bruins dashed Vancouver’s Stanley Cup dreams with a 4-0 Game 7 victory at Rogers Arena, Boston was now on the wrong end of a winner-take-all contest on home ice. Indeed, the Blues earned the love and respect of many on the west coast after winning their first Stanley Cup.
Now that the Blues have won it all after a 51-year wait, the Canucks are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the second-longest drought at 48 years. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have a longer drought at 52 years.
The Blues’ improbable championship journey comes a year after the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup — ending a 43-year drought. So if this trend continues, we’ll see more teams take themselves off the list of clubs that haven’t won a Cup in over four decades.
Between the Canucks, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes, do Elias Pettersson and company stand the best chance to end their drought next? Or will we slowly and gradually watch other teams knock themselves off that elusive list before the Canucks?
Well, the Canucks have an excellent young core in place. Pettersson and Bo Horvat will center the top two lines over the next decade. Brock Boeser has the makings to be a perennial 30-goal scorer. Quinn Hughes will anchor the blue line.
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At this point, I’d definitely say the Canucks will win before the Sabres — a dysfunctional team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011. They haven’t been able to build around the talents of Jack Eichel, and they’re changing coaches every couple of years. The culture there has to change before I can take them seriously.
The Coyotes last made the postseason in 2017, and like the Sabres, they’ve stockpiled on high draft picks and promising prospects over the years. But it hasn’t amounted to anything. They wasted Dylan Strome, who has become a stud with the Chicago Blackhawks. There is never stable ownership there, so the Coyotes have been forced to be conservative with their budget. They don’t attract top free agents. I just don’t see this team changing its ways any time soon.
The Flyers have a good mix of veteran and young talent. With Claude Giroux, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and rising superstar goalie Carter Hart leading the way, Philadelphia has most of the pieces in place to win a Cup. But they’re going to have to win it soon while Giroux (31) James van Riemsdyk (30) and Jakub Voracek (30 in August) remain in their primes.
I’d give Vancouver a slight edge for Philly, simply because the likes of Boeser, Hughes, Pettersson and Horvat have more upside than the Flyers’ young players. And so, that leaves us with the Canucks and the Maple Leafs.
There are a lot of Leafs haters who like to play the “they’ll never win anything again” card. But really, it’s hard to say that when Toronto has an excellent young core centered around three All-Star forwards in Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
On top of that, blueliner Morgan Rielly broke out with 20 goals and 72 points for the Maple Leafs this season. Toronto also has a strong group of secondary scorers in Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.
There isn’t much denying that the Maple Leafs have a deeper, better and more skilled team than Vancouver. But they also reside in a brutal Atlantic Division that features the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins — a team the Leafs haven’t been able to solve. Not only that, but the Maple Leafs are going to be hit hard by salary cap issues down the road.
But it might only be a matter of time until Matthews, Marner and co. finally break through in Toronto. They have most of the pieces in place to win a Stanley Cup — whereas the Canucks need more 20-goal scorers and a couple of legitimate top-four blueliners.
So until the Canucks can follow the Leafs’ blue print of finding the right group of role players to complement their superstars, it’s hard to see them ending a drought before Toronto. That said, it’s realistic to believe this Vancouver team can end its Cup drought by 2022 or 2023.
General manager Jim Benning has lots of time until then to build around his young core, but for now, my guess is that the Leafs end their drought before the Canucks and the other teams who haven’t won in 40-plus years.