The Vegas Golden Knights just pulled off one of the most incredible seasons and Cinderella runs of any team, in any sport, ever. Fresh into the league as an expansion baby, they cruised to the top of the NHL standings early on, and rode the wave all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They eventually lost to the somewhat inverse Washington Capitals, who came into the league with a historically-low 8 win season 46 years ago, and followed that with decades of heartbreak, oh-so-close chokes, and no Stanley Cups to show for it.
A justified ending some would say, as we watch Ovi and Friends’ bender stretch to 5 days and counting. But don’t worry folks, the Golden Knights will be back next year! They have to, right? They were so close!
Not so fast.
While the Vegas Golden Knights were definitely unique for many reasons, their role as a Cinderella story team is not. Since 1990 there have been 13 bonafide “Cinderella runs” to the Cup that have not resulted in a Cup win. Two of the teams got back 4 years later, one got back 8 years later as a completely different team, three of them took over 15 years to get back, and that leaves seven teams that have still never returned.
You can see my full list here (obviously what constitutes a cinderella run is technically subjective, but if you disagree, you can fight me):
1991 – Minnesota North Stars – Back in 1999 (As the Dallas Stars)
1993 – Los Angeles Kings – Back in 2012
1994 – Vancouver Canucks – Back in 2011
1996 – Florida Panthers – Never back
1998 – Washington Capitals – Back in 2018
1999 – Buffalo Sabres – Never back
2002 – Carolina Hurricanes – Back in 2006
2003 – Anaheim Ducks -Back in 2007
2004 – Calgary Flames – Never back
2006 – Edmonton Oilers – Never back
2007 – Ottawa Senators – Never back
2010 – Philadelphia Flyers – Never back
2012 – New Jersey Devils – Never back
The problem is, the Stanley Cup is so hard to win! It’s not like other leagues like say, the NBA, where you get 4 years in a row against the same team to prove your worth. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals once, don’t hold your breath about getting back the next year, no matter how good you are. Since 1990, there has only been 7 teams to make it to the finals two years in a row (out of 56). You not only need to be an incredible hockey team, but you also need all the bounces to go your way, stay healthy, get the right calls at the right time, etc.
All I’m saying is, sorry Golden Knights fans (and all you bandwagoners too), but don’t expect another run like that any time soon.
That doesn’t mean it CAN’T happen though. As I’ve learned this season, it’s always better when I don’t try to predict what the Golden Knights do (because I’m wrong every single goddamn time). This team is an anomaly by nature, and does have a great foundation compared to all of the other teams on the list above.
This squad still has Gerard Gallant behind the bench, probably the fastest team in the league, a shit-ton of cap room, and something like 50 draft picks in the next 3 years. They could trade for Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson, sign John Tavares for a maximum deal, and still sign William Karlsson and others to extensions, all without trading a single player from their roster. Sounds pretty great.
But a season can be a lot harder when you go from an underdog to one with a target on your back, where teams circle you on the calendar and bring their ‘A’ game to try and beat you. Who knows what a season with a boatload of pressure will bring this young squad.
There is a million directions this team can go. So, since their fans are all new to this thing, I figured I would give them a heads up about how this NHL thing works: don’t expect everything to go your way again next year. It’s harder than it looks.
And hey, maybe it will be good for you to experience a bit of pain before you win it all anyways.