The Stanley Cup is one of the most coveted trophies in sports. While no player can get their name on the trophy without contributing to a championship team, these are the players most deserving of a Stanley Cup.
Players Deserving of Stanley Cup
At 40-years-old, Joe Thornton is the second-oldest player in the NHL. He’s the oldest active player in the league without his name on the Stanley Cup despite accomplishing nearly every other achievement in hockey.
Thornton is a six-time All-Star, an Art Ross Trophy winner and a Hart Memorial Trophy winner. After being drafted first overall in 1997 by the Boston Bruins, Thornton reached the playoffs five times in his first seven seasons.
In 2005, Thornton was traded to his current team, the San Jose Sharks. With the Sharks, Thornton has made the playoffs in 13 of his 14 full seasons. He reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first and only time in 2016, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
His 1,636 games played are ninth-most all-time and 179 playoff games played are third among active players. While Thornton has only played in the Stanley Cup Final one time, he’s made the playoffs 18 times in his career.
To make matters worse, Thornton watched his former team win the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the help of two players (Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference) directly related to the Thornton trade.
It’s no secret that Thornton is still trying to capture a Stanley Cup. “As you get older you realize you only have so many shots at this thing,” Thornton said after not being traded to a contender at this year’s trade deadline. “And it would have been nice to have a chance. … I wanted a shot. I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years.”
The New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist is still searching for his first Stanley Cup. The five-time All-Star and Vezina Trophy winner has accomplished it all between the pipes.
Lundqvist has been the face of the Rangers franchise since he came into the league in 2005. He’s the only goalie to win 30 games in 11 of their first 12 seasons and had 30+ wins in each of his first seven seasons.
His 459 wins are sixth all-time and second among active goalies. It’s also the most wins by a European born goaltender. He’s spent his entire career with the Rangers, making the postseason in 12 of his 15 seasons. He’s reached the Eastern Conference Finals three times and led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 2014, ultimately losing in five games.
Lundqvist has been the gold standard for goalies during his era. While his time in New York may be coming to an end soon, his career may have to take a much different path in order to get his name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captain, Steven Stamkos, has had an incredible career to this point. In 12 seasons, he’s a six-time All-Star and a two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner.
During the 2011-12 season, Stamkos became the 20th player in history to score 60 goals in one season.
Stamkos has reached the postseason six times in his career with four trips to the conference finals. He helped bring the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2015 where they would be swept by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Stamkos has 832 points in 803 career games played and has had to overcome major injuries to do so. Since 2011, Stamkos has dealt with a broken nose, a broken tibia, thoracic outlet syndrome, a torn meniscus and surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
Stamkos has dealt with major injuries and continues to come back as strong as before. He helped the Lightning win the President’s Trophy during the 2018-19 season and has been an outstanding leader in every season.
Stamkos has performed at the highest level despite dealing with a multitude of injuries and postseason heartbreaks. If he can raise the Stanley Cup one day it will be well deserved.
Much like Thornton, Patrick Marleau is a 40-year-old who spent the bulk of his career in San Jose and is still chasing his first Stanley Cup.
Marleau has been a class act during his 22-year-career. He spent the first 20 years in San Jose, reaching the postseason 19 times. Like Thornton, his lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance came in 2016.
Marleau’s 1,723 games played is the most among active players and is the most games played in NHL history by a player that has not won the Stanley Cup. His 191 postseason games played are the most among active players and he’s reached the playoffs in 21 of 22 seasons.
After 20 years in San Jose, Marleau spent two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and is currently playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s a three-time All-Star and had appeared in all 82 games for 11 seasons.
His active ironman streak of 854 consecutive games played is fifth-most all-time. Marleau has been the model of consistency and has had plenty of chances at a Stanley Cup. He’s fallen short every time but he finds himself on a team that has won three titles in 11 years. Marleau doesn’t have much time left but he’s deserving of a Stanley Cup.
The last player deserving of a Stanley Cup is David Backes. The first half of his career was successful and triumphant. The second half has been anything but that.
Backes entered the league with the St. Louis Blues in 2006 and quickly became a strong player. He scored 31 goals during the 2008-09 season and made the 2011 NHL All-Star game. Backes was named captain of the Blues before the start of the 2011-12 season.
After 10 seasons with the Blues, Backes signed with the Bruins in 2016. While in St. Louis, Backes made the playoffs in six of his 10 seasons — reaching the Western Conference Finals once. St. Louis had not reached a Stanley Cup since 1970 when Backes left for Boston.
Backes’ tenure in Boston began well, scoring 17 goals and 21 assists in his first season with the team. However, he dealt with major injuries that plagued him. Between injuries and a deep and talented Boston team, Backes got phased out of the lineup.
With Backes fighting to earn a spot in the Bruins lineup, both the Bruins and Blues met in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. For Backes, the grass was not greener on the other side. As a healthy scratch, Backes had to watch his former team beat his current team in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Backes has dealt with major injuries in his career and has seen his career take a downward turn. Despite being a shell of the player he once was, he’s never complained and has been an outstanding person both on and off the ice.
Now a member of the Anaheim Ducks, if Backes ever gets to lift the Stanley Cup, it will certainly be a well deserved and emotional moment.