|The Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup for|
the first time in franchise history.
The Kings, joined the National Hockey League back in 1967, along with five other teams. This was the league first major expansion and would be the start of many more to come over the next several decades. The downside for cities which already had teams in the NHL was the increased competition, and with that came a lower chance of success. Although the Kings managed to break their drought, which lasted nearly half a century, there are two more droughts dating back to that same season where the NHL expanded from six to twelve teams.
The St. Louis Blues, who also entered the league in 1967 alongside the Kings, have never won a Stanley Cup. Upon entering the league the Blues went on to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in each of their first three seasons. A seemingly good start for the Blues, except for the fact that all three years they were swept in the finals. Since then, the Blues have never made it to the final series of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have only made it to the final four teams three times since.
Things went downhill for the Blues following a second round elimination in 2002 as they would only make the playoffs in three of the next eight seasons. All three of those playoff births were short lived as the Blues were eliminated in the first round each time, only winning four of the 16 combined games. But as we've seen with several teams in the league, including the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, what goes down must come up. The league is designed so that the teams that struggle the most in the season will have the best opportunity to build their team in the off-season. Both the Penguins and Blackhawks struggled for many years before acquiring and developing their core group that would eventually lead each team to a Stanley Cup Championship. So that being said, over the last decade the Blues had drafted many players in the top half of the draft, including two top five picks. So for all the Blues fans with their heads to the ground, this past season was a wake up call. The Blues won their first playoff series in a decade and that might just be the start of things to come as they develop their young talent.
Now, looking towards a team that is also in the fourth decade of their Stanley Cup drought, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since their last Cup victory in 1967, the Leafs have never made it to the finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Over the next fourty years following the expansion, Toronto would make it to the final four a handful of times, but never past that. Things began to look up hill in the 90's as Doug Gilmour would lead the Leafs to back-to-back Conference finals in 1993 and 1994 but with no further success. Shortly after that, Mats Sundin would lead the Leafs to the Conference finals in 1999 and in 2002 but once again that would be as far as the Leafs would get. Following the NHL lock-out in 2004, the Leafs are yet to make the playoffs. They are the only NHL franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in that period of time. Much like the Blues, the Leafs looked like they may be turning things around this season as they had a great start to the season and maintained marginal success until just about the half-way point of the season where they would free fall to the basement of the standings.
So, which of these two teams will break their drought and hoist Lord Stanley's Cup first? Only time will tell...
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