Alex Ovechkin has been under the spotlight for the past week, following the premature end to the Washington Capitals’ dominant season at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s been criticized for a lack of production at key moments and an inability to lead the Capitals to a deep playoff run, and took further heat for his decision to head to Russia right away for the World Championship.
Not everyone agrees, with plenty of voices defending Ovechkin’s track record. But the fact remains: 11 years into his NHL career, Ovechkin has racked up record-breaking numbers and plenty of individual awards, but no Stanley Cup.
So it may be worth remembering that still leaves him in pretty good company. Plenty of legendary NHLers never won it all, with names like Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perrault and Darryl Sittler failing to earn a ring. But there have also been plenty of superstars who did get their Cup, but had to wait for it. And in some cases, they waited a lot longer than Ovechkin has.
So today, let’s offer up some hope to Ovechkin (not to mention guys like Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton and the Sedins) by remembering five legendary players who took until at least their 12th season to finally get their hands on a Stanley Cup.
The long wait: Probably the first name that came to your mind when you saw this list, Bourque’s drought lasted a stunning 21 years, during which he captured the Norris Trophy five times and was a first-team all-star 12 times. Despite being the generation’s best defenseman, he debuted in the 1970s and made it to the turn of the century without earning a ring.
Worst near-miss: The Bruins made the final twice during Bourque’s career, in 1988 and 1990. But both times, they ran into the Edmonton Oilers, and they only managed to win one game between the two series. (They also managed to become the only team in final history to be swept in five games, thanks to a Boston Garden power failure that forced the suspension of a game in 1988.)
How it finally ended: The good news for Ovechkin is that Bourque finally did get his Cup. The bad news for Caps fans is that it took a trade for it to happen. The Bruins dealt Bourque (at his request), sending him to Colorado at the trade deadline in 2000. The Avs didn’t win it all that year, but Bourque returned for one final run, and finally got his Cup in 2001, becoming the most iconic OGWAC story of all-time and leading to this moment that still makes you cry a little bit.
The long wait: Hasek’s career was all about waiting. He didn’t make the NHL until he was 25, and didn’t become a fulltime starter until he was 28. But from there he quickly established himself as the league’s very best, winning the Vezina six times in eight years. But with the Sabres declining and a big option year payday looming, Hasek’s time in Buffalo came to an end in 2001 without a title.
Worst near-miss: Well, there was this…
How it finally ended: It’s easy to forget now, but the trade that sent Hasek to Detroit was an odd one at the time. The Red Wings already had Chris Osgood, who’d won two Cups for them. But Hasek represented a clear upgrade, so they made the move, and it paid off. They won the Cup, Hasek got his ring, and then retired. It was a storybook ending.
(Then he came back a year later, shivving Curtis Joseph and eventually teaming with a returning Osgood to win a second Cup in 2008. Look, it was Dominik Hasek, the storybook was always going to be a weird one.)