One of the unique elements of this year’s Stanley Cup Final was the presence of two teams that had never won the Cup before.
Behind terrific play from their star scorers and strong goaltending, the Washington Capitals checked their name off the inauspicious list of clubs without a championship. And they followed it up by partying like a team that had waited 44 years for a title.
So which team will be next? Let’s have a look at the chances for each team that hasn’t yet raised the Stanley Cup:
Debut season: 1998-99
Stanley Cup Final appearance: 2017
Why they could be next: Since the Predators acquired P.K. Subban, they have reached the Cup Final and the second round of the playoffs in two years. The former Norris Trophy winner is part of a supremely talented and deep group of defensemen who drive puck possession and shut down opponents’ top players. Overall, the Preds finished with the second best goals for percentage in the NHL in 2017-18.
While they did not go as far in the playoffs as Nashville fans hoped, Predators GM David Poile improved the forward group this year by adding a strong No. 2 center in Kyle Turris, who is under contract through 2025.
With improved depth, the Predators don’t have to rely entirely on their star forwards Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen to carry their offense. However, they certainly can handle the load when called upon. Forsberg produced 64 points in 67 games and was on the ice for 52 goals for and only 27 against last season.
With a complete top-to-bottom team and star players all in their primes, the window is wide open for Nashville to win the Cup.
Why it might take a while: This did not prove to be true about the Capitals, but sometimes when a great team misses its shot, it’s simply because other teams pass them. The Predators were defeated by the Jets, who have a young roster stacked with gifted offensive players. The Colorado Avalanche appear to be on the rise. Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid hasn’t yet entered his prime — and he’s already the second best player in the world (at worst). Vegas could be a contender for years to come. The competition will be stiff in the West.