The Buffalo Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup championship. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Anybody catch the remarks from former Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson Tuesday? After he was released by the Browns, Anderson ripped Cleveland fans in a scathing email.
“The fans are ruthless and don’t deserve a winner," Anderson wrote to the Willoughby News Herald.
Anderson got me wondering which NHL cities most deserve a Stanley Cup winner. Here’s my list – totally subjective, so back off and make your own! – from 30 (least deserving) through 1:
30. Miami: We can debate whether a poorly managed team led to awful attendance at Panthers games. But here’s what isn’t debatable – it’s South Freaking Florida. If you fail to win the Cup, Momma Nature helps you get over it rather easily.
29. Atlanta: The emergence of the NBA’s Hawks and NFL’s Falcons works against Atlanta in this ranking. And if the Thrashers ran the playoff table, would their Cup parade be held in two parking lots or one? My case is rested.
28. Tampa Bay: Claimed a Cup in 2004. Currently employ Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Sadness for their recent woes? Insert big red Family Feud ‘X’ here.
27. Raleigh: The Canes won it all in 2006 and have Eric Staal and Cam Ward (plus a high draft pick this summer) for the next decade. No bitching allowed, y’all.
26. Anaheim: Won a championship in 2007. Also have the SoCal factor working heavily against them.
25. Columbus: They’re most deserving of a playoff series win – OK, so they’re tied with Atlanta and Phoenix – but a Cup? Not yet.
24. Pittsburgh: Since 1991, the Penguins are averaging a championship every six seasons. Pittsburghers also get to watch Messrs. Crosby and Malkin during their prime. Any whining from now until 2015 will be construed as an affront to patience and gratitude.
23. Denver: The Avs have two Cups and four conference final appearances in the past 13 seasons. But despite the fact they’ve built an upstart team this year, they’re averaging 13,854 attendees per game. That’s the definition of spoiled.
22. Dallas: Stars fans are forever indebted to Karma for Brett Hull’s invisible foot trick against Buffalo in 1999. Until they get swindled, they’ll stay this low in future rankings.
21. Newark: A cavalcade of Hall of Famers and three Cups since 1995 – combined with crowds that rarely fill their building – means this area has been sufficiently blessed by the hockey gods.
20. Phoenix: Would be ranked near Columbus, but the protracted, tortuous battle over team ownership vaults poor Coyotes fans a few slots higher.
19. Nashville: See explanation for Phoenix; Nashville gets the nod because the Preds have been so well managed for so long.
18. Detroit: Four Cups in 12 seasons plus recent champs in baseball and basketball equals zero tears for Motown if the Wings lose.
17. New York City: Ended its 54-year Cup drought in 1994, but rapidly amassed sympathy by way of management’s subsequent hapless machinations.
16. Long Island: The pain of Islanders fans through the MILF (MIL for Milbury and F for Failure) Era only was exacerbated by the triumphs of the early 1980s dynasty.
15. Montreal: Sure, they won their last Cup a decade after the Isles did. But a championship for la belle province always will mean more than it will to the passionate, small base on Long Island.
14. Edmonton: Oilers fans have taken a flurry of symbolic punches to the crotch region since a Cup final appearance in 2006. However, the joy they experienced during the Gretzky/Messier era means they’ll need to take a few more before people outside Edmonton bemoan their present plight.
13. Calgary: If not for their championship run in 1989, the Flames would be much closer to the No. 1 slot on this list. Alas, that happened.
12. Boston: Domination of the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots hurts them. But 38 Cup-less years and a history of ownership tight-waddery ratchets up the sympathy factor for Bruins-lovers.
11. Philadelphia: Two Cups in 41 years is sub-par for an organization that’s had fairly consistent success in the regular season. They’d have more people on their side if management didn’t have a fetish for mid-tier goalies.
10. Ottawa: In their second NHL go-round, the Senators have given their fans more headaches than the dude who thought it wise to locate their arena in suburban Kanata. But all the teams still to come on this list have suffered for longer.
9. St. Louis: The Blues made the Cup final in their first three years of existence – losing to Montreal in 1968-69 and Boston in 1970 – yet made it as far as the conference championship twice after that. Many think St. Louis could be a hockey town again; I’d like to see what a Cup does for that argument.
8. Washington: The Caps didn’t earn a playoff spot their first eight years in the league. They’ve also had the worst team of all time – and before Alex Ovechkin arrived, Washington was a hockey wasteland with one Cup final appearance to its name. They’re due for some breaks.
7. Los Angeles: This is the Kings’ 42nd year in the NHL. They’ve missed the playoffs 18 times. Their players and fans wore this jersey without threat of physical harm. Yes, I’m typing this with tears in my eyes.
6. Toronto: The base of Leafs Nation wouldn’t be this far down the list if Torontonians didn’t blindly support any tacked-together roster ownership overpaid for. Still, nobody can deny a Cup victory would send Leafs fans into spasms of (businesslike) glee. And the rest of Canada would have another reason to hate Ontario’s capital city. Win-win for everybody!
5. San Jose: A classy organization from top to bottom, the Sharks benefit from a rabid fan base that’s been plagued by massive psychic trauma whenever they make the playoffs.
4. Chicago: The Hawks had no home games on TV for decades. That alone earns them enough sympathy to stake out the fourth spot.
3. Vancouver: The Canucks have qualified for the Cup final twice since 1971. Beyond that, they’ve missed the post-season 16 times and never made it to a conference final. The beauty of Vancouver makes up for that, but only so much.
2. Minneapolis: Survived the Norm Green Dictatorship that culminated in the North Stars’ relocation, only to be held hostage by Jacque Lemaire’s “Defense Uber Alles” philosophy for the first eight years of the Wild’s existence. And the Vikings are the Buffalo Bills of the mid-west. God bless Minnesotans for staying so polite.
1. Buffalo: New York’s “Queen City” has had more than its share of tough times inside and outside multiple sports theaters. The hockey gods crapped all over them in 1999. And the Sabres’ owner doesn’t look to be in it for the long haul. My fingers remain crossed for them until their ascent to hockey’s biggest peak is complete.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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