Some players win a bunch of Cups during their careers, others go an entire career without playing a playoff game.
Every Friday the 13th, I think about what former NHLer Mikael Renberg must be doing. If his history is any indication, he’s likely in his home in Lulea hiding under a bunch of pillows.
Never in my time covering this game have I seen a guy who experienced so much bad luck. When Renberg was playing in Toronto, the late, great Pat Quinn used to joke that his nickname should have been Joe Btfsplk. (Look it up, kids.) One time he was tying his skate and cut his finger on the end of the lace. The finger became infected so badly that he almost had to have it amputated. Another time during the off-season, he was out on his boat and fell out the back, only to have the propeller on the boat motor slice open his chest.
But Renberg isn’t the only player in hockey history to have been dealt a less-than-perfect hand. So in deference to Friday the 13th, we present the NHL’s All-Time Hard-Luck Team.
Brian Lawton-Marcel Dionne-Mike Gartner
Lawton was a high school phenom in Rhode Island who was taken first overall in the 1984 draft ahead of the likes of Steve Yzerman, Pat LaFontaine, Tom Barrasso, Cam Neely and Claude Lemieux. Perhaps his career might have taken a different turn if the Minnesota North Stars had allowed him to go to college for a couple of years instead of rushing him into the NHL. Perhaps not.
Dionne sits sixth on the NHL’s all-time scoring list and never made it beyond the second round of the playoffs. Going into the 1971 draft, he and Guy Lafleur were the top two prospects and the Canadiens went with Lafleur. How would history have changed had they taken Dionne instead? Dionne actually had a far better individual career than Lafleur did and might have made the Canadiens even more dominant. Or perhaps he just wasn’t a prime-time player.
Gartner, another high-scoring Hall of Famer, was dealt by the New York Rangers to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline in 1994, robbing him of his only chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Brian Propp-Norm Ullman-Gerry Melnyk
All three players played in five Stanley Cup finals without winning a single title. Bruce MacGregor could also play on this line.
Taylor Hall-Guy Charron-Brett Lindros
Hall has been one of the league’s top left wingers and is an analytics darling, but you have to wonder when he’s going to play his first playoff game. He’s stuck in New Jersey, having been dealt from Edmonton just when the Oilers appear to have turned the corner.
Charron played 734 NHL games without ever appearing in a single playoff game. To make matters worse, 36 years ago today, he was dealt from the Montreal Canadiens to the Detroit Red Wings along with Mickey Redmond and Bill Collins for Frank Mahovlich, who was a vital cog in the Canadiens’ 1971 Stanley Cup team.
When Lindros was drafted ninth overall in 1994, he looked like he’d be a dominant power forward in the NHL, even though his junior career was plagued by injuries. He was one of the last cuts of the Canadian team that won the 1995 World Junior Championship. His NHL career lasted just 51 games before being cut short by concussions.
Patrik Stefan-Jimmy Carson-Mikael Renberg
Arguably the biggest No. 1 bust of all-time, Stefan bottomed out when he missed an open net from five feet out for the Dallas Stars, only for the Edmonton Oilers to come back and score to tie the game before winning in overtime.
Carson scored 92 goals in his first two seasons for the Los Angeles Kings, then was dealt to Edmonton in the Wayne Gretzky trade. After playing just four games for the Oilers in 1989-90, he demanded a trade and was dealt to Detroit. The Oilers went on the win the Cup that year.
Renberg missed just two games his first two seasons in the NHL, then missed major chunks of the next seven before being forced to retire because of a hip injury that dogged him for years.
Ron Hainsey-Bill Mikkelson
Hainsey has played 876 games without playing a single playoff game. If Hainsey plays the rest of the games this season and the Hurricanes don’t make the post-season, then he plays all 82 next season, he’ll have played 999 games without appearing in the playoffs.
Mikkelson, a journeyman who was taken by the New York Islanders in the 1972 expansion draft and by the Washington Capitals two years later, is best known for posting the worst plus-minus in league history, minus-82 with the 1974-75 Capitals, despite appearing in only 59 games.
Gord Kluzak-Teppo Numminen
In his first four years in the league, Kluzak was rounding into the player the Bruins were expecting when they took him first overall in 1982. But knee injuries limited him to just 13 games the next three seasons before he was forced to retire.
Numminen is the best NHL defenseman Finland has ever produced, but he made it out of the first round of the playoffs only twice, late in his career with the Buffalo Sabres. In three Olympics, his team lost twice in the gold medal game and he also won a bronze. He played 1,372 games without winning a Stanley Cup.
Dale Rolfe-Greg Joly
Rolfe toiled in the minors until expansion gave him an NHL career, but he never won a Stanley Cup. But his real turn of bad luck was when he decided to choose Dave Schultz as a dance partner in a 1974 playoff series and received this beating, which is considered one of the worst in NHL history.
After leading the Regina Pats to the Memorial Cup, Joly became the Capitals first-ever draft pick, going first overall in 1974. But he never lived up to expectation and never played a playoff game in the NHL.
Ron Hextall-Curtis Joseph
Hextall won the Vezina and Conn Smythe in his first year after leading the Philadelphia Flyers to within one game of the Stanley Cup. And while he had a very good NHL career, he was never able to recapture that form, either on an individual or team basis.
Joseph was heroic for a lot of mediocre teams in Edmonton before signing with Toronto in 1998, where he was a major reason why the Leafs made two Eastern Conference finals. In 2002, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings, who were coming off two straight Stanley Cups and that triggered a downward spiral in his career. He was run out of Detroit and bounced around a few more years before retiring.