NHL playoffs: Traditional powers fall by the wayside in Round 1
After some giants were toppled in Round 1, whoever wins the Stanley Cup will be doing so for a fanbase that hasn't seen a title in a long time, if ever.
While there's been plenty of parity in the NHL in recent years, Stanley Cup victories have been hoarded by a select few teams.
The last 14 titles have been won by just seven franchises, with four squads winning it multiple times. Through just one round of this year's playoffs, however, it's already apparent that a team who hasn't broken through recently (or ever) will put their names on the Cup this spring.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's run of Cup-final appearances is over. The defending champion Colorado Avalanche have been upset by the expansion Seattle Kraken. The Pittsburgh Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby arrived, and the Washington Capitals fell short for the second time since Alex Ovechkin's first scoring title in 2007-08. The Chicago Blackhawks' dynasty is long over, and the Los Angeles Kings haven't been able to recapture the magic of their Cup runs of the early-to-mid 2010s.
All of the teams who have defined the NHL postseason is this era have stepped aside.
Now it's time for some new squads to grab the spotlight, and not one of them has a title to its name since 2005-06.
This group can be neatly divided into three categories: teams that haven't won in a while, teams that haven't won in a generation, and teams that have never won.
Haven't won in a while
The Hurricanes have won most recently in this group, and the team's consistency in recent seasons is commendable. Carolina has escaped the first round in five straight seasons and earned three consecutive division titles.
It's fair to call this team an Eastern Conference powerhouse, but the results in the playoffs have been more solid than spectacular. This era has been an undeniable success for the Hurricanes, but without a title it could easily be forgotten in the years to come.
Carolina is beaten up, but it'll have home-ice advantage from here on out.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils faded into obscurity by making just one playoff appearance between 2012-13 and 2021-22, but and this fanbase hasn't sniffed a title since 2002-03.
Because New Jersey's young core is just getting started, there doesn't seem to be as much urgency here as there is for some other teams.
That said, this is as wide-open a field as New Jersey will see for the foreseeable future, and there's no team that stands head-and-shoulders above them from a talent standpoint.
Haven't won in a generation
You can split hairs about how you want to define a generation, but the team's two best skaters — Jason Robertson and Miro Heiskanen — weren't born when Brett Hull's controversial goal won the Cup in 1998-99.
Dallas has had plenty of playoff success since then with two other trips to the Stanley Cup Final, but the Stars have come up short.
While this team has plenty of young talent it's also carrying a number of veterans like Joe Pavelski, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin who might see this as their last best chance to contribute to a Stanley Cup win.
Midseason acquisition Mattias Ekholm was born the day the Oilers last won the Cup in 1990. Only two players on the roster were born before then — grinders Derek Ryan and Brad Malone.
As long as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on this team there will be some level of confidence that a championship is coming Edmonton's way sooner or later. At the same time, we're eight years into McDavid's career and it hasn't happened yet.
It's safe to say Oilers fans have suffered plenty in recent years, but their squad has as good a chance of winning the Cup as anyone at this point.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Until this team wins a Stanley Cup, that's a number that will be constantly used as a punchline against the Maple Leafs. Toronto has conquered one demon, but a far more daunting one remains.
For what it's worth, this team is currently the betting favourite to win the title, but betting against the Maple Leafs has been far more profitable than betting on them in recent playoff history.
Have never won
Between their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996-97 and 2020-21, this team didn't win a single playoff series and missed the postseason in 18 of 24 campaigns. The Panthers have been speed bumps on the way to two Lightning titles in recent years, but have boasted teams that looked capable of making a run.
Although Florida is one of the NHL's newer teams, failing to win the title since 1993-94 is a notable drought. They don't stand out in a league featuring plenty of notable droughts, but if you've been a diehard fan of the Panthers since Day 1 it's been a tough go.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have been among the NHL's top teams since entering the league in 2017-18. They've won at least one round in four of their six seasons and have made two Stanley Cup Finals.
A championship this season would help solidify Vegas' legacy as one of the best franchises in NHL history at hitting the ground running.
What a ride it's been already for this fanbase, who sat through one rough season before immediately seeing Seattle upset the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 7 of the franchise's first-ever playoff series.
This team belongs in the group in the most literal sense, but spiritually they are in a different category.
That said, an out-of-nowhere Cup win in the Kraken's second season would be immensely valuable for a new team establishing a following.