It’s almost a given that whoever makes the Stanley Cup Final (the Lightning and Canadiens most recently) will be in the playoffs the next season. There have been a few exceptions. For example, the Los Angeles Kings failing to make the playoffs in 2015 a season after winning the cup.
Now a slight pattern might be emerging. After making the Stanley Cup final in 2020, the Dallas Stars would miss the 2021 NHL playoffs. After making the Stanley Cup final in 2021, the Montreal Canadiens are all but certain to miss the playoffs this year.
While the Stars missed the playoffs they finished with a record of 23-19-4, four points out of a playoff spot. The Montreal Canadiens currently sit at 8-25-5. The last time a Stanley Cup finalist finished under .500 the season after was back in 2006-2007 when the reigning Western Conference Champion Edmonton Oilers finished 32-43-7.
For the second straight year the Stanley Cup loser, this time the Canadiens, will miss the playoffs. Is this a new trend, or just two years of bad luck?
Actually, the 2006 cup final in itself can be seen as a major fluke. Neither the cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes nor Oilers would make the playoffs the year before or after. One year removed from the 2004-2005 NHL lockout and the first season under the salary cap, it was a major year of adjustment for the entire league.
It might be too early to tell, but could we see a pattern starting of those at the losing end of the cup final missing out entirely the next season? Of course, Dallas and Montreal were in two completely different situations. Everything from the 2020 NHL playoffs will forever have an asterisk next to it because of the NHL Bubble. It also didn’t help Dallas that they were without star forward Tyler Seguin for most of the following season.
Still, Dallas was close to the playoffs, and a frequent visitor to the NHL postseason. Montreal went on a completely unscripted playoff run that started with them having the worst record out of any playoff team that year.
They were immensely helped by the temporarily restructured divisions that prevented cross-border travel until the semi-finals (remember, they weren’t “conference finals” last season) where a Canadian team was all but gifted a trip to the second to last playoff round.
Montreal has had their share of bad luck afterwards. Goaltender Carey Price, a major part of the cup finalist team, has yet to play this season and defenseman Shea Weber has all but retired. Forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was also signed via offer sheet to the Hurricanes in the off season as well.
It’s not surprising that Montreal is missing the playoffs with everything considered, but having a .280 points percentage at the halfway point is terrible. To put that in perspective, the 2016-2017 Colorado Avalanche that only won 22 games had a 0.293 points percentage.
We’ll have to wait until the end of next season to see if third times the charm. Will this year’s losing cup finalist break the trend, or will they be watching from home like the Stars and Canadiens had to? It just goes to show that anything can happen in playoff hockey.