The Vegas Golden Knights are on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals…the first expansion team ever to make it to the Finals in their first year in any sport…and if they win the Stanley Cup, they’ll continue a long tradition of former Blues players or coaches that have had their name engraved on the most cherished chalice in sports.
Former Blue Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal for Vegas in their series clinching win at Winnipeg on Sunday, and he will be joined by former St. Louis teammates David Perron and Brad Hunt. If the Knights play Tampa Bay in the Finals, there isn’t a Lightning player or coach that’s a former Blue, but coach Jon Cooper was right under the Blues’ nose as coach of the St. Louis Bandits from 2006-’08, a pair of seasons in which they won league championships. If Washington comes back and wins the eastern conference championship, they’ll feature extremely popular former Blue T.J. Oshie and one-time Blues first round pick Lars Eller.
This all started a long time ago. After the Blues let coach/G.M. Scotty Bowman walk following the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, and sent his successor as coach Al Arbour packing nearly three years later, disasters started popping up. Between 1973 and 1983, nine of the eleven Stanley Cup Champions were coached by those two Hall of Fame coaches. Bowman won with the Canadiens in 1973 and then ’76-’79, followed by Arbour winning four in a row with the Islanders between from 1980 through 1983. Blues fans got a bit of a reprieve from former Blues revenge for most of the rest of the 80’s, as it was only a former Blues PLAYER, Glen Sather, that coached Edmonton to four Stanley Cups in five years.
We started being assaulted by former Blues players in 1989. The Blues made the Brett Hull trade with Calgary knowing that sending Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley there would put the Flames over the top. Those two joined former Blues Hall of Famers Doug Gilmour and Joe Mullen, winger Mark Hunter and defenseman Ric Nattress to start a trend in winning Cups after leaving town. 21 of the last 27 Stanley Cup champs have featured at least one former Blue, including Hall of famers Gilmour, Mullen, Scott Stevens, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and Chris Pronger, and future Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville. Here’s the list…
’89 Flames: Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, Mark Hunter, Ric Nattress, Rob Ramage, Rick Wamsley.
’90 Oilers: Bruce Bell
’91 Penguins: Mullen, Gord Roberts
’92 Penguins: Coach Scotty Bowman, Mullen, Roberts
’93 Canadiens: Coach Jacques Demers, Todd Ewen, Ramage
’94 Rangers: None
’95 Devils: Scott Stevens
’96 Avalanche: None
’97 Red Wings: Bowman, Brendan Shanahan
’98 Red Wings: Bowman, Shanahan
’99 Stars: Tony Hrkac, Brett Hull, Guy Carbonneau, Doug Lidster
’00 Devils: Stevens
’01 Avalanche: None
’02 Red Wings: Bowman, Shanahan, Hull, Steve Duchesne
’03 Devils: Stevens
’04 Lightning: Darren Rumble, Cory Stillman
’05 No Stanley Cup
’06 Hurricanes: Rod Brind’Amour, Bret Hedican, Stillman, Doug Weight
’07 Ducks: Chris Pronger
’08 Red Wings: Dallas Drake, Chris Osgood
’09 Penguins: Bill Guerin
’10 Blackhawks: Coach Joel Quenneville
’11 Bruins: None
’12 Kings: None
‘13 Blackhawks: Quenneville, Michal Handzus, Jamal Mayers
’14 Kings: None
’15 Blackhawks: Quenneville, David Rundblad
’16 Penguins: Ian Cole, David Perron
’17 Penguins : Cole
Among Blues players or coaches that have played in the Finals and lost in that time, you have coaches Jacques Martin and Doug McLean, along with players Jeff Brown, Geoff Courtnall, Robert Dirk, Nathan Lafayette, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning, Dave Lowry, Phil Housley, Esa Tikkanen, Adam Oates, Dean McAmmond, Craig Conroy, Jamie McLennan and Roman Turek, among others.
With Vegas making it to the Finals, since the Blues last final, every franchise they came into the league with has won at least one Cup; Philly, Pittsburgh, L.A. and the Stars. And since the Blues last final, every team except Toronto, Winnipeg/Arizona, Atlanta/Winnipeg, Columbus and the Wild (the last 2 expansion teams before Vegas) has been to a Finals.
Will Blues fans ever get the chance to participate in such a spectacle? To join all those teams that came into the NHL with or after them? To join all those players that worked so desperately to bring a Cup to St. Louis? Man, I hope so. But there is a strong history of other people winning it all after they leave while we haven’t. Congratulations to Reaves, Perron and Hunt…and maybe Oshie and Eller too. But it sure sucks for Blues fans.