Toronto the black hole of hockey

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:32 PM ET

Original Stanley Cup success since 1967 - Number of Stanley Cups won, and Cup final appearances, by the Original Six teams since 1967:
CupsRunner-up
Montreal 10 1
Boston 2 5
Detroit 3 1
Rangers 1 2
Chicago 0 3
Toronto 0 0

The most optimistic news of all: No one is picking the Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup.

Which may mean, in today's world, they've got a shot.

No one picked the Carolina Hurricanes a year ago to win the Cup.

No one picked the Tampa Bay Lightning two years and one lockout ago to win the Cup.

So maybe, after all these years, it's indeed possible. Do I believe it to be? Absolutely not. But when a backup goaltender can win the Conn Smythe Trophy and when a team that used to be the Hartford Whalers can carry around the Cup, well, you just have to suspend belief.

You have to figure one of these years anything is possible ...

The very fact the Leafs haven't won a Cup since 1967, the season before the National Hockey League expanded to 12 teams from six, is reason to find frustration here in the so-called centre of the hockey universe.

We keep calling ourselves the centre of the hockey universe while troubling evidence indicates this is more like the black hole of hockey.

Never mind the Leafs haven't won a Cup since Johnny Bower was an old man: They haven't even played for one.

ASTOUNDING

And that by itself is simply astounding.

Of the six teams that entered the NHL in 1967-68, only four still exist in their original form. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have won twice. The St. Louis Blues have lost three times in the final. Even the Los Angeles Kings have played for the Cup.

Just not the Leafs.

Even the teams that moved around made it that far: Dallas, formerly the Minnesota North Stars, won a Cup. And the California Seals, morphed somewhat into that Minnesota team and Cleveland before heading to both Texas and San Jose.

That was the first expansion.

The next expansion brought the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres, who have not won the Cup, just played for it on three different occasions. Some people actually are picking the Sabres this year; not that, that helps their chances any.

Two years later, the NHL kept growing. Enter the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames. The Islanders won four Cups during the 1980s. The Flames moved to Calgary at the time the Islanders started winning, won the Cup in 1989, and should have won a few more.

Next up on the expansion list were Kansas City and Washington, lame-duck franchises if ever there were any. The Scouts moved from Kansas City to Denver and when Denver didn't want them anymore, they wound up off an exit ramp 15 minutes from Manhattan.

That lost franchise in New Jersey has won the championship three times. And the wayward Capitals, once setting records for futility, actually made it to the final once.

The Leafs, as they say on Jeopardy!, are just watching.

After that, the NHL and the World Hockey Association kind of merged. Four new teams entered the league. The Edmonton Oilers only won five Stanley Cups. The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver before winning their two and the Whalers moved from Hartford to Carolina before winning their only championship. Of this group, only the Winnipeg Jets turned Phoenix Coyotes have avoided any kind of success.

Even the new kids on their block -- the Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning -- have either won or played in the Stanley Cup final.

This is the 40th season without a Stanley Cup in Toronto, if you don't count appearances at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Paul Maurice is the 18th coach to give it the old college try. John Ferguson is either the ninth of 10th general manager to give it a try, if you're counting two stints by the late Punch Imlach and one by Mike Smith, which actually counted as Ken Dryden's time.

During the 39 seasons that have passed without celebration, Montreal has won 10 Cups, Detroit three, Boston two, even the New York Rangers won once. Only Chicago, from Original Six land, hasn't won in the post-expansion era, but had Tony Esposito not fanned on a Jacques Lemaire slapshot, they might have. At least the Blackhawks have been to the dance three times.

The Leafs still are waiting for someone to ask. They have been to the final four, against Montreal, against Los Angeles, against Vancouver twice, against Buffalo, against Carolina. They were favoured in at least three of those series. Didn't win any.

So maybe this is the year. They are favoured to do nothing.


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