While not the category the below five captains intended to be a part of, each did everything in their power to hoist the Stanley Cup, ultimately falling agonizingly short of their ultimate goal.
NHL odds have the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers among the top five favorites to win the 2022-23 Stanley Cup. However, like the players listed below, neither captain (Auston Matthews and Aleksander Barkov) has won a Stanley Cup.
Time, however, is on the side of both players.
Matthews is only 24, while Barkov, at 26, is two years his elder. So in terms of NHL betting, you have to fancy both players’ chances of winning a Stanley Cup at some point during their careers.
The five consummate professionals and ultimate leaders below weren’t so lucky and never had the opportunity to take a sip from hockey’s top prize.
5. Paul Kariya – 1994 – 2010
Number of Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 1 (2002-03)
Seasons as Captain: 1996-2003 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Career Stats: 402 goals, 587 assists, 989 points, 989 games played
Number of Teams: 4 (Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville, St. Louis)
With their first-ever draft selection, the Anaheim Ducks (at the time the Mighty Ducks) in the 2003 NHL Draft chose Paul Kariya as the No. 4 pick. The diminutive American almost immediately lived up to expectations, scoring 39 points in his first 47 games.
A finalist for the Calder Trophy, Kariya enjoyed his best season in 1994-95, when he netted 99 points in just 69 games.
Kariya captained Anaheim for seven seasons and led them to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Hampered severely by repeat concussions, Kariya spent his final six years in Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis.
The American was an instrumental part of the Mighty Ducks in the franchise’s early years and managed a point per game despite suffering six concussions. He officially retired in 2011.
4. Jarome Iginla – 1996 – 2017
Number of Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 1 (2003-04)
Seasons as Captain: 2003-2013 with the Calgary Flames
Career Stats: 625 goals, 675 assists, 1,300 points, 1,554 games played
Number of Teams: 5 (Calgary, Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado, Los Angeles)
Jarome Iginla made a splash in his first NHL game, a postseason contest in 1995-96 that saw him notch an assist against the Chicago Blackhawks. He followed that debut appearance with a goal in the next game. Two points in as many playoff games as an 18-year-old was a sign of things to come from the industrious power forward.
Iginla ironically didn’t get the chance to partake in another playoff game for eight years.
The next time he strapped on the skates for a playoff encounter, in 2003-04, the Flames advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fittingly, Iginla was named Flames’ captain before the start of that season.
Under Iginla’s leadership and after the heartbreaking loss to the Lightning in 2004, the Flames qualified for four straight playoffs. Unfortunately, that infamous loss to Tampa Bay marked the only time Iginla made it past the first round as a member of the Calgary Flames.
His playoff disappointment in Calgary certainly wasn’t due to individual shortcomings or misgivings. On the contrary, Iginla was not only the heart and soul of the team, but the best offensive player for the duration of his time in Calgary.
He won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goalscorer twice (2001-02, 2003-04) and the Art Ross once in 2001-02.
Searching for an elusive Stanley Cup ring, Iginla went to Pittsburgh in 2012-13. Then, after being ousted in the Eastern Conference Final, he moved to Boston for another, eventually failing, shot at glory. Subsequent tenures in Colorado and Los Angeles, the latter a fleeting 19 games, also failed to produce a Stanley Cup.
3. Mats Sundin 1990 – 2009
Number of Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 0
Seasons as Captain: 1997-2008 with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Career Stats: 564 goals, 785 assists, 1,349 points, 1,346 games played
Number of Teams: 3 (Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver)
Mats Sundin is a name synonymous with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1990s and early 2000s. After four seasons with the Quebec Nordiques began his illustrious career, Sundin arrived in Toronto for the 1994-95 season.
Sundin led the Maple Leafs to the playoffs in eight of his first 10 seasons, two of which – 1998-99 and 2001-02 – resulted in Eastern Conference Final defeats. Those Eastern Conference Final losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes represented the furthest Sundin advanced in an otherwise illustrious career.
He scored just over a point per game, finishing his career with 1,349 points in 1,346 contests. Sundin played 41 games with the Canucks in 2008-09 before hanging up his skates permanently.
2. Henrik Sedin 2000 – 2018
Number of Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 1 (2010-11)
Seasons as Captain: 2010-2018 with the Vancouver Canucks
Career Stats: 240 goals, 830 assists, 1,070 points, 1,330 games played
Number of Teams: 1 (Vancouver)
Henrik Sedin was selected by the Vancouver Canucks as the No. 3 pick in the 1999 NHL Draft, a single pick behind brother Daniel. The Sedin twins became lionized figures in Vancouver, pole vaulting the Canucks to Cup contenders.
After four straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the Canucks were immediately galvanized upon the twins’ arrival.
They led Vancouver to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. The Canucks made the playoffs in 11 of the Swede’s first 14 seasons in Vancouver, a metric that headlines Henrik and Daniel’s influence on the franchise.
Henrik was named captain in 2010-11, the same season Vancouver lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup Final. The assist artist, who had 830 helpers in 1,330 games, regularly provided for his brother and fell one victory short of securing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Maybe most impressive was Henrik’s unwavering loyalty to Vancouver, a city and franchise to which he devoted his entire career.
1. Daniel Alfredsson 1995 – 2014
Number of Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 1 (2006-07)
Seasons as Captain: 1999-2013 with the Ottawa Senators
Career Stats: 444 goals, 713 assists, 1,157 points, 1,246 games played
Number of Teams: 2 (Ottawa and Detroit)
A few factors secured Daniel Alfredsson’s spot atop this list.
First, he was drafted 133rd overall by the Senators in 1994. Imagine that. The franchise’s best player by a country mile was drafted in the sixth round. That alone says everything you need to know about the Swede’s character.
After missing the playoffs in his first season, the Senators qualified for the postseason in 11 straight campaigns, largely thanks to Alfredsson’s genius and incomparable leadership qualities.
During that 11-season run, the Sens lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2002-03 Eastern Conference Final before making it to the final hurdle, the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07, where they fell to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
In 17 seasons with the Sens, Alfredsson only missed the playoffs three times. He spent his final season, 2013-14, in Detroit, but otherwise devoted the entirety of his career to Ottawa.