When Stanley Cup Champions Did Not Make the Play-Offs Next Season

When Stanley Cup Champions Did Not Make the Play-Offs Next Season

Winning the Stanley Cup is a huge achievement in the hockey world. Champions become eternal, and their play-off runs are still talked about years after they happened. But sometimes, the club that has won it all doesn't make it to the play-offs the following year.

There are many different reasons why the defending champions didn't make the play-offs. For example, injuries of the most important players or a losing streak in a crucial part of the regular season. 

There have been five times in NHL history, when the organization, that won the Stanley Cup, didn't make the play-offs the following season. Can it happen again? Continue reading and find out all occasions, when the Stanley Cup champions didn't make the play-offs.

Mark Stone

Toronto Maple Leafs: 1967-68 

The Maple Leafs, who only lost a third of their games, were denied the opportunity to defend their last Original 6 Stanley Cup triumph, because of the manner the league chose to divide the divisions, when it expanded to 12 clubs. Rather than being blended together with the current teams to match their geographical location, the expansion teams—Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers among them—were all assigned to the West DivisionThe Maple Leafs concluded with a 35-26-15 record, reaching 80 points, which would were enough to win the West Division. They did, however, only finish in the fifth place in the East Division and did not make the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal Canadiens: 1969-70 

The NHL's decision to keep the six expansion teams in their own division devastated a team once more, but this time it hurt even more.
The Canadiens lost their chance to defend the championship when they tied the New York Rangers for fourth place in the East with 92 points (92!). The Rangers were able to secure the final play-off position thanks to the second tiebreaker—total goals scored.

Montreal Canadiens

New Jersey Devils: 1995-96

This squad, which finished sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 37-33-12 record, was coming off its first of three Stanley Cup seasons. The Devils might have made it, if the NHL had consisted of 21 clubs and dropped five teams before to the play-offs. However, with the league expanded to 26 teams and 10 teams, including the Devils, were eliminated by mid-April

Scott Stevens

Carolina Hurricanes: 2006-07

Ten years after relocating from Hartford, the Hurricanes won their only Stanley Cup. Although there were few squad changes in 2006, the team's wear and tear from the lengthy season, that ended in the Cup victory in June appeared to carry over into the next season. Despite losing five of its last eight games, Carolina still finished with 88 points for a 40-34-8 record, four points behind the New York Islanders and five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the final two berths.

Rod Brind'Amour

Los Angeles Kings: 2014-15 

The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup twice in their history. It was over the course of three seasons, specifically in 2012 and 2014. However, in the 2014–2015 season, the Kings were hit with the hangover of champions and didn't make the play-offs. The organization suffered from exhaustion from previous seasons, injuries of their leaders, and a dip in form at the moments when it mattered most.

Los Angeles Kings

Who's next? 

The current NHL champions are the Vegas Golden Knights. The team from Nevada was at the top of the Western Conference for some time, but after an unpleasant losing streak, they fell to the wild card race.

Vegas now faces the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues for the wild card spot. It looks like they won't miss out on the TOP 16, although it will be very close. However, the play-offs are a different competition, so it won't be a surprise if the champions will go far and play for the Stanley Cup again this year. 

The 2022 champions Colorado Avalanche also had problems. The organization from Denver faced a big drop in form at beginning of 2023 and almost joined the 5 champions of the past which did not make the play-offs. The Avs eventually advanced, though they fell in the first round in a series with the Seattle Kraken.

Stanley Cup Champions Who Did Not Make the Play-Offs Next Season:

Team Season
Toronto Maple Leafs 1967-68
Montreal Canadiens 1969-70
New Jersey Devils 1996-97
Carolina Hurricanes 2006-07
Los Angeles Kings 2014-15


Ivan Barbashev
Photo Sources: Weebly, Ice Hockey Wiki, The Hockey Writers, THN, CBS Sports, Variety
Jakub Vaverka

Jakub Vaverka

I create content for social media for a living and I live hockey. Going to NHL games and writing blogs about my most favorite game is a dream come true.

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