One of the most common narratives that get bandied about in hockey is that of the “Stanley Cup Hangover”. Whether it’s the effect on the winning team or the losing team of the the Finals, whatever negatives happen to a team during the next five to six seasons will sometimes be tentatively presented as an effect of the ominous “Stanley Cup Finals Hangover”.
“Gee Bill, the home team isn’t looking so hot this month.”
“Yeah, I can’t figure it out either.”
“Me neither. Damn.”
“Well, they did play in the Finals a couple of years ago?”
“My god Jim…..I think you’re right….”
“My name is Bill, but who cares, STANLEY CUP HANGOVER EXPLAINS ALL!”
*Now imagine two men running at each other from across the room for the ultimate high five, ending with a wicked guitar riff*
The idea being, of course, that the physical and mental toll it took a team to grind its way to get to the Finals can stay with a team and effect them for years to come. Or maybe management lost to a team due to what they felt was because of the opposition’s style of play, and so maybe they make philosophical team changes as a result of that… hypothetically speaking, I mean.
Regardless, the Canucks have a variety of options to choose from as to why they are playing poorly, and the “hangover” excuse can be fitted on to the spinning wheel of excuses quite easily.
Does that mean it’s a valid excuse? No, of course not, there is no one singular reason the Canucks are playing awful right now; it’s more of a case of a huge sum of parts, in which luck plays a disturbingly high amount in.
If the Canucks win in 2011, people in Vancouver don’t care what happens for the next five years. If the Canucks lose game seven to Chicago in 2011, well, then I don’t want to say riots, but yeah, mass city destroying riots far worse than the Finals. No, seriously, imagine having to watch Patrick Kane celebrate coming back and winning after being down 0-3, on Rogers Arena ice. It’s not pretty.
Therefore the idea today isn’t to disprove or prove the hangover narrative (it’s a broad narrative that can be fitted in anywhere if we wanted to try hard enough), the idea today is to simply compare how Vancouver is handling their “hangover” compared to other teams (starting with teams from the 1998 season going to the 2011 season). If anything maybe there will be results from other teams that will make Vancouver fans feel a bit better about the current direction of the team.
Quick notes, these stats look at a team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the next six seasons performance after the loss. Winning percentage was used as the measure of seasonal success due to the lockout shortened season ruining using a purely point based system.
First off, if you like a mass explosion of info in and around your face, here is the chart that shows 13 teams and their “hangovers”:
Yes, it looks like clown vomit. Let’s break this down into individual team charts, shall we?
Breakdown: The Capitals hangover led them to binge drinking for an entire season, in which they blacked out and forgot everything. Sure, they hung on to their job for a couple of years after that, but they led a life that rock bottomed out very badly. That is, until the angel known as Ovechkin lifted them out of the trash heap and put some pants back on them.
They also had really crappy jerseys during this time, which is my personal theory as to why they struggled.
Breakdown: The Sabres, a team with a petulant Hasek instead of a petulant Ryan Miller, valiantly attempted to get past their hangover and put up a good fight, avoiding the headaches for several years. They attempted to continue to try and cash in on an almost past his prime Hasek (the kind that didn’t cross check other men in a roller hockey league) but eventually traded him and started the re-build with Miller, back when Miller wasn’t emo. It’s hard to judge Buffalo for their hangover, mostly because they eventually became dirt poor and couldn’t afford a hangover cure even if they wanted one.
Though when they did get rich again, they overpaid for Leino and Ehrhoff, so maybe their is no cure for a hangover…
Breakdown: The Dallas Stars had of course just won the Cup the year before by cheating (foot was in the crease!), and so they had a double hangover to deal with. They were like a high functioning alcoholic at this point, though, as they had reached the top of their profession and continued to perform well during the following six seasons.
Except in the playoffs. It was like when you confront the functioning alcoholic at an important deadline and demand they show you the finished project they promised they had completed and all they pull out are coupons for Burger King. Expired coupons.
Breakdown: The Lou Mafia runs a tight ship, as the Stanley Cup loss barely slowed down the Devils. They just pounded back another six pack and kept on drinking through that hangover, winning it all a couple of seasons later. They then continued to play well and have moderate playoff success after that win. I would write more, but the seething jealousy is making it hard to type.
Breakdown: Basically Carolina was like that super, super unreliable friend who shows up to your parties and most of the time they get really drunk, do something stupid (like try to light garden gnomes on fire because they wouldn’t give them a ride on their tiny bicycle, and end up getting arrested). It looks like their life is about to fall apart, and you feel really bad about them.
Then the next year you see them and they have a Rolls Royce, two ladies on their side, and money to spare, and you realize you kind of hate them. Then the next year they’re in jail again.
The Hurricanes either made the Finals or the third round during this stretch, or just didn’t give a crap and had a terrible season.
Again, seething jealousy takes over, as they also have a Cup.
Breakdown: Back before truculence was all the rage, the Anaheim Ducks trapped their way to a Stanley Cup Final (seriously, the Ducks vs Wild Western Finals is the most unwatchable hockey series of all time. If I could shoot it in the face, I would, for the betterment of humanity).
The most famous visual of that Finals series was Paul Karyia waking up on the ice after a Scott Stevens hit put him to sleep, and then going on to score a goal (this was a time when concussions were viewed as “brain hugs”). The Ducks fell apart the next year, but then morphed into the truculent sons of guns Brian Burke loves so dearly, and they trounced their way to a Stanley Cup. Hangover, schmangover.
Breakdown: The fear in Vancouver of course is that they might follow the Calgary Flame model and watch as their aging core gets older and older and before they know it, they can’t get anything of value in return for them to rebuild off of.
The fear is also that the fans will watch as their style of play becomes out-dated compared to the rest of the league. Remember, the lockout kicked in after the 2004 season and the hooking and holding and plodding style Calgary used to get to the Finals was useless once the refs decided to actually call obstruction penalties in 2006. There isn’t a true parallel to that kind of global change in regards to Vancouver, at least, unless “teams win by scoring goals” was a league shift the Canucks simply didn’t see coming.
In other words, to go back to drinking metaphors, the fear is that Vancouver will continue to drink until their franchise hits rock bottom and wakes up behind a dumpster with no pants on.
Quick, let’s look at another team, this is depressing.
Breakdown: Holy ****.
Breakdown: Where is Toronto on this list? Oh, that’s right…
Ottawa made the Finals before the Ducks ended their dreams, and Ottawa went on to middling success for many years. Gone were the days of blaming Patrick Lalime for their failures, as they warmly welcomed Eugene Melnyk into the organization, who was the only man who truly realized who was at fault for everything that goes wrong in Ottawa: Matt Cooke.
One of the trends that happens on this list is a team that gets hot at the right time, and it looks like Ottawa certainly did here.
Breakdown: Sidney Crosby gets what Sidney Crosby wants. Despite losing in the Finals the year before (in what many fondly remember as the two year start of the “Hossa is a god damn jinx, burn him, burn him now” era), the Penguins were, and continue to be, simply too good.
Their hangover consisted of two first round losses, ones which could have been avoided had it not been for Fleury, and then they got right back in the thick of things in their hunt for another Cup.
So to use the drinking metaphor, the Penguins foolishly relied on Fleury to pick them up after practice, but he was so drunk that he passed out and forgot to get them. That’s when they decided to get a designated driver for Fleury.
Breakdown: Their hangover wasn’t so much a hangover as it was a “Lidstrom is getting really old” type of deal. They are one of the best teams in the last several decades, and they stretched out their winning ways for many many years. Basically they are the person that can drink 20 beers and yet still somehow seem completely sober. Luckily they are now getting older and their liver is failing…
OK, this drinking metaphor is getting kind of dark.
Breakdown: Michael Leighton was their goalie in the Finals. Jesus. Despite having more goaltender issues then Jay Z has problems (YES! Music reference, nailed it) for the last.. well ever since Hextall was there the first time, the Flyers actually built off of their Stanley Cup run. Except for that one blip last year. Let’s blame that on gremlins. Or the Irish.
Still, we must never forget they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, because that was awful (unless they win the Cup this year, then I am coming back and editing the crap out of this paragraph).
Breakdown: So where is this franchise headed?
The Calgary model is the scariest scenario you could present to Vancouver, as the Flames have been in a tailspin ever since that season. There are a lot of “the team got hot at the right time” moments on this list, and then that team wound up fading into obscurity afterwards.
It’s odd that Vancouver looks like one of those teams because 2011 truly was the best team in the NHL during the regular season. Injuries and Tim Thomas being insanely hot aside, Vancouver seemingly crashed and burned after that, and to this day, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. They seemed like a team that should have continued to have major success.
So what’s the problem? Is it Gillis? Was he slow to react to a changing league? Did he build a team that was made to win now at the expense of any future whatsoever? Did he handcuff the team with bad contracts? Is the Canucks scouting staff awful? Did David Booth get kidnapped by aliens? Does Roger Takahashi even lift, bro? Or did the Canucks window simply occur from 2006-2011 and they just peaked at the very end of it? Or is it, at the end of the day, simply the luck based nature of sports that makes winning the Cup very hard to do, despite a well run team?
This will be debated as the season continues, and will become clearer once the next several season play out, and with a new coach in town, it will be interesting to see if any of the heat finally reaches Mike Gillis. You get the feeling next year will be the big year in seeing what Gillis does once the cap goes back up, however.
It is also interesting to note that two teams that didn’t have an Ovechkin or Crosby save them (Edmonton and Calgary) never recovered, which further solidifies my ground breaking theory “Generational NHL Talents Help Your Team Win.”