After two trips to the second round, they blew a three-games-to-two lead and suffered a bitter defeat on home ice in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks bounced back to win the Presidents' Trophy for the best regular-season record in 2011-12, but, alas, it proved to be a meaningless piece of silverware as they were upset in the first round by the eighth-seeded L.A. Kings, four games to one. The defeat unleashed speculation that longtime goaltender Roberto Luongo would traded, coach Alain Vigneault would depart for Montreal, and GM Mike Gillis's job was in jeopardy.
2 of 17Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
San Jose Sharks
In what has become a springtime ritual in San Jose, the Sharks cap strong regular seasons with dispiriting playoff ousters. Joe Thornton (19) and Patrick Marleau (12) are the faces of a franchise that failed to advance beyond the second round for four consecutive seasons (2006-09) despite superior talent. Even a roster shakeup before the 2011-12 season failed to do the trick, and their first-round ouster by St. Louis will likely spell more change. Counting Western Conference Finals losses to Calgary in 2004, Chicago in 2010, and Vancouver in 2011, the Sharks are still in the ranks of talented teams that were never quite able to take the final step to greatness.
3 of 17Greg Fiume/Getty Images
After Alex Ovechkin's arrival in 2005, the Capitals began to ascend to the status of Stanley Cup contender, winning the Presidents Trophy for the NHL's best regular season record for 2009-10. But even with an offensively potent supporting cast that includes winger Alexander Semin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green, the Caps have so far met with postseason disappointment: a seven-game loss to the rival Penguins in the 2009 Eastern Conference semi-finals, a shocking seven-game 2010 first-round upset by Montreal during which Washington blew a three-games-to-one lead, and being swept out of the 2011 conference semi-finals by the Lightning.
4 of 17Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Seven years of great expectations were fueled by six 100-point seasons and luminaries such as Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Jason Spezza. The Senators endured a seven-game Eastern final loss to New Jersey in 2003 and came closest to the silverware in a five-game loss to Anaheim in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. Their run ended with a sweep by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Ottawa failed to qualify in 2009.
5 of 17AP
For two seasons, they were primed for a Cup and riding a huge wave of sentimental fan support. After falling to Carolina in seven intense Eastern final games in 2006, the Sabres won the 2007 Presidents' Trophy with the NHL's best record only to have key injuries derail them in the conference final against Ottawa. The free-agent and trade losses of Chris Drury (left), Daniel Briere (right) and Brian Campbell proved fatal as Buffalo failed to make the playoffs in 2008.
6 of 17AP
Toronto Maple Leafs
Coach Pat Quinn could never quite get his promising cast over the hump. Mats Sundin (right), Alexander Mogilny (left), Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe and pugnacious mates Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi always seemed to be just a piece or two away, even with the likes of Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour in net. They had three 100-point seasons, but lost the conference final in 1999 to Buffalo and Carolina in 2002. After three straight seasons of no playoffs and the GM spot open, what remains of this nucleus may be on its way out of town.
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St. Louis Blues
Brett Hull's best years (1990-92) gave way to a formidable team that boasted the superb backline duo of Chris Pronger (44) and Al MacInnis (left), plus center Pierre Turgeon (middle-right) and goaltender Grant Fuhr. Under head coach Joel Quenneville (right), the Blues won the Presidents' Trophy in 1999-2000, only to suffer a galling seven-game playoff ouster by the lowly San Jose Sharks in the first round. The following season, they advanced to the Conference final only to be buried by Patrick Roy's Colorado Avalanche in five games.
8 of 17Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The Next One -- Eric Lindros, right, -- and his Legion of Doom linemates (John LeClair, left, and Mikael Renberg) plus an impressive cast that included Eric Desjardins, Rod Brind'Amour, Mark Recchi, and Kjell Samuelsson chalked up four 100-point seasons but suffered a disappointing loss to eventual Stanley Cup-champion New Jersey in the 1995 Eastern final and an embarrassing sweep at the hands of Detroit in the 1997 Cup final.
9 of 17Al Bello/Getty Images
The presence of the electrifying Russian Rocket -- Pavel Bure -- made coach Pat Quinn's (inset left) Canucks a team to be reckoned with. With a supporting cast that included (inset top-right to bottom) Trevor Linden, Petr Nedved, Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall and goaltender Kirk McLean, they were routinely a Smythe Division power and reached the 1994 Cup final where they lost to the Mark Messier-Brian Leetch-Mike Richter Rangers in seven gritty games.
10 of 17Rick Stewart/Getty Images (3), J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
Iron Mike Keenan's rosters included such luminaries Denis Savard, Jeremy Roenick (top-left), Chris Chelios (bottom-left), Steve Larmer (top-right), Doug Wilson, and Ed Belfour (bottom-right). After winning the Presidents' Trophy in 1990-91, the Blackhawks were swept in the 1992 Cup Final by Mario Lemieux's Penguins. A 106-point campaign in 1992-93 ended with a bitter first-round sweep by St. Louis and proved to be the Blackhawks' swan song.
11 of 17Robert Laberge/Getty Images, Andy Hayt/SI, Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images, Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images
Boston's impressive cast included Cam Neely (top-left), Ray Bourque (top-right), Andy Moog (bottom-right), Craig Janney, Bobby Carpenter, and Dave Christian (bottom-left). With Terry O'Reilly as coach, they reached the 1988 Cup final only to be swept by Wayne Gretzky's Oilers. A rematch with Edmonton in 1990 did not go much better. Mike Milbury's club fell in five.
12 of 17V.J. Lovero/SI
Los Angeles Kings
The arrival of Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles was a time of excitement and hope. The Great One's supporting casts included (inset top to bottom) Luc Robitaille, Dave Taylor, Jari Kurri, Marty McSorley, Tomas Sandstrom, Paul Coffey, Tony Granato, and Kelly Hrudey. A 102-point season in 1990-91 was ended by Gretzky's former team in the division finals and the Kings' high-water mark was their five-game loss to Montreal in the 1993 Cup final. Three years later, Gretzky left for St. Louis, and ultimately, New York.
13 of 17Mike Powell/Getty Images, Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
As the holdovers from the 1974 and '75 Cup teams (Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber) vanished, a promising nucleus of Mark Howe (right), Rick Tocchet (left), Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Tim Kerr, Behn Wilson, Brad McCrimmon, Pelle Lindbergh, and Dave Poulin had the misfortune of running into the dynastic Edmonton Oilers in the 1985 and 1987 Stanley Cup finals, falling both times, the second in seven gallant games with Hextall winning the Conn Smythe.
14 of 17Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
Hall of Fame winger Mike Gartner (right) and center Bobby Carpenter (left) fronted a stellar defensive corps included Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, and Larry Murphy. Despite three successive 100-point seasons, coach Bryan Murray's crew inevitably became the Washington Generals against the Islanders' Harlem Globetrotters, with New York preventing the Capitals from getting out of the Patrick Division each time.
15 of 17Dick Raphael/SI, Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
The 1970 and 1972 Cup casts of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were gradually replaced by coach Don Cherry's roughneck "Lunch Pail A.C." With six holdovers from the Cup years (Terry O'Reilly, John Bucyk and Gerry Cheevers among them) joining Jean Ratelle and Brad Park, Cherry's B's fell in the Cup final to Montreal in 1977 and 1978. The nadir was a catastrophic too-many-men penalty with under two minutes left in Game 7 of 1979 semi-finals that led to the Canadiens' OT win.
16 of 17Walter Iooss Jr./SI
New York Rangers
The names still evoke great reverence among the Broadway Blueshirt faithful -- Ed Giacomin (left), Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle (right), Walt Tkaczuk, Vic Hadfield, Brad Park, Rod Seiling, Glen Sather -- but this team was unable to break New York's growing Cup drought. Three straight 100-point seasons yielded one Cup final appearance: a six-game loss to Boston in 1972.
17 of 17Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
With 1961 Cup-winner Stan Mikita (bottom-left) still in the fold, the Blackhawks boasted Keith Magnuson (top-right), Dennis Hull (bottom-right) and future Hall of Famer Tony Esposito (top-left) in goal, and were the best regular season team in their conference four times. They made two appearances in the Cup final, losing each time to Ken Dryden's Canadiens -- in 1971 after blowing a 2-0 lead in Game 7, and in six games in 1973.
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