top of page
  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The record that no one wants

Researching this week's post I learned of a record that no NHLer wants to hold - the most Stanley Cup Finals appearances without winning the Cup. The record is five, held by four different players, however, one of these players stands apart from the others. Brian Propp is the only player of the four to have played his entire career in the post 1967 expansion era. When Propp began his NHL career in 1979, there were 21 NHL teams thanks to the absorption of four former WHA franchises. By the time he retired following the 1994-95 season, there were 26 teams. The other players, listed below, played the majority of their careers in the original six era, when it was much easier to make it to the Finals.

Norm Ullman - lost with Detroit in 1956, 1961, 1963, 1964 & 1966.

Gerry Melnyk - lost with Detroit in 1956 & 1961, with Chicago in 1962 & 1965 and St. Louis in 1968.

Bruce MacGregor - lost with Detroit in 1961, 1963, 1964 & 1966 and with New York Rangers in 1972.

As far as I can tell, Propp is also one of only two players to play in three consecutive finals with three different teams. Propp did it with Philadelphia (1989), Boston (1990) and Minnesota (1991). Marian Hossa accomplished the feat with Pittsburgh (2008), Detroit (2009) and Chicago (2010), ultimately winning the first of this three Cups with the Blackhawks.

Card 260 - Brian Propp

Propp, a left winger, was drafted 14th overall by Philadelphia in the stacked 1979 draft. In his draft year he torched the WHL with Brandon, scoring 94 goals and 194 points, for what today stands as the second highest single-season goal and third highest single-season point totals in WHL history.

He made his NHL debut at age 20 in 1979-80, scoring 34 goals and 75 points, finishing fourth in Calder voting. The Flyers made the Cup Finals that season, with Propp scoring 15 points in 19 games as Philadelphia lost to the New York Islanders, with the Isles winning their first of four straight Cups.

After a slight statistical regression in his second second, Propp scored 40+ goals and 90+ points in four of the next five seasons, including career high 44 goals (81-82) and 97 points (84-85 & 85-86). He also led the league in game winning goals in 1982-83 with 12.

The Flyers made the Cup Finals in 1985 and 1987, dropping both series to the team that inherited the Islanders dynasty crown, the Edmonton Oilers. Propp led the Flyers in playoff scoring in 1987, with 12 goals and 28 points, while leading the entire playoffs in shots (104) and power play goals (5). After 11 seasons and three Cup Finals appearances in Philly, Propp was traded in March 1990 to Boston for a second round draft pick. In his first season with the Bruins Propp scored 12 points in 14 regular season games, and made his fourth career Cup Finals appearance. Much like the other three, this ended with Propp on the wrong side of a dynasty, with the Bruins losing to Edmonton.

For the 1990-91 season Propp signed as a free agent with Minnesota. He contributed 26 goals and 73 points as the North Stars made a shocking Cup Finals appearance. Despite scoring 23 points in 23 games, Propp would be on the losing side in the Cup Finals for a record fifth time.

Over the next two seasons Propp played in only 68 games with the North Stars due to injuries. He started the 1993-94 season in Switzerland, winning a Spengler Cup with Team Canada before signing with Hartford, playing 65 games and scoring 29 points in his final NHL season.

In a 15 season career Propp played in 1016 games, scoring 425 goals and 1004 points and playing in five all-star games. During the 1994-95 lockout he was a player/coach in France. Since retirement he has worked as an analyst for Flyers TV coverage and ran for the New Jersey State Senate. Propp currently works in commercial real estate.

YouTube clip: getting knocked out by the elbow of Chris Chelios in Game 1 of the 1989 Wales Conference Finals. This event led to Flyers goalie Ron Hextall attacking Chelios in Game 6 as retribution.

Card 261 - Stephan Lebeau

A centre born just outside of Montreal, Lebeau signed as a free agent with his hometown Canadiens in 1986. After signing he would play two additional seasons with Chicoutimi in the QMJHL, scoring 94 goals and 188 points as a 19 year old; Lebeau ranks second all-time in goals and points in the Q.

He turned pro for the 1988-89 season, getting in one game with the Habs while tearing up the AHL with Sherbrooke. That season Lebeau scored 70 goals and 134 points in 78 games, setting the single-season record for goals in the AHL. Unsurprisingly he won both the rookie-of-the-year and league MVP awards.

After scoring 35 points in 57 games with Montreal in 1989-90, Lebeau scored 20+ goals in each of the next three seasons, including a career-high 31 goals and 80 points in 1992-93. He also won a Stanley Cup that season, contributing six points in the playoffs.

In February 1994 Lebeau was traded to Anaheim for goalie Ron Tugnutt. That season he scored only 15 goals between the two teams, and the lockout shortened 1994-95 would prove to be his final NHL season, scoring 8 goals and 24 points.

For the 1995-96 season Lebeau played in Switzerland, where he would stay until retiring after the 2000-2001 season. In seven NHL seasons he played in 373 games, scoring 118 goals and 277 points.

In retirement Lebeau has been involved in coaching at various ranks, including as head coach with Victoriaville in the QMJHL from 2004-06 and assistant coach with Hamilton in the AHL from 2013-15. Since 2015 he has been the head coach of Quebec college team Champlain-Lennoxville.

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner in Game 2 of the 1993 Prince of Wales Conference Finals against the New York Islanders.

Card 262 - Kelly Hrudey

Goaltender Hrudey was selected 38th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1980 draft. He played a final season with Medicine Hat of the WHL before turning pro with Indianapolis of the CHL. In two CHL seasons, Hrudey twice won goalie of the year, was playoff MVP in 1982 and league MVP in 1983. He made his NHL debut during the 1983-84 season, winning seven games.

The following season Hrudey became Billy Smith’s backup. Over the next four seasons he won between 19 - 22 games per season, and in 1985-86 he finished second in the league with a .906 save percentage. During the 1987-88 season Hrudey overtook Smith as the Islanders starter, finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

The 1988-89 season saw Hrudey win a career-high 28 games and lead the league in games played, shots against, saves and minutes played. Although he finally supplanted Isles legend Smith, Hrudey was not long for the island, and would be traded to Los Angeles in February 1989 for Mark Fitzpatrick, Wayne McBean and Doug Crossman. In his three full seasons in LA Hrudey won 20+ games each season and made his one and only Cup Finals appearance in 1993, as the Kings would drop the Finals to Montreal in five games.

By the 1995-96 season Hrudey was out as starter, replaced by Byron Dafoe. He won seven games that season, and the following season took his talents to northern California, signing with San Jose. In he 1996-97 Hrudey posted a 16-24-5 record with the Sharks, playing one additional season before retiring.

In a 15 year NHL career Hrudey posted a 271-265-88 record, 3.43 goals against average and .893 save percentage. In retirement he has worked in the media, first with CBC and then with Sportsnet as part of Hockey Night in Canada, providing in-game analysis and commentary. Hrudey set the record for most saves in a single game, with 73 during the 1987 playoffs during the Easter Epic game between the Islanders and Capitals. The record was recently surpassed in the 2020 playoffs by Joonas Korpisalo 85 saves.

YouTube clip: reliving Game 2 of the 1993 Cup Finals, when Eric Desjardins scored three goals on Hrudey to tie the series at one game a piece.

Card 263 - Joe Nieuwendyk

A centre, Nieuwendyk was drafted 27th overall by Calgary in 1985. He played two additional seasons with Cornell before turning pro at the end of the 1986-87 season, scoring five goals in nine games for the Flames.

In his true rookie season the following year, Nieuwendyk scored 51 goals and 92 points, led the league with 31 power-play goals, won the Calder Trophy, was named to the all-rookie team and finished third in Byng Trophy voting. The following season he again scored 51 goals and helped the Flames win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, scoring 10 goals and 14 points in the playoffs.

The '89 Cup win was a high point for the franchise, as Calgary would lose out in the first round of the playoffs or miss the post-season entirely until the 2003-04 season. Nieuwendyk continued to produce, recording a career-high 95 points in 1989-90, three seasons of 30+ goals and winning the King Clancy Trophy in 1995. To start the 1995-96 season Nieuwendyk was embroiled in a contract dispute, which led to a trade to the Dallas Stars for Corey Millen and prospect/future Flames legend Jarome Iginla.

After starting slowly in his first season in Dallas, scoring only 14 goals, Nieuwendyk racked up 30 and 39 goal seasons. Most importantly, he was a key contributor to the Stars’ 1999 Cup championship, scoring 11 goals (and 6 game winners), winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. The 2000-01 season saw Nieuwendyk play in only 48 games, but the Stars again made the Finals, losing to New Jersey.

At the 2002 trade deadline, Nieuwendyk, alongside Jamie Langenbrunner was sent to the same Devils team that defeated the Stars the year prior, with Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a first round pick going the other way. In his only season with the Devils, Nieuwendyk won his third Stanley Cup with his third team, contributing nine points in 17 playoff games.

A native of Oshawa, Ontario, Nieuwendyk signed with the nearby Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2003-04 season. He scored 22 goals in 64 regular season games, and contributed six goals in nine playoff games. After one season with the Leafs Nieuwendyk signed with Florida, playing two seasons for the Panthers. After scoring 26 goals in 2004-05, he was forced to retired in December 2006 due to back issues.

In 20 NHL seasons Nieuwendyk played in 1257 games, scoring 564 goals (24th all-time) and 1126 points. He played in four all-star games and is one of 46 NHL players to score five goals in a single game, accomplishing the feat in a January 1989 game versus Winnipeg. Nieuwendyk was captain with Calgary from 1991 to 1995, and an assistant with Dallas, Toronto and Florida. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Nieuwendyk has held a variety of front office roles in retirement, including assistant to the general manager with Toronto and Florida, and from 2009-2013 was the GM in Dallas. He was most recently a pro scout and advisor with Carolina from 2014 to 2018.

YouTube clip: his highlight video from being named on of the NHL's top 100 players.

Card 264 - Grant Fuhr

Goaltender Fuhr was drafted eighth overall by Edmonton in the 1981 entry draft. He jumped straight to the NHL as a 19 year-old, winning 28 games, being named a second team all-star and finalist for the Vezina and Calder Trophies. Fuhr also set the record for longest undefeated streak during a goalie’s rookie season at 23 games.

After supplanting Ron Low as the Oilers starter, from 1982 to 1986 Fuhr formed a tandem with Andy Moog, starting between 32-46 games per season. He led the league in wins with 30 in 1983-84 and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 1986 and 1987. During the playoffs Fuhr would overtake Moog, becoming the starter during the Oilers three Cup runs in 1984, 85 and 87.

With Moog holding out to start the 1987-88 season, Fuhr led the NHL in games started (75), wins (40), saves, shutouts (4) and minutes played. He was named a first team all-star, won the Vezina and finished runner up to Mario Lemieux for the Hart Trophy. The Oilers also won their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Fuhr remained an undisputed starter for one more season before being challenged by Bill Ranford, playing in only 21 games in the 1989-90 season. The following season he played only 13 games with the Oilers, having been suspended by the league for 59 games due to alleged substance abuse issues. Fuhr was reinstated after completing a stint in rehab.

In September 1991 Fuhr was traded with teammates Glenn Anderson and Craig Berube to Toronto for a package of four players including Vincent Damphousse. In his only full season as a Maple Leaf he led the league in losses (33) and goals against average. In February 1993 Fuhr was shipped to Buffalo with a draft pick for Dave Andreychuk, Daren Puppa and a first round pick. With the Sabres he shared the crease with Dominik Hasek, winning the Jennings Trophy in 1994.

After three games with the Sabres in 1994-95, Fuhr was traded to Los Angeles in a six-player swap. In 14 games with the Kings, he won a single game and appeared to be at the end of a stellar career. For the 1995-96 season Fuhr signed with St. Louis and revitalized his career; he played a record 79 games (including 76 consecutive, also a NHL record), winning 30 and leading the NHL in shots against and saves. His efforts were recognized with sixth place finishes in Vezina and Hart Trophy voting. Fuhr playred three more seasons with the Blues, winning 33 games in 1996-97.

In September 1999 he was traded for a draft pick to Calgary, where he backed up Fred Brathwaite. Fuhr retired the following season. In 19 NHL seasons Fuhr played in 868 games (12th all-time), winning 403 (12th), recording a 3.38 goals against average and .887 save percentage. He played in six all-star games and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. As part of the high-scoring Oilers teams of the 1980s, Fuhr recorded 47 assists, tied for second all-time in goaltender scoring. In 1983-84 he set the record for most assists in a season by a goalie with 14.

In retirement Fuhr has played pro golf on the Canadian Tour, and has been a goalie coach in the NHL, first with Calgary (2001-02) and then Phoenix (2004-2010).

YouTube clip: his highlight video from being named on of the NHL's top 100 players.

Card 265 - Guy Carbonneau

A centre, Carbonneau was drafted 44th overall by Montreal in the incredibly deep 1979 draft. In the year following his selection, he would score 72 goals and 182 points with Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. Carbonneau turned pro for the 1980-81 season, playing two seasons in the AHL with Nova Scotia, racking up point totals of 88 and 94 points.

Carbonneau’s rookie season with the Habs came in 1982-83 (he played two games in 80-81), scoring 18 goals and 47 points. Over the next decade, he would evolve into a solid 20 goal, 50 point scorer, recording a career-high 26 goals in 1988-89 and 57 points in 1984-85. During this time Carbonneau became one of the best defensive forwards of his time, finishing top five in Selke Trophy voting every year from 1984 to 1992, including one third place finish, two second place finishes and three wins (1988, 89 and 92). He also won a pair of Stanley Cups (1986 and 1993), contributing two overtime winners during the Habs’ magical 1993 Cup run.

In the summer before the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, Carbonneau was traded to St. Louis for Jim Montgomery. He was set to turn 34 that season and many thought was on the downside of his career; scoring only 16 points with the Blues seemed to confirm those suspicions.

The following season he was traded to Dallas for Paul Broten, and became an important bottom six forward and veteran presence on an ascendant Stars team. Carbonneau played 70 games or more in his first four seasons with Dallas, averaging 20 points per season. In 1999 he would win his third Stanley Cup, and make a fourth trip to the Finals in 2000 before retiring following the Stars six-game loss to New Jersey.

In 19 NHL seasons Carbonneau played in 1318 games, scoring 260 goals and 663 points. He ranks 14th all-time with 33 shorthanded goals and was controversially elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019, 20 years after he retired. Carbonneau was captain of the Habs from 1989 to 1994.

In retirement Carbonneau has been both an assistant (2000-02, 05-06) and head coach (2006-09) with Montreal, earning a Jack Adams Trophy finalist nomination in 2008. Between stints with Montreal he was an assistant GM with Dallas (2002-04) and most recently has been head coach and president of his former junior team, Chicoutimi (2010-12), which he also co-owns.

YouTube clip: highlights of his time with the Habs, including his two overtime goals during the 1993 playoffs.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page