Can an NHL Team with a Losing Record at Mid-Season Make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?
We're approaching the midway point of the NHL 2022-23 regular season. About half the teams have losing records. What chance, if any, do these teams have of making it to the next Stanley Cup finals?
The NHL regular season ends on April 23, 2023. The playoffs start soon thereafter. Sixteen of the 32 league teams will make the playoffs
The NHL playoffs are the most exciting time for hockey fans, as it gives teams the chance to prove themselves on the biggest stage and make a run for the coveted Stanley Cup. While many fans and bettors might expect teams with strong records at the midway point of the season to make a deep run in the playoffs, it is not uncommon for teams with losing records to make a surprise appearance in the Stanley Cup finals.
So, how often does this happen?
Answer – not very often.
The 2012 Los Angles Kings
One team that comes to mind is the 2012 Los Angeles Kings. At the midway point of the regular season, the Kings were struggling with a record of 15-14-7 and were sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference. However, they were able to turn things around in the second half of the season and finished with a record of 40-27-15 – good enough for the eighth seed in the playoffs.
The Kings then embarked on an unlikely playoff run, knocking off the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round and then beating the St. Louis Blues, and Phoenix Coyotes to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite being the eighth seed, the Kings were able to defeat the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. It was an amazing turnaround.
The 2003 Anaheim Ducks
Another team that made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals with a losing record at the midway point of the season was the 2003 Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks had a record of 16-25-6 at the midway point and were sitting in last place in the Western Conference. However, they were able to turn things around in the second half of the season and finished with a record of 42-27-13, good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs.
The Ducks then shocked the hockey world by defeating the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the first round, and then beating the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite being the seventh seed, the Ducks were able to defeat the New Jersey Devils in seven games to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
While it is certainly not common for teams with losing records at the midway point of the season to make a deep run in the playoffs and appear in the Stanley Cup finals, it is not impossible.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are just two examples of teams that were able to overcome their struggles and make a surprise appearance in the championship round.
So, don't count out any team, just yet.