My Precious: Do you need players with Stanley Cup rings to build a contender?

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Can a Stanley Cup winner be distilled into a reproducible recipe?

It’s a question I ask every year after the NHL’s trade deadline passes as we re-evaluate the league’s power structure based on players who have changed teams. Is there a list of ingredients a contending team can look for and sprinkle in a pot each season to ensure a long playoff run?

Last season, I presented what I believed to be a usable championship recipe by studying the 10 previous Stanley Cup winners. The recipe consisted of seven traits that were most common among champions. It wasn’t as simple as being good at everything. For example, there was no strong correlation at all between having a good power play and winning the Cup.

Using the same metrics, which NHL roster has the right mix of championship gear this season?

So far in the series, we’ve looked at team traits tied to tangible results on the ice: our champion profile includes at least an elite scorer, an elite goaltender, a penalty kill greater than average, etc. Today, we venture into the world of the immaterial. Technically, a Stanley Cup ring is as tangible as it gets. But its impact isn’t necessarily something you can read on the ice. What is the emotional impact of opening the Stanley Cup playoffs with players on your team who already have rings? Is it really important to have guys who have been there before?

Stanley Cup Ingredient #5: Stanley Cup Rings

Let’s take a look at each of the last 10 Stanley Cup champions and how many of their players already had rings at the start of the playoffs in those respective years. In the case of repeat champions, the number of rings is astronomical, but it still tells us something. A team full of champions knows what it takes to become champions again.

SeasonChampionStanley Cup Rings
2013-14Los Angeles16
2018-19Saint Louis1
2019-20Tampa Bay1
2020-21Tampa Bay18

Takeout here is not what I expected. What jumps out at me is not the Hawks, Kings, Penguins and (2020-21) Lightning teams that were laden with Cup-winning experience. I’m more intrigued by the 2017-18 Capitals, 2018-19 Blues, 2019-20 Lightning and 2021-22 Avalanche.

For one thing, four of the last five Championship sides had two or less cup rings among their player staff. This could imply that the experience factor is overrated. On the other hand: every Cup winner in the last 10 years has had at least A player who had come all the way before. For example, no one but Brooks Orpik of the 2018 Capitals had even played in a final, let alone won the Stanley Cup. In each of the recent instances, it was a depth piece rather than a star player bringing Cup pedigree, from Oskar Sundqvist in St. Louis to Patrick Maroon in Tampa to Darren Helm and Andre Burakovsky in Colorado.

It always seems important to have even one Cup-winning voice to stabilize a piece during clutch situations. Example: The last team to win the Stanley Cup despite no player making the playoffs with Cup rings was the Calgary Flames in 1988-89. Going 32 seasons without this happening is astonishing – and suggests the ring factor is no coincidence.

Stanley Cup Correlation: Strong (but only needed in small doses)

Assuming that the fit correlation is less about having a lot your team’s previous winners and more about having at least A previous winner, I’ll shoot a 180 on my original plan, which was to rank teams by most rings.

You only need one, according to the data. In this case: Which 2022-23 NHL teams have 0.0 Cup Rings among their current rosters?

2022-23 NHL teams without a Stanley Cup-winning player

bison sabers
Columbus Blue Jackets
Edmonton Oilers
New York Islanders
Philadelphia Flyers
Winnipeg Jets

It’s a short list. It’s no surprise to see rebuilders like Columbus and Philadelphia on it. You are unlikely to have many winners on your team at this point in your trajectory. Even the Sabres, who are just beginning their ascent, are not yet in the buying phase where they start adding Cup-winning veterans. But the Jets, Islanders and especially the Oilers have reason to worry. Edmonton wants to improve from last season’s Western Conference Finals, but will try to do so without cup rings on its roster. Last year there was a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Duncan Keith as an emotional lifeline in the room.

It’s tempting to call the ring factor a fluke. And yet… the next team to win a Cup without any bling will be the first to do so since 1989. Godspeed.

Previous Stanley Cup Ingredient entries: Team weight, top 10 scorers. Top 10 GoalkeepersShare shot attemptPenalty Elimination Effectiveness

Next Step: Transaction Deadline Acquisitions

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