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Stanley Cup Hangover was Harder to See This Season

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
How Stanley Cup Finalists Fared

The Following Season
  Winner Next Year Runner-up Next Year
2008 Detroit lost Final
Pittsburgh won Final
Anaheim lost 1st rd. Ottawa     lost 1st rd.
2006 Carolina did not qualify Edmonton did not qualify
2004 Tampa Bay (no season) Calgary (no season)
2003 New Jersey lost 1st rd. Anaheim did not qualify
2002 Detroit lost 1st rd. Carolina did not qualify
2001 Colorado lost 3rd rd. New Jersey lost 1st rd.
2000 New Jersey lost Final Dallas lost 2nd rd.
1999  Dallas lost Final Buffalo lost 1st rd.
1998 Detroit lost 2nd rd. Washington did not qualify
1997 Detroit won Final Philadelphia lost 1st rd.
1996  Colorado lost 3rd rd. Florida lost 1st rd.
1995 New Jersey did not qualify Detroit lost 3rd rd.
1994 NY Rangers lost 2nd rd. Vancouver lost 2nd rd.
1993 Montreal lost 1st rd. Los Angeles did not qualify
1992 Pittsburgh lost 2nd rd. Chicago lost 1st rd.
1991 Pittsburgh won Final Minnesota lost 1st rd.
1990 Edmonton lost 3rd rd. Boston lost 3rd rd.
The Red Wings were the first defending Stanley Cup champion to win a playoff series -- never mind three -- the following season since the 2001-02 Colorado Avalanche. Most of the previous Cup winners petered out in the first round the next season.

The Penguins became the first Stanley Cup finalist from the preceding season to reach the second round of playoffs since the 2000-01 Dallas Stars. Not satisfied with one series win, they went all the way and earned the third title in franchise history, in the process becoming the first team since the 1984 Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup the season after losing in the Cup Final.

The 2008-09 season marked a rare instance where the mythical Stanley Cup Hangover theory didn't prove disastrous for Detroit or Pittsburgh, but that doesn't mean it didn't rear its ugly head in some form.

Before the start of the regular season, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock attempted to dispel the Hangover myth.

"I don't think being in Detroit and being an Original Six team was any different last year or the year before," Babcock said last September. "The difference is when we don't play well, the media's going to say it's because we've got a Cup hangover. That's not true.

"I think we won one time in 10 games (in 2007-08) when we were all hurt (in February). That had nothing to do with a Cup hangover, that's what happens in this League."

On the eve of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Babcock said, "If you were to tell me at the start of the year we'd get 51 wins, I'd say you're out of your mind. I just thought after the year before, we'd be too worn out. It wasn't pretty every day, but I think a lot of people would like to be us. Saying all that, it's about will and determination now. All the skill in the world doesn't do much good if you're not going to compete."

"It was hard all year. It was tough for us. That was probably the toughest year for a lot of guys on the team," said Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, who himself received a 10-game "mental breather" in February to combat a long stretch of ineffective play -- his own personal hangover. "If you really look at it, I mean, Hoss (Marian Hossa) pretty much put our team on his shoulders for the first month of the year, or we wouldn't have won a lot of games."

The Stanley Cup Hangover is the theory that teams advancing to the Cup Final, win or lose, are more susceptible to disappointing performances the following season, primarily because of mounting injuries (many suffered and never disclosed during the playoffs), a shorter offseason from having played a maximum schedule (and partly from enjoying the spoils of a two-month Stanley Cup party), and the lack of drive after experiencing a championship season.

It wasn't until after the seven-game Stanley Cup Final that Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar admitted to having played with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Teammate Kris Letang was said to have played with an undisclosed but significant injury during the postseason. And those two games missed by Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom during the Western Conference Finals? He had testicular surgery after being speared by Chicago's Patrick Sharp -- but there he was on the ice for Game 1 of the Final.

Think they'll all need significant time to heal before attending training camp in September? You bet.

The Stanley Cup Hangover manifests itself in different ways. After winning the title with Anaheim in 2007, veterans Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer took their sweet time during the summer deciding whether it was worth enduring body checks, morning skates and long plane rides for another 82-game season. Both eventually returned by midseason, but Anaheim lost in six games in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.

"The Stanley Cup Hangover is not a myth," then-Anaheim General Manager Brian Burke said shortly after his Ducks became the fourth consecutive defending Cup champ to not advance past the first round of playoffs the following season.

Burke went on record that he spent part of his 2007 offseason examining previous Cup winners in an attempt to keep the Cup Hangover at bay.

"They all laughed at me," Burke said. "(Carolina GM) Jimmy Rutherford just said, 'Your guys just climbed Mount Everest for you. Don't expect them to do it again real soon.'"

After winning the 2006 Stanley Cup, the Hurricanes missed the playoffs until getting back this season. Before Pittsburgh won the Cup, three of the previous five Cup finalists didn't even qualify for the postseason the next season -- the Hurricanes (2006-07), the 2003-04 Mighty Ducks and the 2006-07 Oilers.

"Let's face it -- you can go from the highest high after you fight for a couple of months to become champion to a letdown. I've seen it time and again," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told at the start of the 2009 playoffs. "I know Mike Babcock doesn't believe me, but I've seen teams come back with a lack of emotion. You might not be able to detect it with the naked eye, but it's there.

"It may only be a little lack of emotion, but it means a lot in our game, because we put together teams built on skill, speed, creativity, emotion and passion."

Holland attempted to counter the lack-of-passion part of the Hangover theory by signing All-Star forward Hossa, who just happens to be one of the top goal-scorers in the game and a member of the 2007-08 Penguins that lost in the Final. Signing a one-year deal with Detroit because of his belief that they gave him the best chance of winning his first Cup, Hossa was to be the spark that would keep the Red Wings from getting complacent in their quest to repeat, and his presence certainly did help.

"We added a star player in Marian Hossa who has been as strong, talented and productive as we could have hoped for," Holland said early in the postseason. "He told everyone that he came here to win a Stanley Cup. If that isn't motivation around this time, I don't know what is."

Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Champs Gear Though Hossa was his usual superb self with 40 regular-season goals -- tied for fifth in the League -- he was stymied in the Cup Final, held to only 3 assists in seven games. In Hossa's defense, no one could have imagined such a startling scenario -- playing for the Cup runner-up one season, and then doing the same the following season in a rematch. The last repeat Cup winner was the 1998 Red Wings, but the last time the NHL had a full Stanley Cup rematch before this season was 1983-84 with the Oilers and Islanders.

The stats show that, at least on an individual basis, the Stanley Cup Hangover didn't affect too many Red Wings and Penguins last season. But now with two short summers in a row, who might fall victim in 2009-10?

NOTE: only players who spent the majority of each season with Detroit or Pittsburgh are listed

Detroit Red Wings
  2007-08 2008-09  
Chris Chelios 69 3-9-12 28 0-0-0 -12
Dan Cleary 63 20-22-42 74 14-26-40 -2
Pavel Datsyuk 82 31-66-97 81 32-65-97 0
Kris Draper 65 9-8-17 79 7-10-17 0
Valtteri Filppula 78 19-17-36 80 12-28-40 4
Johan Franzen 72 27-11-38 71 34-25-59 21
Tomas Holmstrom 59 20-20-40 53 14-23-37 -3
* Marian Hossa 72 29-37-66 74 40-31-71 5
Jiri Hudler 81 13-29-42 82 23-34-57 15
Tomas Kopecky 77 5-7-12 79 6-13-19 7
Niklas Kronwall 65 7-28-35 80 6-45-51 16
Brett Lebda 78 3-11-14 65 6-10-16 2
Nicklas Lidstrom 76 10-60-70 78 16-43-59 -11
Andreas Lilja 79 2-10-12 60 2-11-13 1
Kirk Maltby 61 6-4-10 78 5-6-11 1
Derek Meech 32 0-3-3 41 2-5-7 4
Brian Rafalski 73 13-42-55 78 10-49-59 4
Mikael Samuelsson 73 11-29-40 81 19-21-40 0
Henrik Zetterberg 75 43-49-92 77 31-42-73 -19
* Split 2007-08 with Atlanta and Pittsburgh, spent 2008-09 with Detroit

  2007-08   2008-09  
Chris Osgood 43 27-9-4 2.09 46 26-9-8 3.09
* Ty Conklin 33 18-8-5 2.51 40 25-11-2 2.51
* Spent 2007-08 with Pittsburgh, 2008-09 with Detroit

Pittsburgh Penguins
  2007-08 2008-09  
Sidney Crosby 53 24-48-72 77 33-70-103 26
Pascal Dupuis 78 12-15-27 71 12-16-28 1
Mark Eaton 36 0-3-3 68 4-5-9 6
Sergei Gonchar 78 12-53-65 25 6-13-19 -46
Tyler Kennedy 55 10-9-19 67 15-20-35 16
Kris Letang 63 6-11-17 74 10-23-33 16
Evgeni Malkin 82 47-59-106 82 35-78-113 7
Brooks Orpik 78 1-10-11 79 2-17-19 8
Rob Scuderi 71 0-5-5 81 1-15-16 11
Jordan Staal 82 12-16-28 82 22-27-49 21
Petr Sykora 81 28-35-63 76 25-21-46 -17
Maxime Talbot 63 12-14-26 75 12-10-22 -4

  2007-08   2008-09  
Marc-Andre Fleury 35 19-10-2 2.33 62 35-18-7 2.67
Dany Sabourin 24 10-9-1 2.75 19 6-8-2 2.85

Contact Rocky Bonanno at

Author: Rocky Bonanno | Staff Writer

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