The Washington Capitals earned their first Stanley Cup in franchise history this week, defeating the expansion sweetheart Las Vegas Golden Nights in five games. The Caps are the latest team to break a franchise’s major championship drought. Here is a list of some of those droughts since 2016.
Chicago Cubs (won in 2016, 108-year drought)
Houston Astros (won in 2017, 55-year drought)
Philadelphia Eagles (won in 2016, 58-year drought)
Cleveland Cavilers (won in 2016, 52-year drought for the entire city!)
Washington Capitals (won in 2018, 44-year drought)
The Eagles won the NFL Championship before it was called the Super Bowl. The Cubs won their last World Series at a time where World War I did not take place yet. This three-year stretch we are currently in the middle of is bizarre but is rewarding fan bases that have been suffering their entire lives.
I am starting to get worried about the city of Tampa after another year of falling short. It has been 15 years since the Bolts hoisted the Stanley Cup, but 15 can turn to 30 fast, just ask the franchises above…
Anyway, I thought it would be a good exercise to go through the 4 major professional sports and determine who will be the next team to break their history of not winning a championship. There are a couple ground rules.
- The team must have a 20-year or longer drought and/or
- Never have won a title
- No Las Vegas Golden Knights (sorry, thought this would be a cop out)
We will break this down by sport, then have a Final Four to determine which sad sports fanbase should be the most optimistic going forward.
There are a few interesting choices in the NFL where teams will be contending for a Super Bowl next season. The Minnesota Vikings (40 years) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (22 years) both played in the conference championship games this year. The Jaguars could make the argument that they should have been in the Super Bowl against the Eagles, if the officiating did not blow the Myles Jack fumble recovery call. Both franchises have dominant defenses that have the potential of carrying a team to the Super Bowl, despite the play of their offense. The Vikings upgraded the offensive side of the ball by adding former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the team will get back running back Dalvin Cook, who showed lots of promise at the beginning of the season before blowing out his knee. The Jags on the other hand are stuck with Blake Bortles for at least next season. His inaccuracy in the AFC Championship game was embarrassing and suppresses the overall potential of the whole team.
My sleeper pick in the NFL would be the San Diego Chargers (22 years). Phil Rivers is the most underrated quarterback of the 2000’s, and this roster is finally built to win the playoffs. The Chargers were the kings of failing to close out games last season, resulting in falling one game short of reaching the playoffs. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are going to wreak havoc offensive lines everywhere. The offensive line should get back to full strength. The Cowboys (21 years), and Chiefs (47 years) could also be long shot choices, but I am going to go with the Vikings based on their balanced roster.
This one is tricky because the Golden State Warriors are a juggernaut that is not going away anytime soon. LeBron James has a difficult decision this summer to decide whether he wants to join a team that can compete now (Houston Rockets or Philadelphia 76ers), stay with his hometown (Cleveland Cavilers), or go build his brand is Los Angles (Los Angles Lakers). I believe this discussion comes down to the Sixers (35 years) or the Rockets (25 years). The Rockets were one game, and one Chris Paul injury away from taking down the Warriors. Daryl Morey is always looking to improve his roster and acquiring either Paul George or James this summer could put them over the top, which is why I am going with the Rockets in this discussion.
There are so many ways to go with this one. The Washington Nationals (49 years), Milwaukee Brewers (49 years), Seattle Mariners (41 years), and Cleveland Indians (70 years) have been showing promise this season. The Atlanta Braves (23 years), known as the Young Braves, have shown the potential to stay relevant for the foreseeable future with one of the best farm system in baseball, and money to spend to bring in all-star caliber players at the trade deadline or in free agency this summer.
The Indians are currently the Vegas favorites out of this group of teams at +1400 (via OddsShark) to win the World Series, while the Nationals (+1600) and Braves (+1800) are not too far behind. The problem with all these teams is that The Yankees, Red Sox and Astros look unstoppable in the American League, and the Cubs and Diamondbacks are rolling in the National League.
Anything can happen in baseball, and all that matters is how you are playing in October. I am giving the nod to the Braves due to their young core, and ability to be relevant the next 5-10 years whereas the Nationals and Indians could see drop-offs in the next couple of seasons if they lose some of their cornerstone players (Bryce Harper in particular) in free agency.
If it was 2019, there would be a legitimate discussion between the Toronto Maple Leafs (50 years) and the Nashville Predators (19 years). The Leafs were a popular Darkhorse team for this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs but could not get past the Bruins in the first round after taking them to 7 games. The front office has gone through a major shakeup where the franchise is transitioning from Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello to young gun Kyle Dubas at general manager, who in 2015 was named as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 sports figures in the world. This move has the intentions of taking the team to the next level and compete for the Stanley Cup as soon as next season. Toronto winning the cup would also end the 25-year Stanley Cup drought for the great nation of Canada.
Minnesota Vikings vs Houston Rockets
Both teams are in similar situations. They competed in their respective conference championships this past season. If the Rockets can lure in one of the major free agents this summer (big IF), they will have both made a major move to improve their already loaded rosters (Cousins for Vikings, George or James for Rockets). Each team plays in the superior conference in their leagues.
My decision comes down to which team made the move that will put them over the top. The Vikings added a quarterback that was disrespected by his previous owner, but how much of a boost will he really give the Vikings? Case Keenum was fantastic last season as the Vikings signal caller, and I am not convinced that Cousins is a significant upgrade. Cousins takes up $27 million in cap space the next 3 seasons, which could limit the Vikings from resigning all their other talented players hitting free agency in the near future.
The Rockets could face a similar situation if Paul starts to regress in the coming years after he signs his max contract this summer. The difference though is that the Rockets could add another All-Star, and more importantly, a wing that can slow down Kevin Durant just enough that they could propel themselves past the Warriors in a playoff series.
I am going with the Rockets.
Atlanta Braves vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Braves and Leafs are both young teams that will be around for a long time, but the Leafs can compete next season. As good as the Braves have been, I believe they are still a few pitchers, and a batter or two away from contending with powerhouses like the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Cubs. The Leafs can make a few moves and compete this year. I do not think this one is close. Give me the Leafs.
Houston Rockets vs Toronto Maple Leafs
I think it is understated how close the Rockets were to taking down the Warriors this postseason. If James Harden gets called for an obvious travel with under a minute left of game 5, and Chris Paul does not go up for that awkward jump shot that resulted in him pulling his hamstring the next play, we could be talking about Harden and Paul getting their first title. I do believe they need to upgrade at the wing due to the lack of options to slow down Durant. That is possible with James, George, and wait for it…. Kwahi Leonard being available this summer.
The Leafs are +1200 to win the cup next year, which is tied for third best odds. The team is for real, and with the NHL being as unpredictable as it is, there could be a Stanley Cup in Toronto next season if the pieces fall in place.
This is a toss-up in my mind, and highly dependent on what each team does this summer, but I am not going to hedge this decision. Congrats to the Houston Rockets. You are the most likely fanbase to shatter your championship torture next. Toronto fans should be excited too. Next year could be the #LeafsYear