The NHL is a very parity driven league. Any team could come out of the league and win the Stanley Cup. This is even true as the playoffs approach. A lower seed beating higher seeds in the playoffs is nothing unusual in the NHL.
The Los Angeles Kings were the eighth seeded team in the Western Conference in the 2012 playoffs. They then proceeded to beat the Western Conference Division Winners to get to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The New Jersey Devils were the sixth seeded team in the Eastern Conference. The Devils advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with wins over the third seeded Florida Panthers, the fifth seeded Philadelphia Flyers and the top seeded New York Rangers.
So when the two met in the Stanley Cup Finals, who would win? Well, the lower seeded Kings of course. Can you imagine something like this in the NBA playoffs? Of course not. There’s no way Miami loses to a number eight seed. There’s absolutely no way a number eight seed would go on to win it all. But this happens in hockey.
Last year’s Champions? They were knocked out at home by losing Game Five and Game Seven in the first round when the seven seeded Capitals knocked off the defending champion Boston Bruins.
Look at the Stanley Cup Champions of the last decade. The Kings had never won the Cup, the Bruins had not won it since the early 1970s, The Chicago Blackhawks had not won it since 1961. This is almost like the Cubs winning the World Series one year, the Indians the next and the Astros the next. It would never happen.
But in the NHL, at least in the 2000s it does happen. Meanwhile dynasty franchises like the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs continue to struggle. Imagine the Yankees not even making the playoffs for years. That’s what is happening in the NHL.