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Making it to the final game or final playoff series during the previous season is no guarantee for future success — in fact it's quite the opposite for professional teams in all four of the major sports.

For the past 20 seasons, the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB teams that finished as runner-ups to the champions in each league have had a difficult time finding success during the following season. While there are several reasons to explain this phenomenon, like free agency, untimely injuries, etc., it seems nearly implausible that only two teams lost in the finals one year, and came back to win a championship the following season. Inexplicably, it hasn't happened in any of the four major sports since 1988.

In the NHL, the landscape is much worse for the runner-up. On paper, it would appear the Ottawa Senators are capable of rebounding from their loss to Anaheim in June, but closer inspection reveals that no NHL runner-up has returned to the Stanley Cup Finals the subsequent season since 1987. Five times the runner-up missed the playoffs altogether and eight times they were bounced in the first round. Those facts don't bode well for the Senators, particularly with the injury to Dany Heatley and Ray Emery's penchant for causing disruption by being late to practices.

One good note is that Jason Spezza told me at the All-Star Game that Heatley is mending quickly and could return earlier than many expected. At first it was reported that Heatley would miss eight weeks. Spezza said it might be no more than five or six.

Runners-Up Since 1987
2007 Senators ?
2006 Oilers missed
2004 Flames (2005 season cancelled)
2003 Mighty Ducks missed
2002 Hurricanes missed
2001 Devils Lost in 1st Round
2000 Stars Lost in 1st Round
1999 Sabres Lost in 1st Round
1998 Capitals missed
1997 Flyers Lost in 1st Round
1996 Panthers Lost in 1st Round
1995 Red Wings Lost in Semi-Finals
1994 Canucks Lost in 2nd Round (season abbreviated)
1993 Kings missed
1992 Blackhawks Lost in 1st Round
1991 North Stars Lost in 1st Round
1990 Bruins Lost in Semi-Finals
1989 Canadiens Lost in 2nd Round
1988 Bruins Lost in 2nd Round
1987 Flyers Lost in 1st Round

Of course, three teams have won back-to-back Stanley Cups since that time, too. The Penguins in 1992-93, the Red Wings in 1997-98, and Edmonton in 1987-88.



 
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