Here in 2017, we just enjoyed a fantastic first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, just like any other year.
Twelve years after the NHL cancelled its entire season due to the inability of the league and the players’ union to come to an agreement, one question remains: who would have won the Stanley Cup had the 2005 season been played?
For the purposes of this article, we will assume that the salary cap was not yet implemented for the 2004-05 season, instead coming into play in 2005-06 like in real life.
Here are how the divisional standings may have played out, with each team’s 2004 and 2006 point totals, respectively, in parentheses next to their names.
- Philadelphia Flyers (101, 101)
- New Jersey Devils (100, 101)
- New York Rangers (69, 100)
- New York Islanders (91, 78)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (58, 58)
The Flyers do not have Peter Forsberg as he stays with the Avalanche, but they can keep 2004 leading scorer Mark Recchi, among others. They edge out the Devils for the division while the Rangers get a huge lift from having Jaromir Jagr for a full season.
- Ottawa Senators (102, 113)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (103, 90)
- Buffalo Sabres (85, 110)
- Montreal Canadiens (93, 93)
- Boston Bruins (104, 74)
Despite still having Joe Thornton on the roster, the Bruins fall mightily from their first-place perch in 2004. Zdeno Chara has not yet been acquired, and Andrew Raycroft plays like the real Andrew Raycroft.
Chara, meanwhile, plays with newly-acquired Dany Heatley on the first-place Senators (this never happened in real life), who also nab the top seed in the East.
Buffalo is on the way up and Toronto is on the way down, but it still takes one more year for Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek to arrive, so the Sabres don’t leapfrog the Leafs just yet.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (106, 92)
- Carolina Hurricanes (76, 112)
- Atlanta Thrashers (78, 90)
- Florida Panthers (75, 85)
- Washington Capitals (59, 70)
Oddly enough, 2005 is sandwiched between years in which Southeast Division teams (Tampa Bay, Carolina) won Stanley Cups. The Bolts still win the division in ’05, though. Carolina started off the 2006 season on a cold note and Eric Staal, while effective, is not yet the elite player he was that season.
- Detroit Red Wings (109, 124)
- Nashville Predators (91, 106)
- St. Louis Blues (91, 57)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (62, 74)
- Chicago Blackhawks (59, 65)
The Red Wings won the President’s Trophy in both 2004 and 2006, so it’s safe to predict they would have in 2005 as well – especially with Brendan Shanahan still in the lineup.
St. Louis experienced an extreme drop from 2004 to 2006, but Al MacInnis has not retired yet while Pavol Demitra and Chris Pronger still wear the note for one more year.
- Calgary Flames (94, 103)
- Colorado Avalanche (100, 95)
- Vancouver Canucks (101, 92)
- Edmonton Oilers (89, 95)
- Minnesota Wild (83, 84)
After a surprise Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004, the Flames win the division in 2005. Colorado begins its decline without Patrick Roy, but still has a respectable season, keeping Peter Forsberg for one final year before the salary cap forces him out.
- San Jose Sharks (104, 99)
- Dallas Stars (97, 112)
- Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (76, 98)
- Los Angeles Kings (81, 89)
- Phoenix Coyotes (68, 81)
The Sharks don’t have Joe Thornton yet, but it’s okay. San Jose won the division and went to the Conference Final without him in 2004, who’s to say they wouldn’t have done the same in 2005?
Also, Anaheim gets Teemu Selanne back. He adds a jolt to the offense as the Ducks are about to become one of the NHL’s elite in a handful of years.
Eastern Conference Playoff Lineup (*division winner)
- Ottawa Senators*
- Tampa Bay Lightning*
- Philadelphia Flyers*
- New Jersey Devils
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Buffalo Sabres
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Rangers
Western Conference Playoff Lineup (*division winner)
- Detroit Red Wings*
- San Jose Sharks*
- Calgary Flames*
- Dallas Stars
- Colorado Avalanche
- Nashville Predators
- Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
- Vancouver Canucks
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
1. Ottawa Senators over 8. New York Rangers in 5 games
2. Tampa Bay Lightning over 7. Carolina Hurricanes in 6 games
3. Philadelphia Flyers over 6. Buffalo Sabres in 6 games
4. New Jersey Devils over 5. Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games
We get an exciting matchup between the defending Stanley Cup champs and the eventual 2006 champs, but the Hurricanes do not discover the playoff juggernaut that is Cam Ward until the following spring.
Also, Martin Brodeur and Eddie Belfour square off in an interesting series.
Western Conference Quarterfinals
1. Detroit Red Wings over 4. Vancouver Canucks in 4 games
7. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim over 2. San Jose Sharks in 7 games
3. Calgary Flames over 6. Nashville Predators in 6 games
4. Dallas Stars over 5. Colorado Avalanche in 6 games
The Mighty Ducks savor their role as underdogs again and San Jose suffers the first of what will become many memorable early playoff exits.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
1. Ottawa Senators over 4. New Jersey Devils in 6 games
3. Philadelphia Flyers over 2. Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games
Dominik Hasek’s team is too strong offensively to fall to Martin Brodeur and the Devils while the Flyers knock off the defending champs.
Western Conference Semifinals
1. Detroit Red Wings over 7. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 6 games
4. Dallas Stars over 3. Calgary Flames in 7 games
Detroit avenges its 2003 loss to Anaheim two years later, beating the Mighty Ducks in six in a tough battle. Dallas upsets the Flames in seven.
Eastern Conference Final
1. Ottawa Senators over 3. Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games
Philadelphia fails to make the Stanley Cup Final again as the Senators prove to be just too strong all around.
Western Conference Final
4. Dallas Stars over 1. Detroit Red Wings in 6 games
Marty Turco’s struggles against Detroit during his career have been well-documented, but give him the edge here with Manny Legace tending the net in Hockeytown.
2005 Stanley Cup Final
Mike Modano leads Dallas to its third Stanley Cup Final appearance in seven seasons as the Stars look for their second-ever Stanley Cup. It won’t happen, as a loaded Senators team proves to be too much to handle, winning the Stanley Cup at home in Game 5. Daniel Alfredsson wins the Conn Smythe as part of a formidable core with Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara and Dominik Hasek.