Every year you can expect three things – in no specific order – death, taxes and superstar athletes who can’t lead their respective teams to a championship or who always seem to come up short in the postseason. Not every team can win a championship in a given year, as there is only one. With that said, some teams and superstar players can’t reach the pinnacle of success or even play for an opportunity to do so. With the NBA and NHL playoffs both in the conference finals rounds, certain players and teams yet again came up short for one reason or another.
Washington Capitals (Alexander Ovechkin Era; 2004-prrsent)
The Caps are notorious for early playoff exits year after year. No matter the talent on the roster, this franchise can’t get over the proverbial hump. In fact, since Alexander Ovechkin was drafted back in 2004, this franchise has not reached a single conference final. In that span, the Caps have bowed out of the playoffs in the first round three times. In 2010, Washington won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points through the regular season. Unfortunately for the Caps and their fan base, the team underachieved, losing in a Game 7 in the first round against the Montreal Canadians. Speaking of Game 7s, the Caps have appeared in nine, but have only won three, all in the first round. Staying on the topic of Game 7s, Washington was defeated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the conference semifinals this season. What hurts the most for the Caps is the fact they were up 3-1 in the series, yet couldn’t secure one final win to propel them to the conference finals. Teams that lead a series 3-1 win the series 90% of the time, except for the Capitals. With the loss to the Rangers, it marked the 10th time in franchise history that the Caps lost a series in which they were up two games, the most of any franchise in the NHL. As for Mr. Ovechkin, who is one of the top two hockey players on the planet today, another year goes by without the hardware he covets so much; the Stanley Cup. He is the only player in the 98-year history of the NHL to win multiple MVPs (3) and have zero Stanley Cups to show for it. It would be one thing if Ovechkin didn’t have any help, but his teams are pretty good year in and year out.
Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul Era; 2011-present)
The Clippers used to be the laughing stock of the NBA as they were perennially bad. They were always the little brother to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ever since superstar point guard Chris Paul was traded from the then New Orleans Hornets to the Lakers, err, the Clippers, the city of Los Angeles has had a new team to cheer on in hopes of bringing home a title, since the Lakers have fallen off since last winning the championship in 2010. In the four seasons that Paul has been a member of the Clippers, the team has made the postseason each season. Paul and company have not been able to get the Clippers to its first conference finals thus far. This season, the Clippers were in complete control of the Houston Rockets, leading the series 3-1. However, Houston had other plans, winning three straight to advance to the conference finals against the Golden State Warriors. It gets worse for the Clips and their fan base. In Game 6, LA led the Rockets by 19 in the second half, looking like it would make a conference finals for the first time in franchise history. However, Houston – with MVP candidate James Harden on the bench most of the fourth quarter due to flu-like symptoms – was able to pull off the improbable comeback and force Game 7. What’s even worse for the Clippers is that Game 6 was at home. As for CP3, this marked the 10th time (his entire NBA career) that he failed to reach the conference finals. After willing his team to a Game 7 victory over the reigning, defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, after what appeared to be a hamstring tear, but was only a strain, Paul failed to will his teammates to close out the Rockets. For as great as Paul is, he fails to lead his team when it counts the most.
Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose Era: 2008-present)
The Bulls have not won a championship since Michael Jordan led them to six in an eight year span in the 90’s. In 2008, Chicago drafted its next franchise player in Derrick Rose. Not that the Bulls didn’t try drafting a franchise player before, just nobody panned out. Rose would become the Rookie of the Year in 2009. In 2011, Rose became the youngest player in league history to win the MVP award. That season, the Bulls had the best overall record at 60-22. Rose led Chitown to the conference finals for a matchup with the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat. Unfortunately for Rose and company, the Heat proved to be superior and won the series 4-1. That was the only time the Bulls reached the conference finals, thus far, in the D-Rose era. That’s not entirely on Rose, though. In the first game of the 2012 playoffs, Rose suffered a torn ACL against the Philadelphia 76ers. He would then miss the entire 2013 season, despite being cleared by doctors in January. In the 2013/14 season, Rose suffered yet another injury, this time a torn meniscus, which caused him to miss the entire season. He injured the same meniscus in his right knee this season, but was able to recover and play in the playoffs. After beating the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, the Bulls weren’t able to get past LeBron James, yet again, despite being on the verge of taking a pivotal Game 5, with the series tied 2-2. LeBron and company closed the Bulls out in Game 6. No easy feat, Rose and the Bulls have yet to find a way to knock King James out of the playoffs.
These three franchises, led by superstar players aren’t the only teams to fail once the postseason begins. There are countless teams who can’t even sniff a finals, let alone a conference finals. For the three aforementioned players, here’s a piece of advice: step up and lead your team to the promise land and bring your city home a championship.
Who are some players or teams you think of that can’t get it done in the playoffs? Hit me up on Twitter @KingEdward15 and let me know.