Welcome to a weekend of Game 7s. If your favorite team isn’t playing in one, prepare to be entertained. If they are, well, prepare for pain.
Whenever I make a ranking, I know what I’m in for. It’s a fun format to play with, and readers usually enjoy them, but somebody will always get mad. It doesn’t matter how obvious the topic might be. Some fan out there will take it personally. I could do a ranking of the NHL’s best players that had Connor McDavid and Cale Makar at the top, and some Columbus fan will show up to yell at me that it’s actually Zach Werenski. And that’s cool — a little bit of hometown bias is part of the deal.
But today … I’m not sure today is going to go well for me. That’s because of this ranking’s topic: Every team’s most painful Game 7 loss, ranked from least to most heartbreaking.
I’m willing to bet that just about every fan who saw that headline immediately thought that their team has to rank high. Maybe you even figure you’re a slam dunk for top spot. After all, it might be true that every fan base has suffered, but surely no fan base has suffered as much as yours. I’m pretty sure that’s a universal trait of every die-hard sports fan. We all have the scars, we’re weirdly proud of them, and we’ll show them off if you ask, or even if you don’t. Nobody knows your pain. Of course, this sort of list has to build towards your team, who else could even come close?
Sounds like fun, let’s do this.
Here’s how this will work. For every team in the league, I’ve gone through their history and picked what I think was their most agonizing Game 7 loss. (In some cases, I reached out to others for help, but I made the final call so you can blame me if you think I missed a better choice.) We’re considering a team’s entire history, although we’ll try to lean towards the modern era where we can. It goes without saying that I’m only looking at a team’s current location because nobody in Carolina should feel bad about something that happened in Hartford.
And most importantly, I’m looking for all the different kinds of misery a Game 7 can provide. A close game or a late collapse will hurt, but so can an especially embarrassing blowout. Overtime is a bonus. So are any controversies, bad bounces or memorable mistakes. Context matters too, so we’ll consider the season, the recent history, what came after, and even how likable the team was before it all came crashing down. To borrow a term some of you will recognize, we’re looking for Those Games.
We all have our pain, and this is going to get ugly. There’s no such thing as a pleasant Game 7 loss, but we’ll start at the merely painful and work our way into the depths of utter misery. Read it now, before we get a few new candidates this weekend.
Not ranked: Seattle Kraken, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets
OK, maybe we don’t all have our pain, at least when it comes to the subject at hand. The Hurricanes have never lost a Game 7 since moving to Carolina, going a sickening 5-0 in winner-take-alls. They did drop a few in Hartford, including that legendary night back in 1992, and of course, could lose one Saturday. But for now, they’re safe.
The Kraken (obviously) and the Blue Jackets (somewhat surprisingly) are the only other current NHL teams that have never lost a Game 7, meaning our actual ranking will have 29 teams to work with. Sorry Seattle, and Columbus fans, better worse luck next year.