There is always a discussion as to what the greatest team ever assembled in any sport is. Dynasties have been formed, and putting them in order can be a difficult task. But what about those teams that went the opposite way, getting destroyed by other teams time and time again as they go through the schedule?
Today, we want to focus on those teams, and find out which ones were the worst to ever lace up their skates and attempt to look like a group of professionals during an NHL season. Now, this isn’t going to be a list of the worst franchises of all-time, but instead a focus on the worst seasons that an NHL team has ever had.
The new millennium has not seen many teams that have been historically bad, especially with the parity of the league that came after the NHL lockout. As bad as teams like the Maple Leafs and Sabres were this year, they still would’ve been far from last place with some of the historically bad teams. With two expansion teams seemingly on the way in Las Vegas and Quebec, we’ll likely see some historically bad teams again, but for now, the race for the first pick will still be as tight as the chase for the final playoff spot.
To find some truly awful teams, who would have been more suited for minor leagues, we have to go way back in time and discover some rosters that you may not have known even existed. Without further ado, here are the 15 worst NHL teams of all time.
15. 1991-92 San Jose Sharks
The poor San Jose Sharks didn’t really stand much of a chance when they made their debut in the 1991-92 season. Perhaps the most embarrassing part of their season was the fact that they finished 3-35-2 on the road and were outscored by 140 goals. The team finished with a final record of 17-58-5 and Pat Falloon was their highest scorer with just 59 points. The Sharks were able to somehow give up 10 or more goals on three separate occasions during the season, with their worst loss coming 11-1 against Detroit.
14. 1983-84 Pittsburgh Penguins
The 1983-84 Penguins would ensure that they wouldn’t be nearly as bad again after they took Mario Lemieux with the first pick in the 1984 NHL Draft. They had to be pretty bad to get that pick, though, and bad they were, with a record of 16-58-6. In fact coach Lou Angotti later admitted that the Pens had been sabotaging their own games to ensure they got the first pick.
Mike Bullard had a pretty solid season for the Penguins that year, scoring 92 points (including 51 goals), but the team gave up a remarkable 390 goals during the season to finish dead last in the Patrick Division, allowing the New Jersey Devils from that year to barely miss out on this list.
13. 1969-70 Los Angeles Kings
In just their third year in the league, the Los Angeles Kings had their most pathetic season in franchise history. The team was completely anemic on offense, and their coach was fired just 24 games into the season. The Kings were only able to muster up 168 goals in 76 games, and their road record was miserable at 2-30-6. At one point, the Kings played 17 games in which they didn’t secure a win. It was a huge regression after being able to reach the playoffs in their first two seasons as a team. This was especially bad, as all the expansion teams of 1967 were plucked in the same division, meaning the Kings heavily fell behind their fellow expansion teams.
12. 1950-51 Chicago Black Hawks
There might be a Chicago Blackhawks dynasty these days, but the team had a long stretch of futility and they make this list quite a few times, back when the team’s name was written in two words (Black Hawks). The first season on the list is the 1950-51 season, where they were able to somehow be worse from their last place finish the year before, finishing with a record of 13-47-10. Roy Conacher led the team with just 50 points, and they got off to a good start at 7-3-2 before completely falling apart. The Bruins made the playoffs that year with 62 points, and the Blackhawks still finished 26 points out.
11. 1999-00 Atlanta Thrashers
You may know them as the Winnipeg Jets now, but they were once known as the Atlanta Thrashers, and they didn’t last in the city for very long. The Thrashers played their first season in 1999-00, with some lousy results. The Thrashers’ final tally was a record of 14-57-7-4, with only five wins coming on the road. Atlanta only scored 170 goals during the season, with Andrew Brunette leading the way at 23 goals. Atlanta finished with 39 points, 15 behind the fourth place Lightning in their division, a team that had just 19 wins of their own.
10. 1928-29 Chicago Black Hawks
We now go way back to see another Chicago Black Hawks season, in what was only their third year in the league. There were only five teams in the American Division at this time in the NHL, and the Blackhawks were so bad that they finished behind the 9-27-8 Pittsburgh Pirates. Chicago’s final record was 7-29-8, but that isn’t even the saddest part. The saddest part is the fact that they finished with just 33 goals in the 44 game schedule, and Ty Arbour was their leading assist man with four on the season.
9. 1994-95 Ottawa Senators
The 1994-95 season for the Ottawa Senators was their third in the NHL, and it was bad, but not the worst that they had in the 1990s (more on that later). The NHL lockout of this season cut the Senators shot at all-time futility short, but it looked like they were going to take a stab at it. The team wrapped up their season with a record of 9-34-5, but at least Alexei Yashin was proving to be a good asset for the team. The Senators finished last in the Northeast Division, with nine fewer wins than the team ahead of them, which is saying something in a shortened schedule.
8. 1975-76 Washington Capitals
The Capitals were playing in their second NHL season when 1975-76 rolled around, and it was a slight improvement from their first season, but it was still a disaster. The Caps only notched 11 wins to go along with 59 losses and 10 ties, putting them deep into the cellar, 95 points behind the division champion Montreal Canadiens. Washington didn’t even win their first game until the 10th of the season when they defeated Chicago 7-5. Nobody broke 50 points on the roster, with Nelson Pyatt only getting 49 to lead the way.
7. 1972-73 New York Islanders
Believe it or not, the 1972-73 Islanders are the only team in franchise history to make it onto this list, and it was their first year in the league. Gordie Howe turned down the head coaching job, and things wouldn’t get much better for the squad. The Islanders got blown out time and time again, scoring just 170 goals throughout the season while giving up 347. That minus-177 difference is one of the biggest to ever be seen. After mustering just 30 points on the season, the Islanders finished in the basement, 58 points out of a playoff spot.
6. 1943-44 New York Rangers
The worst team that the New York Rangers ever put on the ice was during a season when World War II was still at the forefront of global news. The Rangers got just 17 total points from their record of 6-39-5, getting outscored by 148 goals in that span. The first two months and the last two months of the season were pitiful for the Rangers, with a combined record of 0-25-5 in that timespan. Bryan Hextall led all scorers for New York with 54 points, with nobody else being very close.
5. 1927-28 Chicago Black Hawks
Yet another Chicago appearance on the list, but this one is the worst one of the bunch. 1927-28 was the second Black Hawks season, and they were at least mediocre in their first go around with a record of 19-22-3. The 1927-28 season, however, would mark a huge dip, finishing with a record of 7-34-3. Injuries and a rookie goalie that was way in over his head marked their doom this season, as they gave up 134 goals, which was 55 more than the next team in their division. At least they had the fewest penalty minutes.
4. 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from this list so far, it’s that expansion teams had it pretty rough back in the day. While in their second NHL season, the Winnipeg Jets had three different coaches and totaled just nine wins to go against 57 losses and 14 ties, at one point starting the season 1-25-7. The Jets didn’t seem like they wanted to be at the arena most nights, and the team would eventually move to Phoenix before they received the Atlanta franchise.
3. 1992-93 San Jose Sharks
In their second season, the Sharks would make history by breaking futility records. San Jose finished 11-71-2, with just 24 points. Those 71 losses are a record for most in a season, and they also set the record for most consecutive losses with 17. The team got thrashed repeatedly, scoring just 218 goals on the season and surrendering 414, most in the league. Thankfully for San Jose, they wouldn’t even be the worst team of all time, let alone that season…because there was one team that was worse.
2. 1992-93 Ottawa Senators
And that team was the Ottawa Senators, who were playing in their first NHL season. The Senators had fewer wins than the Sharks that year with 10, but avoided breaking the record for most losses by having four ties, finishing with one fewer loss than San Jose. Perhaps the most vomit-inducing stat that the Senators had that year was the road record, at 1-41-0. The Senators weren’t as bad as the Sharks in terms of giving up goals (allowing 395), but were even worse at scoring them, with 202 on the season.
1. 1974-75 Washington Capitals
The worst team to ever play in an NHL season has to be the Washington Capitals in their inaugural season of 1974-75. While the record is on par with the Senators and Sharks from 1992-93 at 8-67-5, it was the goal differential (and 1-39-0 road record) that really did them in. The Capitals scored just 181 goals on the season while allowing an NHL record 446. Their best goalie was Michel Belhumeur, who finished the year with a laughable 5.36 goals against average. The worst loss that the Capitals had was 12-1, and they actually pulled that off twice.
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