Ranking the 10 Most Disappointing Teams in NHL History
Every year there are NHL teams with high expectations, teams that have a lot of talent and seem primed to win a title. Sometimes, teams fail to live up to those expectations. This list examines the 10 most disappointing teams in NHL history.
To make this list, a team had to have a great regular season and be among the favorites to win a Stanley Cup. Then, once the playoffs began, the team failed miserably and was eliminated early in the postseason.
The more stars a team had and the more dominating they were during the regular season and the earlier they were eliminated from the playoffs, the higher they will be on this list. Teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final or conference final in the modern era are unlikely to qualify for a list that only has 10 teams on it.
Feel free to add a team you feel belongs on this list or that you feel should be higher or lower than it is ranked. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
10. 1978-79 New York Islanders
The New York Islanders had the best record in the NHL in 1978-79 with 116 points in 80 games.
The Isles had reached the semifinals for three straight seasons from 1975 to 1977 before being upset by the Maple Leafs in the quarterfinals in 1978.
There was talent up and down this roster with future Hall of Famers like Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin and goalie Billy Smith. They had five players on their roster with 30 or more goals that season.
The Isles dominated the Blackhawks in the quarterfinals, sweeping the series in four games and outscoring Chicago 14-3 over the course of the series.
In the semifinals, the Isles ran head first into a young Rangers team coached by Fred Shero. They had a red-hot goalie in John Davidson and veteran leaders like Phil Esposito, Anders Hedberg and Carol Vadnais.
The Rangers ended up defeating their rivals in six games, derailing the Islanders' Stanley Cup dreams.
The dream was more delayed than denied. One year later, general manager Bill Torrey acquired Butch Goring and added Olympic standout Ken Morrow late in the season, and the Islanders won the first of four straight Stanley Cups.
The loss to the Rangers was devastating, but the Islanders learned from their tough losses to Toronto and the Rangers and became a dynasty.
9. 1929-30 Boston Bruins
No team in NHL history had a better winning percentage than the 1929-30 Boston Bruins. Boston went 38-5-1 that season, an .875 points percentage. The second-place team in the standings finished 26 points behind Boston, a fact that was made even more impressive by the knowledge that each team only played a 44-game schedule that season.
The Bruins were the defending Stanley Cup champions. They led the league in goals scored with 179 and in goals against with 98. They were an impressive 17-4-1 on the road and an even more impressive 21-1-0 at home.
Their roster featured Hall of Fame goalie Tiny Thompson and legends like Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper.
Boston's top line consisted of Cooney Weiland, Clapper and Dutch Gainor. It was known as "The Dynamite Line."
The Bruins ousted the Montreal Maroons in the opening round of the playoffs in four games but were defeated by the Canadiens in two straight games in the Stanley Cup Final behind the strong goaltending of George Hainsworth.
The Bruins had the most impressive regular season in NHL history in 1929-30, but they failed to win the Stanley Cup.
8. 1982-83 Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers finished the 1982-93 season with 106 points and won the Patrick Division.
Philadelphia's roster was imposing. It featured future Hall of Famers like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Mark Howe and Darryl Sittler and solid players like Brian Propp, Paul Holmgren and Ron Flockhart. Goalie Pelle Lindbergh was among the league's best.
But in the opening round of the playoffs, the Flyers were swept by the smaller but quicker New York Rangers coached by Herb Brooks. Because they were smaller and quicker than the Flyers and they wore blue uniforms, the 1983 Rangers became known as "the smurfs."
Maybe it was the long pants or the rivalry between the Rangers and Flyers, but in the playoffs, Philadelphia looked flat as the Rangers outscored them 18-9. It was a disappointing end to a strong season for the Flyers.
7. 1999-00 St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues had the best record in the NHL in 1999-00. They finished the season with a 51-19-12 mark and 114 points.
The Blues were coached by Joel Quenneville, who would go on to win a pair of Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks.
Goalie Roman Turek starred on a team that gave up fewer than two goals per game over the course of the season. The Blues also had a strong defense led by Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. Pronger won the Hart Trophy that season as the league's MVP.
Up front, St. Louis featured Pierre Turgeon, Pavol Demitra, Scott Young and Michal Handzus. They formed a hard-working team.
In the playoffs, the Blues fell to the Western Conference's eighth seed, the San Jose Sharks, in seven games. It was a disappointing opening-round loss for the team with the league's best record.
6. 2008-09 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were considered favorites to win the Stanley Cup after the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Year after year, they had successful regular seasons only to fall short in the playoffs.
In 2008-09, San Jose was 53-18-11 for 117 points. The team won the Presidents' Trophy with the league's best record and featured stars like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Devin Setoguchi. In goal, Evgeni Nabokov was a steady and productive starter.
The Sharks stumbled badly in the playoffs, however, losing to the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round in six games. Two of the losses were by shutout.
The Sharks had more playoff success in subsequent playoffs, although they have yet to win a Stanley Cup despite having one of the more talented teams in the NHL over the past decade.
5. 1991-92 New York Rangers
The 1991-92 season was the year it was all supposed to come together for the New York Rangers.
They had the league's best record for the first time in 50 years. Earlier in the season, they acquired Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers, and the future Hall of Famer won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP. Brian Leetch won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman.
Other stars on the Rangers that year included Mike Gartner, Tony Amonte, James Patrick and the goaltending duo of John Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Richter.
The Rangers finished the season with a 50-25-5 record. They were red-hot until a brief players' strike late in the season derailed their momentum.
The Rangers just got by the New Jersey Devils in the opening round of the playoffs before being eliminated in the second round by Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Winger Adam Graves slashed Lemieux in the wrists during the series and was suspended. The Rangers lost the series in six games after holding a 2-1 lead.
With the disappointing loss, the Rangers had now gone 52 years without winning a Stanley Cup. The team and its long suffering fans had to wait another two years before that long drought came to an end.
4. 1966-67 Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks had the best record during the 1966-67 season, the final year of the Original Six.
Chicago finished the season with 94 points, 17 points ahead of the league's next-best club.
The Blackhawks were led by Hall of Famers Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. Mikita led the league with 97 points and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. Hull scored 52 goals, his second consecutive year with more than 50 goals.
Other standouts on this club included Phil Esposito, Kenny Wharram, Pierre Pilote, Pat Stapleton and the goaltending tandem of Glenn Hall and Denis DeJordy.
In the playoffs, however, Chicago was eliminated in the first round by the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs in six games.
Chicago wouldn't win another Stanley Cup until 2010.
3. 1952-53 Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings dominated the 1952-53 NHL season. The Wings had 90 points in a 70-game season, 15 points ahead of the next-best club. Detroit scored 53 more goals than the next-best offensive team and allowed 15 fewer goals than any other team.
Stars on this club included Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk and the immortal Gordie Howe.
Howe and Lindsay were 1-2 in the league in goals while Detroit also boasted five of the top 10 points leaders in the league.
In the playoffs, however, the Wings opened with the Boston Bruins. Detroit won Game 1, 7-0, but the Bruins came back and won the series in six games.
The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1952, 1954 and 1955, but 1953 was a colossal disappointment.
2. 2009-10 Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals had he NHL's best record in 2009-10 with 121 points and scored more goals than any other team in the league. They also had some of the league's best players.
Alex Ovechkin scored 50 goals, and both Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom reached 100 points on the season. Alexander Semin added 40 goals, while four other players scored more than 20 goals. Defenseman Mike Green scored 19 goals and added 76 points.
Under coach Bruce Boudreau, the Caps had been successful during the regular season before, only to stumble in the postseason.
That happened again in 2010 as the Montreal Canadiens upset the Capitals in seven games, winning Game 7 by a 2-1 score.
The Capitals tried to tighten up their style and later fired Boudreau, but they have yet to win their first Stanley Cup.
1. 1970-71 Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins were a dominant team in 1970-71. In addition to being the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Bruins finished with the league's best record with 121 points, 12 points ahead of the next best team.
Boston set what was then an NHL record with 399 goals scored, 108 more than the next-best club.
The Bruins had the league's top two goal scorers, top five assist leaders and top four points leaders.
Future Hall of Famers on this club included Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers and Bobby Orr. Other stars included Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Ted Green, Derek Sanderson, John McKenzie, Ed Johnston and Fred Stanfield.
In the playoffs, however, the Bruins ran smack into rookie goalie Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs won the series in seven games and ended the Bruins' season after the first round of the playoffs.
While the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, their best team was probably the one that was upset by the Canadiens in 1970-71.