NHL Power Rankings: The Worst Coach in Each Franchise's History

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IJuly 11, 2011

NHL Power Rankings: The Worst Coach in Each Franchise's History

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    In the world of NHL head coaches, almost every team has their claim to fame. Almost every fan can look back over their 40 years of fanship and laughingly remember that humiliated, red-faced coach from the '70s, '80s, '90s or whenever the team was at its worst and chuckle over how simply horrendous he was.

    Of course, their 10-150 record, or whatever number it happened to be, might not have been completely their fault. Perhaps the GM was pretty bad, too, or the coach was unlucky enough to be taking on a fresh, new expansion franchise—the most doomed teams in all of sports. Maybe they had to play in a rough environment, where every loss was rubbed in or in an arena where empty seats outnumbered people.

    But, no matter the other factors, there's no doubting that particular coach was completely at fault, at least in the minds of his team's "supporters."

    So, we've decided to take it a step further. Let's all stop comparing each franchise's worst coach in history to that franchise's other coaches; instead, how about comparing them to other franchise's worst coaches!

    After scouring the 30 existing NHL franchises for the behind-the-bench bosses with the highest loss totals imaginable (our only condition: They coached the team for at least one full season), we've created the most horrific power rankings in history, breaking down the most horrific coaches in history.

    We'll start with the best of the worst and work our way down (based on winning percentage) to make it even better, since every new coach mentioned will be worse than all the others up to that point.

30. Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz

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    So why is a coach with a 53.3 winning percentage the worst coach in his team's history.

    Well, for Barry Trotz, it's because he's the only coach Nashville has ever had, making him the only automatic qualifier for these rankings and also easily the best coach on the list.

    Trotz has a 455-398-131 record since 2000 with the Preds (overtime losses not counted as losses in winning percentage) and has taken the team to the postseason six of the past seven seasons.

29. Minnesota Wild: Todd Richards

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    Current Minnesota Wild coach Todd Richards, only the second coach in his franchise's history, is also perhaps not too deserving of being listed on a "worst coaches" ranking.

    While Minnesota has missed the playoffs in both of his seasons to date, Richards has a winning percentage of 52 percent at 77-71-16. Unfortunately, Minnesota's only other coach, Jacques Lemaire, has enough prestige and success under his belt to easily top Richards in a coach-off.

28. Montreal Canadiens: Alain Vigneault

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    Despite their long history, the Montreal Canadiens have been so consistently good over the past 90-plus years that their worst coach ever also happens to the current coach of the defending Western Conference champions and also sport a decent, compared to most others that we'll mention, 48.0 winning percentage.

    Vigneault, who, since arriving in Vancouver, has won the Northwest Division four of five tries, was 109-118-39 from '97 to '10 with the Habs, finishing fourth or fifth in the Northeast Division all four seasons.

    However, if not for our must-have-coached-a-full-season rule, he would've been easily knocked out of the "worst" slot by 1939-40 Montreal coach Alfred Lepine, who we'll give an honorable mention. Lepine was 10-33-5 with a 23.2 winning percentage before being fired, by far the worst record in Canadiens coaching history.

27. Calgary Flames: Brian Sutter

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    Brian Sutter, one of the long line from the family involved with the Flames, was not the best Sutter to ever get involved with hockey in Calgary.

    After making the playoffs each of his first seven years coaching with the Blues and Bruins, Brian arrived in Alberta and was a complete train wreck of a coach, going 87-117-42 from '97 to '00 and missing the postseason all three times.

    Brian would never win a playoff series again, finishing in the top eight only one of three seasons with Chicago in his next coaching stint before retiring from the profession.

26. Boston Bruins: Milt Schmidt

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    Let's make this clear: Hockey Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt got there because of his time on the ice, not on the bench...and especially not behind the bench.

    Schmidt, the first of many coaches on the list that were doomed from the start with a frankly horrible name, was 245-360-121 with Boston as a head coach from '54 to '61 and from '62 to '66, accumulating a 40.5 winning percentage and two separate firings over the time period.

25. Philadelphia Flyers: Vic Stasiuk

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    Vic Stasiuk was such a bad coach with the Flyers that no one even snapped a single photo of him.

    Well, perhaps that's not completely true, but there certainly aren't any on Google.

    Stasiuk was the second-ever coach for Philadelphia and definitely didn't do a very good job of it, winning just 45 of 154 games (there were some ties in there, too). He also went 0-for-4 in playoff games in a first-round sweep.

24. Florida Panthers: Mike Keenan

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    By the time hot-tempered, relationship-killing Mike Keenan arrived in Florida, his early years of player disputes and, oddly, winning records had evolved into more player disputes as well as some major struggles in the standings.

    Keenan was 45-73-35 for the Panthers, his seventh of an eventual eight teams coached, in one full season and two partial ones between '01 and '04. After qualifying for the first time in '00-01, Keenan's signing as head coach ended the one-year playoff streak with back-to-back non-playoff years.

    Florida hasn't made the playoffs since.

23. Anaheim Ducks: Pierre Page

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    With a single look at Pierre Page's coaching record with the Ducks, no doubt will remain in your mind why Page ended up having to head to Europe before finding another job (seen here coaching a Salzburg, Austria team).

    Just the second-ever coach for Anaheim, Page went 26-43-13 (a 37.7 winning percentage) in '97-'98 before receiving his third firing in the row, the previous two coming from the Quebec Nordiques and Calgary Flames. Needless to say, he didn't make the postseason.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets: Dave King

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    Current Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Dave King should be pleased with his current job, because it's a wonder he's managed to get it after his time as a head coach with the Blue Jackets.

    King had a mere 37.6 winning percentage from '00 to '03 in Columbus with a combined 64-106-34 record. The Jackets finished last in the Central Division both his two full seasons there with only 28 and 22 wins, respectively, and also stood in last yet again in January of '03 at the time of King's firing.

21. Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers: Paul Holmgren

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    Though most coaches we mention on this list were decent for some time before arriving in some unfortunate city and crashing their team, there are a few who actually went uphill after their coaching disaster. Former Hartford Whalers coach Paul Holmgren, now a hyperactive but successful general manager for the Philadelphia Flyers, is one of them.

    Oddly enough, of the last four coach firings the Whalers franchise had while located in Connecticut, Holmgren was the fired coach three times.

    Indeed, a 54-93-14 combined record in three different stints with the same team was not only bad enough to get him fired three times but also, strangely, hired three times, as well. Nonetheless, Holmgren's tenure in Hartford was nothing short of pathetic and probably was a contributing factor to the eventual relocation of the team to Carolina, where they've been significantly more successful and also a little better at choosing coaches.

20. Edmonton Oilers: Pat Quinn

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    Though it's hard to call a two-time Stanley Cup-winning and Gold Medal-winning coach like Pat Quinn also the worst coach in one of the NHL's longest-running franchise's history, he simply is.

    Quinn made the playoffs 11 times in a row from 1990 to 2004 with Vancouver and Toronto, but, after leaving the coaching field from '06 to '09, Quinn's return for the '09-10 season with the Edmonton Oilers turned into a meltdown.

    Though it's fair to say he didn't have a Class-A team to work with, Quinn was 27-47-8, a 36.5 winning percentage and finished last in the Western Conference.

    In the end, Quinn eventually coached exactly 1,400 NHL games and did have a 55.5 winning percentage in them. But, sadly, his Oilers tenure didn't help that number.

19. Los Angeles Kings: Larry Regan

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    The late Larry Regan only coached a little more than one NHL season in his entire career. And, with the way they turned out, we can see why.

    Regan led the 1970-'71 Los Angeles Kings to a miserable 25-40-13 record and then began the '71-72 season 2-7-1 before being "demoted" in favor of Fred Glover (who was actually worse, but just didn't coach the minimum full season).

    Regan's career in hockey began to head swiftly towards its demise after this little failed experiment, leaving the Canadian with a 36.5 career winning percentage.


18. New York Rangers: Alfred Pike

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    Multifaceted Alf Pike—who played three different positions all with the same team in a matter of just six career NHL seasons—turned out not to have a fourth talent...or, if he did, then it certainly wasn't coaching.

    Pike coached the Rangers in the '59-60 and '60-61 NHL seasons, back in the days of the original six teams, finishing sixth and fifth, respectively, in the final league standings in the two seasons with a 36-66-21 combined record (a 35.3 winning percentage).

17. New York Islanders: Mike Milbury

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    Much-loved (err...) coach Mike Milbury (*insert mockery here*) of the New York Islanders should be a lot closer to No. 1 on this list than he really is, and that's even with a 33.7 winning percentage placing him here.

    As a coach, Milbury was pretty terrible, but as a GM, he was worse. Still, we'll try not to get too off topic with our rambling over his endless list of dumb trades—a list including Zdeno Chara, Bryan McCabe, Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen, Tim Connolly, Jason Spezza—oops, perhaps we just did.

    Anyhow, Milbury was still 57-112-24 as head coach of the Isles before being moved to that infamous GM position in his second firing from head coach after he missed the playoffs for the third time in a row.

    On another note, we'd also like to give out some props to Phil Goyette (the name doomed him...), who gets our honorable mentions list started back up again with a 6-28-4 record in '72-'73, and Butch Goring, who's 41-89-18 record from '99 to '01 almost gave him the edge over Milbury (Milbury's pure stupidity ended up being the deciding factor, in case you were wondering).

16. Buffalo Sabres: Punch Imlach

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    Hall of Famer Punch Imlach (though we can't deny his name is still really bad) might deserve a small asterisk with his inclusion on this list; after all, he did do plenty of great things for the NHL and for the Buffalo Sabres.

    Still, his 1.5-ish seasons as the coach of the newly created Sabres went about as badly as could be. Imlach went 32-63-25—if you do the math, that's a 33.7 winning percentage—before a heart attack forced him to step down.

    Good thing it did, though, because if we were in charge, we would've fired him long before that.

15. Detroit Red Wings: Wayne Maxner

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    Unlike many of the other aforementioned coaches, Wayne Maxner, as a player, was no Hall of Famer.

    Eight goals and nine assists as a career stat line wasn't likely to earn him a spot, after all.

    But as a coach, he might go down as one of the best in history. Well, the best...at losing.

    Maxner, leading the fabled Detroit Red Wings, crumbled as a head coach, winning just one-third of his decisions (not including ties) and well less than 27 percent of his total games (including ties) with a 34-68-27 record in the early eighties. As would be expected, he didn't make the postseason.

    Detroit can boast a coach with a lower winning percentage than Maxner, however; we figure a 9.3 percent mark tops him. That number was generated by Larry Wilson of 1977, who went (cringe) 3-29-4 as a head coach. 

14. St. Louis Blues: Barclay Plager

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    Barclay Plager (another poor name) was quite a staple for the Blues as a player, helping them make the Stanley Cup Finals three consecutive times.

    But as a coach? Well, we'll let you decide: Does a 40-85-27 record suffice?

    That's right, Mr. Plager didn't find nearly the same success behind the bench that he did on the ice, leading St. Louis to a worse-than-mediocre 53-point finish in '77-78 and then failing to find many more wins in abbreviated coaching periods during the '78-79 and '82-83 seasons.

13. Vancouver Canucks: Vic Stasiuk

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    Does this random, inconsequential picture look familiar?

    Yeah, we thought it did.

    That's right—Vic Stasiuk isn't only the worst coach in Philadelphia Flyers history; he's the worst coach in Vancouver Canucks history, too, as was even worse in British Columbia. Stasiuk went directly from the Flyers to 'Nucks in 1971 only to put up a miserable 22-47-9 record with Vancouver as head coach.

    Stasiuk was fired for the second consecutive summer in '72 and was never hired again.

12. Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars: Ted Harris

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    When longtime North Stars defenseman Ted Harris retired from his playing days and took on a more formal position in Minnesota—head coach—many fans felt certain he'd be better than their previous three coaching tenures, all of which ended poorly.

    But it wasn't so; instead, Harris only continued the losing streak.

    He went 48-104-27, a 31.6 winning percentage, in the '75-76 and '76-77 NHL seasons, in which the North Stars finished out of the playoffs by a long shot both teams and slipped to a league-worst 43 points in the latter.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs: Dan Maloney

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    For the Kings, Wings, and Leafs in the 70's and early 80's, Dan Maloney earned support for his enforcer role and gritty style. However, when he came into the coaching field, the praise began to trail off as his coaching statistics piled up.

    Admittedly, they're a bit of a turn-off. For the prestigious Toronto Maple Leafs, Don Maloney replaced Mike Nykoluk, who accumulated a 38.1 winning percentage in 280 games, as head coach in the summer of '84 without much in the way of big shoes to fill.

    Good thing.

    Maloney collapsed as the coach, going 45-100-15 (a flat 31 percent mark for the you-know-what statistic that we've managed to throw in on every slide so far). But at least he hit one milestone with the triple-digit losses; you never know when that trivia will come in handy.

10. Wininpeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes: Tom McVie

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    Though they were part of the now-nonexistent World Hockey Association (WHA) for part of his tenure, Tom McVie's horrific time as head coach of the now-relocated original Jets franchise (as you can tell, it seems that everything he was a part of fell apart) was too bad to leave off the list.

    McVie led Winnipeg to a 39-25-6 record in the '78-79 WHA season, their last in history, a nice little start to an eventually disastrous tenure. After that, all the success remaining from year one crumbled into 20-49-11 record in the '79-80 NHL season and then a jaw-dropping, awful 1-20-7 record to begin the '80-81 campaign for Winnipeg before McVie was finally "relieved of command."

9. Washington Capitals: Tom McVie

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    Wait, what? We put the same image in two back-to-back slides?

    Think again.

    Indeed, Tom McVie gets to join lucky ol' Vic Stasiuk in a newly formed group of coaches holding the worst record as head coach in the history of two different teams.

    After blowing apart the Jets, McVie headed on over to the United States Capital for some more fun. Washington's management was just as dumb as Winnipeg's, allowing McVie to stick around for an incredible 204 games, of which he came out victorious in only 49 before firing him.

    As for our honorable mentions, the Capitals have a long list, of which all three members were the first three coaches in franchise history (McVie was the fourth): Jim Anderson, 4-45-5 in '74-75, Red Sullivan, 2-16-0 in '75, and Milt Schmidt (remember him from the Bruins' slide?), 5-34-5 also in 1975.

8. Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets: Curt Fraser

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    The inaugural coach of what was the Atlanta Thrashers, Curt Fraser, was, of course, stuck in a bad position from the start. No one ever succeeds with an expansion team, and that's a fact.

    Still, Fraser's coaching skills didn't help in the least get the Thrashers off the ground. He went 64-169-46, a 27.5 winning percentage, from the '99-00 to midway through the '02-03 season. In his first season, Fraser "led" Atlanta to just 39 points, missing the playoffs by a remarkable 46-point deficit, well over double their season total.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jacques Demers

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    Jacques Demers coached hockey for 24 years in a long and colorful career. The final stop on that journey, however—two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning—were not his best performances.

    Demers went 34-96-17—26.2 percent—for the Bolts from '97 to '99, being part of two years in which Tampa Bay finished with two miserable totals of 44 and 47 points before resigning.

    Interestingly, he now holds office as a Canadian senator. They must not have read the recent section of his resume too thoroughly before appointing him to the job.

6. Chicago Blackhawks: Ebbie Goodfellow

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    Ebbie Goodfellow, seen here signing autographs as a Red Wings player, ended up coaching their rival Chicago in his only time behind the bench.

    Goodfellow might've been a nice guy, as his name declares, but wasn't a goodcoach at all, posting a 30-91-19 record in the complete '50-51 season and most of the '51-52 year, as well. Needless to say, no playoff appearances occured during his time there.

    On another front, the Blackhawks also have an honorable mention award to give out. It goes to Hughie Lehman of 1928, easily the oldest season recognized on our rankings, who went 3-17-1 in his only tenure coaching.

5. Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques: Dave Chambers

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    In all fairness, we tried. We looked on Google, on Yahoo and even on Bing. But Dave Chambers always came up with results of plumbers in Idaho and scuba divers in Florida, not hockey coaches from Quebec. In the end, this little nonsensical but certainly humiliating graph of Chambers' coaching record was all we could find.

    Nevertheless, this Dave Chambers, despite his failures, did exist. In fact, he led the Nordiques to 19 different victories during the '90-91 and part of the '91-92 NHL seasons. Of course, he also accounted for 64 losses and 15 ties, in addition to the scattered wins, during that span.

4. New Jersey Devils: Bill MacMillan

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    We're sorry again, but, for this slide, "Bill MacMillan" didn't even have a losses chart to put in, and we were stuck with the Devils logo.

    In more relevant matters, though, MacMillan was just as invisible, at least when you're referring to lists of successful coaches. For New Jersey's first-ever season in '82-83, he was the unlucky man to be in command of the roster, and couldn't find any chemistry with the Devils' makeshift team, resulting in an atrocious 17-49-14 record that first year.

    MacMillan went on to lead New Jersey to a two-win, 18-loss opening to the following year and was sequentially fired.

    Good riddance.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: Lou Angotti

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    At the same time that Bill MacMillan was cruising along a very bumpy road in New Jersey, Lou Angotti was also behind the bench of one of the worst Pittsburgh Penguins teams in history during the '83-84 campaign.

    In the 80-game season, Angotti earned a 21.6 winning percentage as the Pens finished the year 16-58-6. It was his first year coaching after a nine-year layoff from his previous job at the same position (with St. Louis in the mid-70s) and eight years removed from his last time playing for an organized team, perhaps a sign that he probably should've just declined the Pittsburgh head coach offer.

2. Ottawa Senators: Rick Bowness

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    Rick Bowness's stunning lack of success in any NHL city where he went is pretty remarkable on its own, but his record with Ottawa in particular is mind-boggling.

    Bowness, another one of those in charge of a new expansion team, was 39-178-18 from 1992 to '95, an 18.0 winning percentage disregarding ties and, when ties are included, that number drops to a 16.5 mark. In fact, we find it strange why the Senators didn't dump him right away after that ridiculously awful 10-70-4 record in his first year.

    On another note, our last honorable mention of the day goes to Dave Allison, Bowness' successor, who had a 2-22-1 in the '95-96 season for Ottawa.

1. San Jose Sharks: George Kingston

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    So here it is, the worst worst coach in history. If you don't understand by now, don't bother trying to figure it out. And his name: George Kingston.

    Kingston was another one of those doomed souls in charge of an expansion team. The San Jose Sharks of '91-92 and '92-93 were some of the worst teams in history and Kingston paid the price with his record. Of course, since he never got a job coaching anywhere else, we figure his lack of experience or skill at the position also played a part in their anti-success.

    But enough of the forewarning; let's cut to the real statistics. In the end, Kingston managed a 17.8 winning percentage, just a few ticks worse than No. 2 but still one of worst records ever. That record? A 28-129-7 mark over two years, an average of 31.5 points per season.

    And no, that's not a typo.