The best teams in NHL history

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

December 22nd, 2021

It’s hard to be dominant in the NHL, but these teams were difficult to beat anytime they took the ice, and they all capped it off with a Stanley Cup championship.

Here’s our ranking of the top teams in hockey history.

5. The 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche (52-16-10-4)

Led by center and captain Joe Sakic (118 points), the Colorado Avalanche were a force to be reckoned with at the turn of the century. Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, and Chris Drury all had over 60 points with Colorado that season, and goalie Patrick Roy went 40-13-7 with a .913 save % and 2.22 GAA.

The Avalanche went 52-16-10-4 for 118 points, taking home the Presidents’ Trophy. They won the Stanley Cup over the New Jersey Devils in Game 7, which led to a memorable celebration in which Sakic handed the trophy immediately to Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who had never won it all in 22 seasons.

4. The 1972-73 Montréal Canadiens (52-10-16)

One could make the case that the dynastic Canadiens of the 1970s could sweep the Top 5 greatest teams of all time, but we’ll limit them to two placings.

The Montréal squad that won the Stanley Cup in 1973 was exceptional, as they lost just 10 times in 78 games. The roster was a mélange of Canadien greats, led by 36-year-old captain Henri Richard. He had 43 points that year, while fellow greybeard Frank Mahovlich (35) had 93, second on the team to 27-year-old Jacques Lemaire. All three skaters are in the Hall of Fame, as are reliable veterans Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, and Jacques Laperriere.

The '72-'73 Habs also boasted five budding Hall of Famers, namely Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson, and netminder Ken Dryden. With a roster this stacked, it’s no wonder the Canadiens secured their second of what would be six Stanley Cups in the decade.

3. The 1971-72 Boston Bruins (54-13-11)

The 1970-71 Boston Bruins team was one of the greatest squads to not win the Stanley Cup, but the “redeem team” that came the following year was not too shabby either.

Finishing with 119 points – just two fewer than the year before – the ‘71-‘72 Bruins amassed an eye-popping 5.12 goals per game, something only the Edmonton Oilers of the “firewagon” 1980s could dream about.

Not only did opponents have to worry about Hall of Fame center Phil Esposito – who had 133 points that year – but they also had to gameplan for dynamic defenseman Bobby Orr, who won his third straight Hart Trophy in 1972.

Boston dropped just three games in three postseason rounds en route to the title.

2. The 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers (57-18-5)

The Oilers dynasty of the 1980s was incredible, but the 1983-84 team took the cake.

Led by Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton produced an eye-popping 5.85 goals per game, leading to a 57-18-5 record. “The Great One” himself had an absurd 205 points in his fifth straight Hart Trophy-winning campaign (the streak would end at eight in 1988), with Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier – all Hall of Famers too – reaching the century mark in points. Other Hall of Famers on the roster include Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and goalie Grant Fuhr.

The Oilers needed seven games to dispatch the Calgary Flames in the semifinals, but went 11-1 in all other playoff series to win their first of four Stanley Cups in a five-year period.

1. The 1976-77 Montréal Canadiens (60-8-12)

The 1976-77 Montréal Canadiens are the measure by which all elite NHL teams are judged, so there could be no other club at No. 1.

This Habs team set the current record for points with 132, losing a mere eight of their 80 games that year (also an NHL record). Superstar winger Lafleur had an NHL-best 136 points, taking the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award. Shutt, Robinson, Lapointe, Lemaire, Cournoyer, Savard, and Dryden were the Hall of Fame holdovers from the 1973 champion club, and they were joined by eventual Hall of Famer and four-time Selke Trophy winner Bob Gainey.

Simply dominant on both ends of the ice, Montréal cakewalked to the Stanley Cup and immortality in 1977.