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The worst teams in NHL history

Profile Picture: Drew Levison

December 16th, 2021

The NHL has had a long and storied 104-year history in North America. Throughout that time, there have been dynasties, controversies, watershed moments, and incredible individual achievements. There have also been some seriously bad teams.

Today, we’ll look at the 10 worst teams in the league's modern era from 1967 onwards. Oh, there were some pretty awful seasons before that too, but we’ll let those slide. 

10. 1975-76 Kansas City Scouts (12-56-12)

Sure, they no longer exist, but in the mid-70s the Scouts were one of two expansion teams that had some early struggles with the concept of "winning." Their record of 12 wins, 56 losses, and 12 ties gave them a mighty 36 points over 80 games that year. After the season, the Scouts relocated to Colorado and became The Rockies. Then in 1982, the franchise moved once again and became the New Jersey Devils, where they continue to play.

9. 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets (9-57-14)

It gets cold in Winnipeg. Really, really cold. Winter days in January average around -1 degree Fahrenheit. However, the chill fans of the Jets felt that season had nothing to do with the weather. Instead, their collective fandom was frozen-out by the dismal 9-57-14 record that left the team with a mere 32-point season. Brrr.

8. 1975-76 Washington Capitals (11-59-10)

One of two North American capital cities on this list gives a "good" accounting of itself for a dubious NHL distinction. The 1975-76 Washington Capitals played hard, but ultimately skated themselves through a fruitless season, laying down just 32 points in 80 games with an 11-59-10 record. Call the secret service to find out who blew coverage on that year.

7. 1993-94 Ottawa Senators (14-69-1)

Situated in Canada’s capital city, the "new" Senators (they were one of the founding franchises in the NHL, operating from 1917 to 1936 before folding) had what one might term a "forgettable" season in 1993-94, a mere two years after their re-establishment in the NHL. Their 14-69-1 record that year gave them 29 points in an extended 84-game season. That’s a capital crime.

6. 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques (12-61-7)

The 1990 Nordiques bid a fond "au revoir!" to their 11th season in the league, which saw them amass a lowly 31 points with a 12-61-7 record. They were handily the worst team in the NHL that year. To put it in context, the next worst team that season was the Vancouver Canucks, with 64 points. Mon dieu, what a bad season.

5. 1972-73 New York Islanders (12-60-6)

In hindsight, the 1973 inaugural season for The Isles can be forgiven, seeing as how they were just a few short years away from becoming a dynastic, four-time Stanley Cup championship team. Still, if you were a fan in 1973, your New York heart was being pummeled almost every game, as the Islanders went an atrocious 12-60-6 for just 31 points on the season. Fuhget abboutit!

4. 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers (14-57-7-4)

Things were not so hot in Hotlanta for the Thrashers in 2000. Its inaugural season in the NHL proved incredibly trying. Atlanta went 14-57-7-4 for 39 points. Yes, you read that right, that’s a four-column record. The 1999-2000 season marked the start of the NHL’s “3-point” system, whereby a team would get two points for a win in regulation. Two points would also be given to a team that won in overtime, but the losing team would also receive one point for an OTL (overtime loss). Hence, three points handed out. With the more generous points system in place during an 82-game season, the Thrashers’ lowly 39-point total may seem like a better season than the 1973 Islanders had, but it ain’t.

3. 1992-93 Ottawa Senators (10-70-4)

Yes, unbelievable as it may sound, the Senators had an even worse season in 1992-93 than their 1993-94 campaign. How much worse? They went 10-70-4 in their rookie, Modern Era season (their first year back in the league since the franchise originally folded in 1936). Those 24 points represented a low-water mark in the new franchise’s history, never repeated since.

2. 1992-93 San Jose Sharks (11-71-2)

Seems 1993 was a snake-bitten year for the Sharks as well. In their sophomore season, San Jose put together an 11-71-2 record. That was "good" enough to set the NHL record for most losses in a season. Not to be outdone by itself, the club also recorded the league’s most consecutive loss record (17). The latter included an absolute beat-down at the hands of the Calgary Flames, who shellacked the Sharks 13-1, scoring 13 unanswered goals after San Jose took a short-lived 1-0 lead. Talk about jumping the shark…

1. 1974-75 Washington Capitals (8-67-5)

Another "sequel" for a franchise on this list. The Capitals’ inaugural 1974-75 season still stands as the single worst NHL record in league history. Going an appalling 8-67-5 for 21 points on the year, the Caps did not win many fans with their on-ice performance. However, the team displayed some self-effacing humor on the night of March 28, 1975, when they would win their first – and only – away game that year, a 5-3 win over the California Golden Seals. To celebrate, Capitals players brought a garbage can onto the ice post-game to conduct a mock "championship skate" around the ice. Each player took a turn hoisting the can above their head while skating a lap around the Golden Seals’ arena. It would take 43 years for Washington to shake off the legacy of that embarrassing first season. The team finally won its first Stanley Cup in 2018.

Dishonorable mentions: 2021-22 Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes

Though the 2021-22 season is still just over a third of the way through, the Montreal Canadiens are in freefall mode. With a record of 6-21-3 (or 15 points), they stand just three points ahead of Arizona (5-21-2), but the Coyotes still have two games in hand. Though unlikely, at this point it’s still conceivable that either of these two floundering franchises could threaten to match - or best - the 1974-75 Washington Capitals for worst season in league history. Time will tell.

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