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The 10 Worst NHL Franchises of All-Time


In the long, 104-year history of the NHL in North America, there have been many controversies, watershed moments, great franchises, and incredible individual achievements. According to Bleacher Report, there have also been some seriously bad NHL teams who have had some of the worst awful league seasons in history. Maybe it was bad luck or the players or coaches that caused these teams to go down the drain. While points percentage is the main factor for determining the awful NHL teams, the ten worst franchises in our list are ranked in the context of the respective season as a whole. As much fun as looking at great NHL teams, it is just as much fun to take at the bottom ten dwellers. In this post, we will take a closer look at the worst NHL Franchises.

10. California Golden Seals

  • Seasons: 11
  • Playoff Appearances: 2

The California Golden Seals, originally known as the California Seals, were a professional ice hockey team that competed in the National Hockey League from 1967 to 1974. The team was based in Oakland, California, and played its home matches at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. During the 1967/68 NHL expansion season, the California Seals got renamed Oakland. In 1970, the team was renamed the Bay Area Seals before becoming the California Golden Seals.

The Seals had a poor start to the season, qualifying for the postseason in only two of their nine NFL seasons and failing to obtain a winning record. Goals were scored sparingly for the Golden Seals, with an average score of 2.5 per game. During the 1973/74 season, the California Golden Seals conceded the highest number of goals than any other team. Apart from the Golden Seals playing poorly at hockey, they also played in possibly the most hideous jerseys in NFL history with the Green and Gold uniforms and white skates. Due to low fan attendance, the sports franchise was relocated in 1976 and renamed the Cleveland Barons, which folded in 1978.

9. Quebec Nordiques

  • Season: 14 (1972-1979)
  • Playoff Appearances: 5

The Quebec Nordiques, translated into 'Quebec City Northmen or Northerners,' was a professional ice hockey team that competed in the World Hockey Association (1972-1979) and the National Hockey League (1979-1955). The sports franchise was relocated to Colorado in May 1995, and its name changed to the Colorado Avalanche. According to ESPN, the Nordiques were the only major professional sports team from Quebec City in the modern era.

The 1989/90 NHL season was the second-worst NHL franchise record, scoring an average of 5.1 goals per game and conceding an additional 48 goals than the next worst team in the league. During the 1989/90 season, there were 21 NHL franchises, and only 16 qualified for the playoffs. Still, the Quebec Nordiques could not qualify for five consecutive years, finishing last in their division from 1987/88 through the 1991/92 NHL season.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Seasons: 28 (1992-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 12

The Tampa Bay Lighting, better known as the Bolts, is a professional ice hockey team in Tampa, Florida. They compete in the National Hockey League and are a member of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, the Bolts play their home matches at Amalie Arena in Downtown Tampa. The team has won three Stanley Cup championships in 2004, 2020, and 2021. They also qualified for the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 and 2022.

According to The Sportster, the Tampa Bay Lighting is owned by Jeffrey Vinik, and the team's general manager is Julien BriseBois. Jon Cooper has been the head coach of the Lightning since 2013, making him the longest-tenured head coach in the National Hockey League. The team's worst season began from January 2 until February 5 during the 1997/98 NHL season, when the team recorded a 16-game winless streak, ending their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Seasons: 53 (1967-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 35

The Pittsburgh Penguins, better known as the Pens, are a professional ice hockey team situated in Pittsburg. They are members of the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference and compete in the National Hockey League (NHL). The Pens usually play their home matches at the PPG Paints Arena, formerly known as Consol Energy Center, established in 2010. Pittsburgh Penguins was founded in the 1967 expansion and later qualified to win six Stanley Cup Finals, the Stanley Cup five times in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017. Together with the Edmond Oilers, the Pens are known to win the most Stanley Cup championships. Following their Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the first back-to-back winners in the Salary Cap era.

Furthermore, several of the Pen's former team members have been nominated into the Hockey Hall of Fame, including co-owner Lemieux, who bought the team in 1999 and saved the club from bankruptcy. During the 1983/84 NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins recorded 390 goals and were listed last in the Patrick Division. The Pens went 3-17-1 in its last 21 matches, finishing behind the New Jersey Devils for the worst club record in the league. The team's opponents have scored at least six goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in about 14 of their last 26 games. The Pens did not qualify for the playoffs until its fifth season. The Penguins are currently associated with two minor hockey league teams: the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL).

6. New York Rangers

  • Season: 94 (1926-2022)
  • Playoff appearances: 60

The New York Rangers are a professional ice hockey team from New York City. They compete in the National Hockey League and are members of the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. According to sportscasting, the Rangers were created in 1926 by Tex Rickard and were listed among the 'Original Six' teams that completed the National Hockey League before its expansion in 1967. The New York Rangers usually play their games at Madison Square Garden, a field they share with the New York Knicks of the NBA. The team had a great start to the season to become the Stanley Cup winner in 1928, making them the first NHL sports franchise in America to win the trophy.

Following the club's successful start to the season, they struggled between the 1940s and 1960s, where they rarely made any playoff appearances or won any titles. The New York Rangers endured a seven-year club-record postseason drought from 1998 to 2005. The 1944/44 NFL season was one of the worst seasons for the New York Rangers club history, and finished last in the league. The Rangers recorded an average scoring rate of 5.5 in at least 25 fixtures and a minus-2.96 goal differential that was the second-worst in NFL history.

5. Chicago Black Hawks

  • Seasons: 94 (1926-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 63

The Chicago Blackhawks, better known as the Hawks, are a professional ice hockey team situated in Chicago. The Hawks compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) and are members of the Central Division in the Western Conference, winning six Stanley Cup championships since their establishment in 1926. They are also one of the 'Original Six' NHL teams, along with the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings.

The team has played its home matches at the United Center since 1995. Despite losing 47 games and conceding 3.21 goals per game, the Black Hawks goalkeeper, Al Rollins, won the 1953/54 Hart Trophy. From 1946/47 through 1956/57 NFL season, the Hawks finished last on the table nine times and only qualified for the playoffs once, when four of the six teams automatically advanced to the postseason.

4. Detroit Red Wings

  • Seasons: 94 (1926-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 64

The Detroit Red Wings, better known as the Wings, are a professional ice hockey team from Detroit. The Red Wings compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. The Wings was founded in 1926 and was originally known as the Detroit Cougars until the 1930/31 and 1931/32 NHL seasons, where the team was named the Detroit Falcons, before changing the club's name to the Detroit Red Wings in 1932. The Red Wings missed the NHL playoffs four times in the 1965/66 NHL season and later qualified for the playoffs twice during the 1966/67 and 1982/83 seasons.

The team suffered nine winless games into the season and recorded a margin of 4.0 goals and below per game. The Red Wings' bad season did not last long to win the Stanley Cup four times in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. According to The Hockey News, the Detroit Red Wings is one of the most successful and popular sports franchises in the National Hockey League.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Seasons: 103 (1917-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 69

The Toronto Maple Leafs, officially known as the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club and better known as the Leafs, are a professional ice hockey team situated in Toronto. They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) and are members of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. The team is currently managed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, a firm that owns several professional sports franchises in the city. The club played its home games within the first fourteen seasons at the Mutual Street Arena before moving to the Maple Leaf Garden later in 1931.

The team was created in 1917 and was then known as the Toronto Arenas. In 1927, the club was bought by Conn Smythe and renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club also became a member of the 'Original Six,' which are the six NHL clubs that endured the League retrenchment. The Leaf's 54-season drought between championship wins remains the longest winless streak in the league's history, surpassing the record held by the New York Rangers

2. Boston Bruins

  • Seasons: 96 (1924-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 73

The Boston Bruins are a professional ice hockey team located in Boston. The team competes in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins were created in 1924, making them the third-oldest team actively competing in the NHL and the oldest hockey team based in the United States. According to Stadiumtalk, the Boston Bruins are listed among the Original Six NHL teams, along with the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens. They have won the Stanley Cup championships six times and ranked the fourth-best team, with the Blackhawks behind the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Red Wings, with 24, 17, and 11 championship wins, respectively.

The Boston had their first professional game at the Matthews Arena, better known as Boston Arena. The team later moved from the Boston Arena to play at the Boston Garden for consecutive 67 seasons, starting in 1928 and concluding in 1995. Before things took a bad turn from Jan.28 through March 11, when the Boston Bruins had a 20-game winless streak, they had won seven matches out of the total fifteen. The worst streak of the Bruins lasted from 1942-1967, making it the second of the 70 games (seven consecutive seasons) in which the team finished with less than 48 points. However, the Boston Bruins accomplished more than half of the seven seasons in succession.

1. Montreal Canadiens

  • Seasons: 103 (1917-2022)
  • Playoff Appearances: 84

The Montreal Canadiens, officially known as The Canadian Hockey Club and better known as the Habs, are a professional ice hockey team situated in Montreal. The Canadiens compete in the National Hockey League and are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. The Montreal Canadiens was founded in 1909, making them the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team globally and the only active NHL club to precede the founding of the National Hockey League (NHL). Apart from being the oldest North American professional team, the Canadiens sports franchise is listed among the 'Original Six,' which are the team that featured in the NHL from 1942 until the 1967 expansion.

Since the team began playing professionally in 1996, it has played all its home matches at Bell Centre, which is popular as Molson Centre. The Montreal Canadiens previously played at the Montreal Forum for about seven decades. The Canadiens had a great start, winning the season opener by a final score of 8-2. Their stats were 4-0-2 after six games, and they finished the season recording 3-29-3. The team's 1992/93 championship season marked the last time a Canadian sports franchise won the Stanley Cup.

However, the Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup more times than any other NHL team, recording 23 wins since the founding of the NHL and 24 Championships. The Montreal Canadians conceded about 167 goals, which was listed as the second-most goal of any team in the 1930s. The team also suffered a nine-game losing streak followed by two 10-game winless matches in 31 games.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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