The Worst Teams in Stanley Cup Playoff History

This article was originally written in Jan. 2015.

If you followed the 2015 NFL Playoffs, you already know the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers moved on to the Divisional round. A team that finished the regular season at 7-8-1 advanced by virtue of defeating an Arizona Cardinals team with a third-string quarterback. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it doesn’t happen that often anymore that a sub-.500 squad gets into the tournament but it has happened in the past.

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There once was a time when virtually every team had a shot at the Cup. Heck, back in the “Original Six” days, 80% of the league was getting in. Yet, when the NHL first began expanding, the futility of some playoff squads was nuts. Just how awful, you ask? Well, here’s a not-so-fantastic four.

Vancouver Canucks (1978-79 Playoff Busts)

Finishing second in the Smythe Division, Vancouver posted a ledger of 25-42-13 (63 points). It was a particularly awful division, which saw the leading Chicago Black Hawks run up a 29-36-15 (73 points) record. Rounding it out were the St. Louis Blues (48 points) and the Colorado Rockies (42 points). Those Canucks had a goal differential of negative 74.

One can take a +/- rating with a grain of salt but this club had a team rating of -409. Ron Sedlbauer led the squad with an impressive 40 markers but just 56 points. Their main goaltender Gary Bromley, posted a goals-against average of 3.81. Those Canucks actually won a playoff game but ultimately fell 2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Preliminary Round.

Oakland Seals (1969-70 Playoff Busts)

It is difficult to fathom the modern Western Conference being this poor. Yet when the league had its first round of expansion, the West Division was brutal. Figure this, the St. Louis Blues won the division with 86 points and over in the East Division, the Montreal Canadiens and their 92 points, didn’t even qualify for the postseason. With a points percentage of .382, the Oakland Seals and their 22-40-14 record (58 points), were the last team in that year.

The Worst Teams in Stanley Cup Playoff History

Oakland totaled the second least amount of goals with 169 and their goal differential was a minus 74. Defenceman Carol Vadnais paced the squad with 24 markers. Ted Hampson registered a team-leading 52 points. The team was a +/- rating of -332. Goalie Gary Smith posted a goals-against average of 3.11. The Seals were swept 4-0 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Quarter-Finals.

Los Angeles Kings (1968-69 Playoff Busts)

Again the expansion West Division. Like the aforementioned Seals, these Kings posted a .382 points percentage. That season saw L.A. go 24-42-10 (58 points). Their 185 goals were second worst in the league. They also had a negative 75 goal differential. That club posted a -266 rating. Eddie Joyal paced the Kings in scoring, potting 33 goals and totaling 52 points. (from ‘Street name honours Joyal,’ St. Albert Today, 03/19/2016) Gerry Dejardins posted four shutouts and had a goals-against average of 3.26. Incredibly or maybe not so much, that Kings team upended the Seals, 4-3, in the Quarter-Finals. In the Semi-Finals, they were swept 4-0 by the Blues.

Toronto Maple Leafs (1987-88 Playoff Busts)

The first half of the 2014-15 season is nearly in the books and the Leafs have 21 wins through 40 games and their fans are throwing team sweaters onto the ice. I guess 21 wins just doesn’t get you what it used to.

When Toronto played in the Norris Division, they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a record of 21-49-10 (52 points). That just edged out the nearly as awful Minnesota North Stars and their 19 wins and 51 points.

In 1987-88, Toronto played to a 32.5% winning percentage. Their goal differential was a negative 72. Those Maple Leafs finished 41 points back of the Norris-winning Detroit Red Wings.

The Leafs would fall to the Wings, 4-2, in the Division Semi-Finals. Impressively, Ed Olzcyk bested the team in goals (42) and points (75). Gary Leeman also posted a 30-goal campaign. Ken Wregget led the team with 12 victories but also carried a 4.44 goals-against average. Toronto had a rating of -184.


3 thoughts on “The Worst Teams in Stanley Cup Playoff History”

  1. I take it it’s expansion era only. Of the original 6 teams: There only 7 instances where teams with sub .500 records did not get in the playoffs: 1946, 54, 63-67. Also prior to 1942/43 season, it happened about 11 times (1927, 1932-33, 35-42) where a team with a sub .500 record got into the playoffs, and only 1 team, the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks, won a Stanley Cup championship with a sub .500 record (14-25-9).

  2. Don’t forget about the 1985-86 Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks. Both teams finished with 59 points each with the Jets having a -77 goal differential. Both were obliterated in the first round. The Jets were swept by the Flames. The Canucks were routed by the Oilers. Still, a great piece. Especially for the Oakland Seals shout out.

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