Ever since the NHL became the only league competing for the Stanley Cup, after the WHL folded in 1927, there have been 86 Stanley Cup Champions. Over that course of time, there have been some extraordinary dynasties.
Take the New York Islanders who won four straight Cups from 1980-1983, or the Edmonton Oilers, when they won 5 Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990. But, what no one ever talks about are the worst teams to have captured hockey’s Holy Grail.
The Stanley Cup is known as the toughest trophy in all of sports to win. After a grueling 82 game season, a team must battle to win another 16 games against some of the best teams in the league. With the NHL standings becoming tighter each year, the playoffs become incredibly difficult to predict as two relatively even teams face up. That ultimately makes it even tougher for a not so fantastic team to come up with 16 wins over 28 games or less.
So, while it would be unrealistic to call any Stanley Cup Champion a ‘bad’ team, we can narrow down some of the worse ones to generate the worst team to ever win the Stanley Cup.
Some of the Worst Stanley Cup Champions
1938 – Chicago Blackhawks
Back in the day of 48 games regular seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks were not a great team at all. They compiled a record of 14-25-9, while scoring just 97 goals, the least in the league, and allowing 139, the second most. Twice, they rallied from 1-0 series deficits in best-of-three series to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. There, the defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.
1995 – New Jersey Devils
In a lockout shortened season, the Devils went 22-18-8 in 48 games, placing them 5th in the Eastern Conference. They were able to breeze through the postseason, with a 12-4 record. They shocked the hockey world when they swept the heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings in the Finals. Despite having three future Hall of Famers on their roster in Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens, the Devils struggled to string together wins. Only one player, Stephane Richer, had over a .667 points per game rate.
2009 – Pittsburgh Penguins
Although the Penguins were in the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season and boasted two superstars in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, they recorded just 99 regular season points, the least for a Stanley Cup Champion in the post-lockout era at the time. They allowed a ridiculous 2.92 goals against per game. The most points on the team after their big two was just 49, from Jordan Staal. Marc-Andre Fleury posted a .908 SV% throughout the postseason, ranking him 10th amongst the 16 staring goalies. Rarely do teams with no depth and poor goaltending ever win in this league.
The Worst Stanley Cup Champion of All-Time
2012 – Los Angeles Kings
The Kings compiled a 40-27-15 in the regular season, winning their final game of the season to grab the 8th seed in the Western Conference. They were so bad, they needed to fire their head coach, Terry Murray, halfway through the season in December. The Kings scored just 194 goals in the regular season, or 2.36 goals per game. They were shutout a league high 10 times. They’re a team with just one possible future Hall of Fame player, in Drew Doughty.
In the playoffs, they were forced to face the first, second and third seeds in the Western Conference, defeating each of them with a total record of 12-2. The Kings jumped out to a 3-0 series lead in each and every round. Los Angeles became the first eight-seed to win a championship in all of North American professional sports history. It was the Los Angeles Kings first Stanley Cup Championship in team history.
Of course, none of these teams, besides the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks maybe, were actually bad teams. Sure, maybe they didn’t have fantastic regular seasons, but Presidents Trophies don’t win Stanley Cups. Each of the teams mentioned had some superstar players and excellent composure when it mattered the most. The 2012 Los Angeles Kings may have been relatively poor after 82 games, but they got hot at the right time, winning 12 of their next 16 games. To do that against the top three teams in the conference, and then continue that pace throughout the Final is something fans may not see again for a very long time.
Who do you think is the worst team to ever win the Stanley Cup? Discuss in the comments below!
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.