Every league has its own share of struggling franchises that have experienced the lows more often than not. The NHL, one of North America’s major professional sports leagues, is no exception.
While every team strives to get their names in the conversation for Stanley Cup Championships year after year, some teams train wreck right from the campaign’s beginning till the end and struggle to put wins on the board.
In this article, we will take a look at the worst performing NHL teams over recent years and try to find which franchise currently holds the dubious honor of being crowned as the “worst NHL Team.”
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot
The NHL has seen numerous surprise performances over the years, with dark horses emerging victorious against all odds. However, sometimes things don’t quite work out well, resulting in a harsh reality check and an underwhelming season. So buckle up, folks! Let’s dive deep into the world of ice hockey and see which team earns the unwanted accolade of being labeled the “worst NHL team.”
Records Don’t Lie: The Team With The Worst Season Record
The NHL has been in existence for over a century, and as with any professional sports league, there have been both high and low points in its history. From the team that holds the record for the worst season record to those who struggled to win a single game, let’s take a look at some of the NHL’s worst teams.
Breaking Records: The Team With the Most Losses in a Season
The 1974-75 Washington Capitals hold the dubious distinction of having the most losses in a single season with 67. They won just eight games that year, tying another record for the fewest wins in a season. It was their first year in the league, and they were certainly outmatched by many of the established franchises. However, this disappointment did not define them forever. Years later Capitals general manager David Poile said, “For what we went through last year, which no team has ever gone through before, I hope our day is coming when we can compete.”
“When you go winless on the road (0–37–3) and lose 67 games overall, it’s bad,” former player Yvon Labre says. “We started off trying to develop into something, but we were so bad right away. We never had an opportunity from Day One.” -Yvon Labre
In spite of their rough start, the Capitals eventually turned things around, making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 and winning their first championship in 2018.
Winless Wonders: The Team With the Fewest Wins in a Season
The 1943-44 New York Rangers are the only team in NHL history to go an entire season without a win. That year, the Rangers finished with six ties and 38 losses in their 48 games played. It wasn’t for lack of trying; they were simply outmatched by their opponents. Many of their best players had been drafted into World War II, leaving them with an inexperienced roster.
“It was tough because we had nine or ten rookies on our team,” former Ranger Phil Watson said years after the fact. “We were kids playing against men.” -Phil Watson
While the Rangers’ season remains one of the worst in NHL history, it’s important to note that the league looked very different during this time period. There were just six teams in the entire league, meaning there weren’t many options for weaker franchises to play against. Also, World War II greatly impacted rosters throughout the league. Nonetheless, going an entire season without a single victory is still considered one of the most impressive feats in NHL infamy.
The NHL has seen plenty of examples of failure over the years, but these two cases stick out as particularly noteworthy. Despite their struggles, both the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers continued to operate as franchises, working hard to build competitive rosters and compete for championships. After all, one season doesn’t define a team forever.
Goal Drought: The Team With The Lowest Scoring Average
The NHL is a highly competitive league where every team has to bring their A-game, both offensively and defensively. However, some teams struggle to score goals consistently and end up with the lowest scoring averages for the season. So, who is the worst NHL team when it comes to goal-scoring?
In the 2020-21 regular season, the Anaheim Ducks had the lowest scoring average in the league, with just 2.21 goals per game. They ranked last in the Western Conference and missed out on the playoffs. Their offensive struggles were evident throughout the season, as they failed to score more than three goals in 35 of their 56 games.
The low-scoring trend seems to have continued into the current 2021-22 season, as the Arizona Coyotes are currently averaging only 2.00 goals per game. It remains to be seen if they can turn things around and climb up the rankings.
The Struggle is Real: The Team With the Fewest Goals Scored in a Season
While having a low scoring average for a single season can be frustrating for any NHL team, being the worst in history when it comes to goals scored can be downright embarrassing. Let’s take a look at which team holds this dubious distinction:
The record for the fewest number of goals scored in a season belongs to the expansion San Jose Sharks from the 1992-93 season. In their inaugural season, they managed to score just 218 goals in 84 games, averaging a meager 2.60 goals per game. Despite their offensive woes, they managed to win 11 games that year and finished ahead of the Ottawa Senators in the standings.
Interestingly, the Sharks have come a long way since then and have become one of the most successful teams in the league, winning multiple division titles and making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016. This goes to show that even the worst NHL team can turn things around with hard work and perseverance.
Shutout Kings: The Team With the Most Games Without Scoring a Goal
As frustrating as it is for any team to have trouble scoring goals, going through stretches where they fail to score in several games can be demoralizing. Here’s a look at which team holds the record for the most consecutive games without scoring a goal:
The 1928-29 Chicago Blackhawks went an astonishing eight straight games without scoring a single goal. This feat still stands as a record in NHL history. Despite their offensive struggles, they finished third in the American Division that year, proving that defense wins games too.
“Defensemen don’t get enough credit for what we’re doing out there.” – Duncan Keith
The Goose Egg: The Team With the Most Games Without Winning
A winless streak could indicate that a team is struggling both offensively and defensively. So, who holds the dubious record of having gone the longest without tasting victory?
The 1974-75 Washington Capitals hold this unenviable record by enduring a 17-game losing streak in their inaugural season. They struggled throughout that season and managed only 21 wins in 80 games, finishing last in the Patrick Division and missing out on the playoffs.
Offensive Struggles: The Team With the Most Games Without Scoring a Goal
Finally, let’s take a look at which team has had the most games without scoring a goal. While not necessarily indicative of overall performance, this stat can certainly highlight a team’s offensive struggles:
The Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings share this record, having both gone five consecutive games without scoring a goal. The Canadiens achieved this feat in the 1928-29 season, while the Red Wings did it more recently in the 1976-77 season. Despite going through these tough stretches, both teams managed to rebound eventually and have storied histories in the league.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi
Being the worst NHL team is something that no organization wants to be associated with. However, history has shown us that even the most struggling teams can turn things around with hard work and determination.
Defense Wins Championships: The Team With The Most Goals Against
Hockey is a game of both scoring goals and preventing them. While most fans focus on the thrilling offensive plays, it’s important not to overlook the importance of a strong defense. In the NHL, having the best defensive record can often be the difference between winning a championship or going home empty-handed. So, who holds the dubious distinction of allowing the most goals in NHL history?
Defensive Woes: The Team With the Most Goals Allowed in a Season
The 1974-75 Washington Capitals are widely regarded as the worst team in NHL history. They finished the season with an abysmal record of 8 wins, 67 losses, and 5 ties for a total of just 21 points. But it’s not just their record that makes them so infamous – they also hold the record for the most goals allowed in a single season.
Over the course of those 80 games, the Capitals gave up an astonishing 446 goals. To put that into perspective, the second-worst team that year (the Kansas City Scouts) allowed “just” 328 goals against. The Capitals’ goaltenders faced an average of 39.9 shots per game, which was by far the highest in the league. It’s fair to say that the 1974-75 Capitals were truly dreadful from top to bottom, but their defense was particularly horrendous.
Shutout Losers: The Team With the Most Games Without a Clean Sheet
While every team wants to score as many goals as possible, teams are also motivated to keep the other team off the scoresheet entirely. Shutouts are an important benchmark of a team’s defensive prowess, and multiple shutouts throughout a season can help build momentum and boost confidence. So, which team holds the unfortunate record for the most games without a clean sheet?
The 1992-93 San Jose Sharks went through an entire season without recording a single shutout. Over the course of their 84-game campaign, they allowed at least one goal in every single game. Their goaltenders – Jeff Hackett, Arturs Irbe, and Wade Flaherty – faced a total of 2,618 shots that season and stopped just 91.9% of them. It’s safe to say that the Sharks’ defense was pretty porous that year.
Goalkeeper Nightmare: The Team With the Most Goals Conceded by a Single Goalkeeper
While it’s tough to pin all the blame on one player when a team is struggling defensively, often times the goaltender bears the brunt of the criticism. When a goalie gives up too many goals, they can quickly become the scapegoat for their team’s struggles. But who holds the record for the most goals conceded by a single netminder in NHL history?
The honor (if you can call it that) goes to Patrick Roy, arguably one of the best goaltenders ever to play the game. In the 1995-96 season, Roy played in 62 games for the Colorado Avalanche and gave up a whopping 252 goals against. That works out to an average of over four goals per game. Despite his shaky performance that season, Roy bounced back in a big way and led the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory the following year.
“I’ve never really been happy with my statistics as far as goals against,” Roy once said. “But I think if we’re going to win another championship, it doesn’t matter how much stuff happens. We’ll need great goaltending.”
While it’s never fun to be on the wrong side of any record, these teams and players can at least take solace in knowing that they have a place in NHL lore. As the old adage goes, defense wins championships – and as these records show, lackluster defenses can lead to some pretty ugly outcomes.
Fan Loyalty: The Team With The Lowest Attendance Rates
When it comes to fan loyalty, attendance rates are a clear indication of how invested supporters are in their team. In the NHL, there is one team that consistently falls behind in this area.
Empty Seats: The Team With the Lowest Average Attendance in a Season
The 2019-2020 season marked another disappointing year for the Arizona Coyotes, who had the lowest average attendance rate in the league with just 14,875 fans per game. This was a decrease from the previous season where they drew an average crowd of 15,112. Despite qualifying for the playoffs last season, it seems as though the Coyotes continue to struggle with attracting dedicated fans.
In comparison, the Montreal Canadiens lead the league’s attendance rates with an estimated average of 21,000+ fans at every home game for the past three years. Clearly, support still exists elsewhere, but why can’t the Coyotes seem to garner a similar level of dedication from hockey lovers?
Lonely Fan: The Team With the Lowest Attendance to Capacity Ratio
While the Coyotes might not have the absolute lowest attendance rate, when compared to venue capacity, their numbers caused them to rank dead last. They only filled up 76.4% of their seats during the 2019-2020 season, resulting in an unfortunate lack of enthusiasm and energy in Gila River Arena, Glendale AZ. The closest team to this percentage across the whole of the regular season were the New York Islanders who saw 77.9% attendance to capacity ratio. No matter how you slice this data, there’s clearly a notable difference between the amount of cheering happening at Coyotes games versus some other venues. Perhaps factors such as location, marketing, and team performance have a hand in the team’s lackluster attendance.
Ghost Stadium: The Team With the Most Games With Attendance Under 10,000
Throughout the 2019 – 2020 season, the Ottawa Senators had an astonishing 23 games where their attendance fell below the 10,000 mark.
Many of these lowly attended games came during the last months of the regular season (prior to it being halted) and possibly speaks to how turned off fans were with the Senators’ effort throughout that year. They finished above only three teams in the league, which is hardly a motivating display for those watching.
Disappointing Draw: The Team With the Lowest Attendance for a Home Game
The lowest-attended game of the season occurred on November 7th, 2019 when the New York Islanders hosted the Ottawa Senators at Barclays Center. Just over 8,000 people showed up –– barely half the capacity of the arena. Given the Islanders’ otherwise strong support through past years, this might’ve been more reflective of the visitors than anything else. That said, if a big market team such as the Islanders can’t pull enough supporters into their ranks for every contest, what more other struggling clubs?
“Attendance numbers don’t lie and reflect the overall success or failure of franchises from both an economic and winning standpoint.” – Forbes.com
While there are certainly many sides to consider when pondering why any club would see decreased attendance rates, one thing remains clear: supporting your local team is essential to sustaining its existence and ability to compete. It will likely take a large scale shift in culture, player talent, and outreach within communities before all NHL teams experience anywhere near maximum attendance levels, with some teams flying further under the radar than others.
Overall Performance: The Team With The Worst Win Percentage
The NHL has seen its share of struggling teams over the years, but there is one franchise that stands out as the most consistently bad. That team is the Arizona Coyotes.
Since joining the league in 1996, the Coyotes have a win percentage of just.465. They have made the playoffs only eight times in their 25-year history and have never advanced past the second round. In the last five seasons alone, they’ve finished with the second-worst record (2017-18), third-worst record twice (2018-19, 2020-21), and fourth-worst record twice (2016-17, 2019-20).
The Coyotes have gone through several ownership changes in recent years, which hasn’t helped matters. Despite some promising young players on their roster, they seem to be mired in mediocrity year after year. It remains to be seen if they can turn things around in the coming years.
Winless Wonders: The Team With the Most Games Without a Win in a Season
While going winless in a season may seem like an impossible feat, it’s happened not once but twice in NHL history. The first time was in 1974-75 when the Washington Capitals went 0-39-1 in their inaugural season. But the title of “winless wonders” goes to the 2016-17 Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings opened the season with four straight losses and quickly found themselves in a deep hole. They didn’t win their first game until Oct. 22, almost three weeks into the season. From there, things continued to spiral downward, and they set a new record for the longest losing streak by an NHL team (nine games) to start a season.
It was a tough year for the Red Wings, who finished with a record of 33-36-13. They missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and ended up with the ninth-worst record in the league.
Consistently Bad: The Team With the Worst Win Percentage Over Multiple Seasons
While some teams may have had one or two bad seasons, there are a few that have struggled consistently over multiple decades. One of those teams is the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers entered the league as an expansion team in 1993 and have made the playoffs only six times in their 28-year history. During that span, they’ve had just four winning seasons and have failed to make the playoffs for the last five straight seasons. Their overall win percentage stands at.446, which ranks near the bottom of the league.
Despite having some talented players over the years, including Roberto Luongo, Pavel Bure, and John Vanbiesbrouck, the Panthers have never been able to sustain success for long periods of time. It’s unclear when they’ll be able to turn things around and become a more competitive team in the NHL.
Relegation Candidates: The Team With the Most Relegation Threats
The NHL doesn’t have a relegation system like many European soccer leagues do, but that hasn’t stopped some fans from suggesting it could work. If such a system were in place, the Buffalo Sabres would likely be frequent candidates for relegation.
Buffalo has made the playoffs just twice in the last decade and hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2007. Over the last five seasons, they’ve finished with the worst record in the NHL twice (2017-18, 2020-21) and third-worst record twice (2016-17, 2018-19). They’re currently in the midst of a 10-year playoff drought, which is the longest active streak in the league.
The Sabres have had some talented players over the years, including Jack Eichel and Ryan Miller, but they haven’t been able to build a consistently competitive team around them. The franchise is currently undergoing a rebuilding process, but it remains to be seen if it will lead to long-term success.
Historically Bad: The Team With the Worst Overall Record in League History
Finally, we come to the team with the worst overall record in NHL history. That ignominious title goes to the San Jose Sharks.
Despite being a relatively young franchise (they were established in 1991), the Sharks have struggled for much of their existence. Their overall win percentage stands at just.521, which is the lowest among teams that have played at least 2,000 games. They’ve made the playoffs 22 times in their 30-year history but have never won a Stanley Cup championship.
The Sharks have had some great players over the years, including Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Brent Burns, but they haven’t been able to deliver a championship to San Jose. However, they have reached the Cup Final once (in 2016) and have generally been a competitive team over the last decade or so. Time will tell whether they can finally bring home a championship banner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which NHL team has the worst win-loss record in history?
The Arizona Coyotes currently hold the worst win-loss record in NHL history, with a winning percentage of only.397. They have only made the playoffs 3 times in their 24-year history.
Who is currently the lowest-ranked team in the NHL standings?
The Buffalo Sabres are currently the lowest-ranked team in the NHL standings, with a record of 6-23-4. They have struggled this season, with the fewest number of goals scored and the most goals allowed in the league.
Which team has the least amount of Stanley Cup wins?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the least amount of Stanley Cup wins, with only 13 championships in their 100-year history. Their last win was in 1967, and they have not made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2004.
Who has the worst home record in the NHL this season?
The Ottawa Senators have the worst home record in the NHL this season, with only 2 wins in 15 home games. They have struggled both at home and on the road, with a record of 9-20-3 overall.
Which team has the lowest team shooting percentage in the NHL?
The Anaheim Ducks currently have the lowest team shooting percentage in the NHL, with only 7.5% of their shots resulting in goals. They have struggled to score this season, with the second-fewest number of goals scored in the league.