The WOATs: The 5 All-Time Worst Franchises in Hockey

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By Justin Rivers – Content Specialist

In the long, storied history of the National Hockey League, there have been many great franchises that have collected numerous championships and have undoubtedly stood out from the pack. There are the Original Six, who have a total of 63 Stanley Cups and 65 NHL Championships (pre-Stanley Cup era + Stanley Cup era). For the less avid hockey buff, those franchises are the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadians, the New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But at the same time, the NHL is constantly expanding. Look to the Vegas Golden Knights and the recently announced 32nd NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken, as examples.  

Besides the six franchises that competed amongst each other for over two decades, relatively newer franchises like the Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins have also experienced a notable level of success over the course of their respective histories. Like, Wayne Gretzky, The Great One, played for the Oilers! Nevertheless, as fun as it is to toot the horns of great teams and the GOAT, it’s much more fun highlighting the failure of the bottom-dwellers and WOATs, thus bringing us to the latest edition of the WOATs, in which I unveil my statistically-backed, data-based ranking of the all-time worst franchises in hockey.

Regarding my methodology, I analyzed all-time data on all 31 NHL franchises, and I concluded that the following 16 categories are the most indicative of an overall successful franchise: 

  • All-Time W-L-T%
  • All-Time Playoff W-L%
  • All-Time Points%
  • All-Time Penalty Shot%
  • Seasons Per NHL Championship
  • Seasons Per Stanley Cup
  • Seasons Per Playoff Appearance
  • All-Time Points Per Season
  • Seasons Per HC
  • Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish
  • Seasons Per Presidents Trophy
  • Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy
  • Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy
  • Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy
  • Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy
  • Seasons Per Vezina Trophy

Additionally, I included three binary categories:

  • Stanley Cup
  • Multiple Stanley Cup
  • 5+ Stanley Cup

Within these categories, a team either received a one, if they satisfied the criteria for the category, or a zero, if they did not. These categories permitted the teams who have a Stanley Cup, multiple Stanley Cups, and five or greater Stanley Cups to stand out in the data from franchises who do not have a Stanley Cup. All of these categories are defined in the methodology section at the bottom of this article. Furthermore, similar to one of my previous WOATs articles, The WOATs: The 5 All-Time Worst Franchises in Basketball, the following ranking only takes into account data prior to the suspension of the NHL season in mid-March. Due to the manner in which certain categories are more indicative of overall success than others, I applied weights to the following categories: Stanley Cup (2), Multiple Stanley Cup (3), and 5+ Stanley Cup (4). Their weighting is indicative of higher levels of success. For example, a really successful franchise will have won multiple Stanley Cups, let alone one Stanley Cup.

Once these were compiled, each franchise was given a z-score in each category, because simply ranking them would not account for how dominant or how abysmal one franchise is in a given category. Therefore, by using z-scores, the data captures how far above or how far below one franchise is from the overall average of all 31 observed. After summing each team’s z-scores, each franchise was then ranked accordingly. This ranking is illustrated in the following graph:

The five franchises that ranked the worst constitute the following ranking. Below, you will find each franchise’s statistical values in the aforementioned 16 categories, as well as how they ranked amongst the other 31 NHL franchises in parentheses. If they ranked last or tied for last in a category, then their ranking for the corresponding category will be bolded. PHEW! Now that you know the method to my madness, let’s see who makes this WOAT list!

5. The St. Louis Blues (1967 to Present)

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

All-Time W-L-T%: 0.48 (13th)

All-Time Playoff W-L%: 0.46 (22nd)

All-Time Points%: 0.555 (11th)

All-Time Penalty Shot%: 0.362 (15th)

Seasons Per NHL Championship: 52 (tied for 19th)

Seasons Per Stanley Cup: 52 (tied for 19th)

Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: 1.238 (2nd)

All-Time Points Per Season: 84.5 (9th)

Seasons Per HC: 2 (27th)

Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: 5.2 (tied for 12th)

Seasons Per Presidents Trophy: 34 (tied for 15th)

Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: 19 (tied for 6th)

Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: 26 (tied for 13th)

Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: 26 (tied for 9th)

Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: 52 (17th)

The Blues aren’t a terrible franchise, right? Like, they won the Stanley Cup just a season ago. Well, if we ignore the recency bias associated with the franchise’s recent break through, during which the blind squirrel finally found Sir Stanley’s nut, then we are left with a franchise that perennially makes the playoffs just to lose. They remind me of one of those NBA teams that are stuck in league purgatory – where you aren’t good enough to really contend, but you’ll make the playoffs, and you aren’t bad enough to have high odds at a top franchise-changing draft pick. They ranked 2nd in Seasons Per Playoffs Appearance with a value of 1.238, meaning that they pretty much make the playoffs every season; they do have 42 appearances in their 52-season history, which is impressive. So, what killed them in the rankings?

Although they appear to be a decent team on the surface, they ranked poorly in several categories. 

While they boast a Stanley Cup title, their appearance in the final series came nearly a half-century after their three-season run to the Stanley Cup Finals from 1967-70, where they lost three consecutive times. Amongst the 20 franchises that have won at least one Stanley Cup, they ranked tied for last in Seasons Per Stanley Cup. Before 2019, the Blues had only sniffed another Cup Finals appearance twice since that three-year run. Plus, they have a bottom-third playoff winning percentage. Further highlighting this franchise’s volatility is the fact that they ranked in the bottom-five in Seasons Per HC. Firing your coach about every two seasons is inconsistent with the idea that continuity illustrates stability, and typically stability is positively correlated with overall success.

4. The Dallas Stars (1967 to Present)

Source: Dallas Morning News

All-Time W-L-T%: 0.459 (23rd)

All-Time Playoff W-L%: 0.502 (12th)

All-Time Points%: 0.535 (22nd)

All-Time Penalty Shot%: 0.309 (23rd)

Seasons Per NHL Championship: 52 (tied for 19th)

Seasons Per Stanley Cup: 52 (tied 19th)

Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: 1.625 (14th)

All-Time Points Per Season: 81.635 (14th)

Seasons Per HC: 2.167 (24th)

Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: 5.2 (tied for 12th)

Seasons Per Presidents Trophy: 17 (tied for 5th)

Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: 38 (tied for 14th)

Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: 52 (tied for 6th)

Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: N/A

Last season, the Dallas Stars were an overtime goal away from playing in the Western Conference Final; unfortunately for them, the aforementioned St. Louis Blues got a clutch goal from Patrick Maroon in double OT during their second-round matchup sending the Stars packing. But, what makes the franchise bottom-five, WOAT-worthy? 

Well, they ranked in the bottom-third of the league in all-time winning percentage, points percentage, penalty shot percentage, and Seasons Per HC. Speaking of the Blues, the Star tied with them for last amongst the 20 franchises to have won at least one Stanley Cup. They have made the playoffs only three times in the last decade, and, ever since they finally broke through and won the Cup in ’99, they’ve routinely posted disappointing and unsuccessful playoff runs. They certainly are not as bad as bad gets – that distinction is reserved for the occupants of the top-3 spots in this ranking; however, the franchise has managed to post a WOAT-contending resume. 

3. The Florida Panthers (1993 to Present)

Source: The Athletic

All-Time W-L-T%: 0.461 (22th)

All-Time Playoff W-L%: 0.409 (27th)

All-Time Points%: 0.554 (13th)

All-Time Penalty Shot%: 0.38 (12th)

Seasons Per NHL Championship: N/A

Seasons Per Stanley Cup: N/A

Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: 5.2 (31st)

All-Time Points Per Season: 78.808 (20th)

Seasons Per HC: 1.625 (29th)

Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: 13 (26th)

Seasons Per Presidents Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: N/A

Honestly, where do you start with the Panthers? Since the year 2000, they have only made the playoffs twice. To make matters worse, they boast only five total playoff berths in their 26-season history. This would explain the manner in which they ranked dead last in Seasons Per Playoff Appearance. For Christ’s sake, the Olympics occur more often – every four years for those at home – than the Panthers making the playoffs – about every five seasons on average. As a franchise, their overall history makes their unlikely trip to the Stanley Cup Final in ’96 look like a distant outlier, because, since then, they haven’t even advanced in the postseason. Yes! They have not won a playoff series in over two decades. Their last series win predates me, as a 21-year old. To be honest, it might predate you, too. Further highlighting the franchise’s incompetence, they also appear to fire their coach about every one to two seasons.

Historically, the team has been so miserably bad that you almost forget that they are even in the league. Even during the 2015-2016 season, when they finished 1st in the Atlantic Division and appeared to have promise with Gerard Gallant as HC, they were still a first-round exit. In his first season, Gallant improved the Panthers by nine wins and 25 points. The next season, he was the Atlantic Division HC in the All-Star Game, and he later led the Panthers to a franchise-record 47 wins and 103 points. He was even a finalist for the Jack Adams award. Then, he got canned after 21 games the next season. 

Clearly, Miami is not the place for a hockey team, let alone a successful franchise. Hell, I didn’t even know they played in Miami. Thank god the city has teams in the other three major North American sports leagues to support. 

2. The Winnipeg Jets (1999 to Present)

Source: NHL.com

All-Time W-L-T%: 0.480 (14th)

All-Time Playoff W-L%: 0.355 (29th)

All-Time Points%: 0.548 (16th)

All-Time Penalty Shot%: 0.278 (28th)

Seasons Per NHL Championship: N/A

Seasons Per Stanley Cup: N/A

Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: 5 (30th)

All-Time Points Per Season: 79.15 (18th)

Seasons Per HC: 2.857 (7th)

Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: 20 (28th)

Seasons Per Presidents Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: N/A

To understand why the Winnipeg Jets have historically been an awful, WOAT-worthy franchise, you first need to understand that these Jets aren’t the Winnipeg Jets franchise of old – the team who called the Great White North home for 17 seasons from 1979-96. Those Jets, who made the playoffs 11 times – once going to the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons, moved to the Sonoran Desert. These are certainly not those Jets.

These Jets, formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, relocated from Atlanta following the 2011 season. During their 11-season stint in the ATL, the franchise was terrible. The Thrashers sucked. They made the playoffs only once and never won a postseason game. The people of Atlanta weren’t delusional ride or die fans either. In their last season in the city, the Thrashers ranked 28th out of 30 teams, averaging less than 14,000 a game in attendance numbers. 

Making a beeline for the Canadian-American border only marginally improved their fortunes. In their nine seasons in Manitoba, the franchise has only garnered three additional playoff berths and has only once made it out of the first round. By now, you can surmise that they are seldom good enough to make the playoffs, and, when they do, they do not go all that far. Their bottom-three ranking in playoff winning percentage and Seasons Per Playoff Appearance is indicative of this franchise’s glowing ineptitude. If you think this is bad, then stay tuned! It shockingly gets worse (– or “WOAT-ier”).   

1. The Arizona Coyotes (1979 to Present)

Source: USA Today Sports

All-Time W-L-T%: 0.432 (31st)

All-Time Playoff W-L%: 0.345 (31st)

All-Time Points%: 0.503 (31st)

All-Time Penalty Shot%: 0.22 (31st)

Seasons Per NHL Championship: N/A

Seasons Per Stanley Cup: N/A

Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: 2.105 (25th)

All-Time Points Per Season: 74.325 (28th)

Seasons Per HC: 2.353 (22nd)

Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: 40 (29th)

Seasons Per Presidents Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: N/A

Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: N/A

To say that the Arizona Coyotes suck, would 1.) be an understatement and 2.) be insulting to the word “suck.” A quick glance at their stats above will tell you the manner in which this moribund franchise ranked dead last in four categories – a WOATs article record – and they ranked in the bottom-five in two additional categories. They do not have a Stanley Cup nor a Stanley Cup Final appearance to their name, and they did not register in any of the awards categories. 

The Coyotes franchise has been in existence since 1996, after their relocation from Winnipeg. (Yes, you could technically say that the Winnipeg Jets, the name by which this franchise was known until 1996 and the name of the current team in Winnipeg, own the top two spots in this WOAT ranking; however, as sad as that is, that’s besides the point.) In their 23-season history in Arizona, they’ve made the playoffs eight times, five of which occurred in their first six seasons there. This we can attribute to residual decent play left over from their days in Winnipeg. Since then, they’ve made the playoffs only three times in the last 17 years. All in all, as a franchise – and certainly since arriving in the desert, they’ve been about as successful and WOAT-worthy as a snail racing Dominic Toretto. 

Methodology:

Here are the 19 categories I used in this edition of The WOATs:

  1. All-Time W-L-T%: A measure of the percentage of games a team has won, using the amount of wins a team has accrued divided by the total games played (total wins + total losses + total ties).
  1. All-Time Playoff W-L%: A measure of the percentage of playoff games a team has won, using the amount of playoff games a team has won divided by the total amount of playoff games a team has competed in (total wins + total losses).
  1. All-Time Points%: In the NHL, points are important, because the standings are determined primarily based on points – unlike in the other major North American sports leagues, where standings are based primarily on team record. In the points system,  a team is awarded 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie ( albeit ties were eliminated as of the ’05-’06 season), 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss, and 0 points for a regulation loss. Points percentage is the total points earned (2*W+OTL+T) divided by maximum possible points (2*GP). Therefore, all-time points percentage simply takes a team’s all-time points earned and the team’s all-time maximum possible points instead.
    1. W = Wins
    2. OTL = Overtime Losses
    3. T = Ties
    4. L = Losses
    5. GP = Games Played = W + L + T
  1. All-Time Penalty Shot%: When a team is granted a penalty shot, how often does a player on that team make the shot? The measure is calculated by dividing the number of penalty shots made by the number of penalty shots taken.
  1. Seasons Per NHL Championship: On average, how many seasons does a team go before it wins the league’s championship? If a team predates the 1926-27 season, this statistic will include any championships won before the Stanley Cup became the official award given to the winner of the NHL playoff. This is calculated by taking the number of seasons the team has existed and dividing it by the number of Stanley Cups won. 
  1. Seasons Per Stanley Cup: Beginning with the 1926-27 season, the Stanley Cup has been awarded to the champion of the NHL’s playoff. Thus, about how many seasons does it take for a team to win Lord Stanley’s Cup? This statistics does not include championships garnered before the 1926-27 season. Like “Seasons Per NHL Championship,” this is found by taking the number of seasons the team has existed and dividing it by the number of Stanley Cups won. 
  1. Seasons Per Playoff Appearance: Successful teams make the playoffs. It’s that simple. So – on average, how many seasons must a team play until it makes the NHL playoffs?
  1. All-Time Points Per Season: About how many points does a team earn per season? This stat is calculated by taking a team’s all-time points earned and dividing it by the number of seasons this team has been in the NHL.
  1. Seasons Per HC: Continuity illustrates stability, and typically stability is positively correlated with overall success. So, how many seasons – on average – does a given franchise go before moving on to a new head coach? To find this, I divided the number of seasons a team has been in the NHL by the total number of head coaches the franchise has employed.
  1. Seasons Per 1st-Place Finish: About how many seasons does a team go before it finishes first during the regular season – within its division, if applicable? This was calculated by taking the number of seasons a team has competed in the league and dividing it by the number of first place finishes. 
  1. Seasons Per Presidents’ Trophy: The Presidents’ Trophy is an annual award given to the club finishing the regular season with the best overall record (Remember. This is based on points). Thus, for the franchises that have won at least one Presidents’ Trophy, about how many seasons did it take for them to win the award and be the top team in the regular season?
  1. Seasons Per William M. Jennings Trophy: The William M. Jennings Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper(s) for the team who’ve had the fewest goals scored against it. To be eligible for the award, they must have played a minimum of 25 games. So, for the franchises that have won at least one William M. Jennings Trophy, how many seasons – on average – does it take for the franchise to win the award? 
  1. Seasons Per Hart Memorial Trophy: The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the MVP. For the franchises that have had at least one MVP award winner in their history, about how many seasons do they go between Hart Memorial Trophy winners?
  1. Seasons Per Art Ross Trophy: The Art Ross Trophy is an annual award given to the player that leads the NHL in points scoring at the end of the regular season. For the franchises that have had at least one Art Ross Trophy winner in their history, about how many seasons do they go between award winners?
  1. Seasons Per James Norris Memorial Trophy: The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the league’s best defenseman. For the franchises that have had at least one James Norris Memorial Trophy winner in their history, about how many seasons do they go between award winners?
  1. Seasons Per Vezina Trophy: The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the league’s best goalie. For the franchises that have had at least one Vezina Trophy winner in their history, about how many seasons do they go between award winners?
  1. Stanley Cup: A binary variable where franchises that have won a Stanley Cup received a 1, while the other franchises received a 0. Again, this category was weighted to highlight the importance of championships to our generally conception of an all-time successful franchise. This category received a weighting of 2.

  1. Multiple Stanley Cup: A binary variable where franchises that have won more than one Stanley Cup received a 1, while the franchises that have either won a single Stanley Cup or no Stanley Cup at all were given a 0. Again, this category was weighted to highlight the importance of championships to our generally conception of an all-time successful franchise. This category received a weighting of 3.
  1. 5+ Stanley Cup: A binary variable where only franchises that have won 5 or more Stanley Cups received a 1. The franchises that did not satisfy this criteria received a 0. Again, this category was weighted to highlight the importance of championships to our generally conception of an all-time successful franchise. This category received a weighting of 4.

Complete Ranking:

If sports content is your thing, then go read my previous WOATs articles: The WOATs: The 5 All-Time Worst Franchises in Basketball, The WOATs: The 5 All-Time Worst #1 Picks of the NBA Draft Lottery Era, and The WOATs: The 5 All-Time Worst Franchises in Baseball. Now, in case you missed it, here is how all 31 NHL franchises stacked up in the ranking. One represents the best all-time franchise and 31 represents the vitriol-worthy WOAT. Check out how your team fared in the ranking!

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