The 10 Worst NHL Franchises, 2013 Edition

Columbus Blue Jackets vs St. Louis Blues

I had so much fun compiling my rankings of all 32 NFL franchises, I thought it would be fun to do the same thing for the other major sports leagues. And since the 2013-14 NHL season is just around the corner — the puck drops on October 1 — it only seems right to tackle some hockey rankings.

And for a fun twist, I’m going to split the rankings into two posts, first reviewing the 10 worst NHL franchises. I’ll do the 10 best list in a few more days. But before I get to that, a quick word on the methodology.

Similar to my NFL list, I’ve ranked all 30 NHL franchises according to a series of categories, each of which is assigned a point value. I then divided the total point value by the number of years each team has been in existence — not counting the lockout season of 2004-05 — and ordered by that.

The Criteria

The categories and point values are as follows:

  • 25 points for a Stanley Cup championship (or an NHL title prior to 1927), and 15 points for a Stanley Cup Finals loss.
  • 2 points for a playoff berth, counted only from the 1967-68 season forward.
  • 3 points for each playoff round win, counted only from the 1967-68 season forward.
  • 3 points for finishing the regular season with the most points.
  • 1 point for a winning season.
  • Consecutive winning regular seasons are worth 2 points starting with the second, 3 points for the third, 4 points for the fourth, and so on. The counter is reset after any non-winning season. So if a team has three winning seasons in a row, they get a total of 5 points.

While I may tweak the formula in future years, I think this accomplishes my two most important objectives — to reward consistently good play in the regular season, and to not give older franchises too much of an advantage just by virtue of being around for so many years. I’ve always felt that using Stanley Cups alone to measure a franchise’s greatness (or badness) is taking too narrow a view.

That’s about it! Let’s get to the rankings, good through the end of the 2012-13 season.

Columbus Blue Jackets logo

#1. Columbus Blue Jackets (0.33 avg.)

At a certain point, being an expansion franchise is no longer a valid excuse for not winning. And yet after a dozen years in the league, the Blue Jackets have very little to show for their efforts other than two winning seasons and one playoff appearance.

At this point the only real highlight for the Blue Jackets has been their 2008-09 campaign, when they squeaked into the playoffs for the first and only time so far. The joy was short-lived, however, as Columbus was swept out of the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.

#2. Winnipeg Jets (0.85 avg.)

I was one of the hockey fans thrilled to see the long-awaited return of the NHL to Winnipeg. I was even happier to see the old Jets name resurrected. And while the new Jets have put back-to-back winning seasons together, they have a decade of futility to overcome from their time as the Atlanta Thrashers.

Still, things appear to be looking up for Winnipeg in the short term.
Phoenix Coyotes logo

#3. Phoenix Coyotes (2.58 avg.)

Speaking of the Jets, coming in at the #3 spot is the franchise that was the original Winnipeg franchise. The two biggest factors contributing to the team’s low point total are a lack of consistency in the regular season — their longest streak of winning seasons since 1979 has been four — and very little playoff success.

The original Jets made the playoffs a number of times but won just two series in 17 years, an astonishingly bad average. The Coyotes have done nothing to improve on that, having won the same number of series since 1996-97. And those both came in the same year. And while the Coyotes have put together four winning seasons in a row, their tenuous financial situation over the past several years hangs over their heads and could ultimately result in another move for the franchise.

#4. Florida Panthers (2.68 avg.)

The Panthers went from bust to boom with amazing speed. In just their third season of existence (1995-96), Florida advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

Since then, well, it’s pretty much been back to bust. The past 16 seasons have brought just six winning records, three playoff berths, and zero playoff series wins. The lockout-shortened 2012-13 season was particularly bad, as the Panthers finished last in the Eastern Conference and had fewer points (36) than any other team in the league. In terms of points in my system, more than half of Florida’s total of 51 was earned during that magical 95-96 campaign.

#5. Tampa Bay Lightning (3.65 avg.)

The Lightning are currently the lowest-ranked franchise on my list to have won a Stanley Cup, so that ought to please the purists among us. The fact is that despite winning the Cup in 2004, Tampa Bay has been an also-ran for most of its history. 20 years of Lightning hockey has so far resulted in seven winning seasons, six playoff appearances, and seven series wins.
Carolina Hurricanes logo

#6. Carolina Hurricanes (3.79 avg.)

The Hurricanes actually haven’t been all that bad since the 1997-98 season. The problem for them is that their previous incarnation, the Hartford Whalers, was bad. Hartford won just a single playoff series in 18 years, which is pretty pathetic. Carolina, on the other hand, has been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, including their lone title in 2005-06. But where they do fall down is that they don’t seem to be able to put together more then one or two good years in a row.

#7. Los Angeles Kings (4.09 avg.)

If the last few years are any indication, it may not be too long before the Kings move out of the bottom ten altogether. But history can’t be ignored, and the truth is that L.A. has had a handful of very good seasons and a lot of mediocre to bad ones. Until their Stanley Cup title run of a few years ago, the franchise’s most successful period coincided with the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. Led by Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and Jari Kurri among others the Kings won their first playoff series since the early ’80s and made it to the Cup Finals in 1993.

Since then the Kings have missed the playoffs more than they’ve qualified. Again, however, things appear to be turning around in L.A.
Nashville Predators logo

#8. Nashville Predators (4.50 avg.)

After an unsurprisingly rough start, the expansion Predators have been pretty good over the last decade. They picked up two playoff series wins recently, and ran off a nice streak of eight straight winning seasons in which they qualified for the postseason in all but one. The 2012-13 campaign was a letdown, though, as Nashville finished just two points out of the Western Conference basement and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.

#9. Minnesota Wild (4.83)

Like the Predators, Minnesota has been a model for good regular season hockey for expansion clubs. They just haven’t yet gotten over the hump in terms of postseason success. The Wild won two playoff series in 2003, but have been blanked ever since.

#10. Washington Capitals (5.39 avg.)

Despite more than a decade as one of the most consistent teams in the old Patrick Division, not to mention their recent run of success with Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals still find themselves in the bottom 10. However, should Washington keep churning out winning seasons and learn to win more than one playoff series in a year — which they haven’t done since 1997-98 by the way — then they could very move toward the middle of the pack.

The 5 That Missed the Cut

#11. New York Rangers (6.24 avg.)

#12. Vancouver Canucks (6.33 avg.)

#13. San Jose Sharks (6.57 avg.)

#14. St. Louis Blues (6.58 avg.)

#15. Calgary Flames (6.65 avg.)