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Vulgar Statistics: The Best Franchise In NHL History

01/25/14
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And by NHL History I obviously mean after the league expanded to 12 teams because no one gives a crap about pre-Civil Rights, 1 in 6 odds at a championship hockey.  There are many ways to attempt to define success.  You can go by number of championships, number of playoff victories, playoff winning percentage, number of postseasons made, overall winning percentage, points percentage, and if you really want, goal differential.

I decided to judge NHL teams against their peers using a percentile system.  For those that don’t know, a percentile is a percentage of participants that you are better than.  If you finish first, you are in the 100th percentile because you are better than everyone.  If you finished, say, 11th in the 1981-1982 season, you are the 50th percentile.  There were 21 teams in the league, which means 10 were better, and 10 were worse.  Got it?  Grand.  Here’s the spreadsheet if you want to fiddle around with it.

All Time

Rank Team Average
1 Boston 74.3%
2 Montreal 69.8%
3 Philadelphia 67.6%
4 Dallas 64.1%
5 Colorado Avalanche 62.4%
6 New Jersey 59.7%
7 Detroit 58.8%
8 Buffalo 57.5%
9 NY Rangers 57.2%
10 Calgary 55.6%
11 Chicago 55.2%
12 San Jose 54.4%
13 St. Louis 52.3%
14 Atlanta Flames 51.9%
15 Washington 51.7%
16 Ottawa 50.6%
17 Pittsburgh 50.5%
18 Edmonton 48.8%
19 Anaheim 45.7%
20 Nashville 45.1%
21 Phoenix 45.1%
22 NY Islanders 43.0%
23 Toronto 42.4%
24 Quebec 42.3%
25 Vancouver 42.1%
26 Los Angeles 40.6%
27 Minnesota Wild 40.3%
28 Carolina 38.9%
29 Minnesota North Stars 34.9%
30 Winnipeg Jets I 34.8%
31 Winnipeg Jets II 34.5%
32 Florida 32.3%
33 Hartford 31.8%
34 Tampa Bay 26.8%
35 Cleveland Barons 24.0%
36 Atlanta Thrashers 19.7%
37 Columbus 18.6%
38 Oakland/California Golden Seals 13.3%
39 Colorado Rockies 7.5%
40 Kansas City Scouts 6.0%

Yes, Boston is the most successful NHL Franchise of the modern era, at least in terms of where they finish each season.  Most of the names at the top of this list probably aren’t surprising.  Dallas was one of the best teams in the league in the late 90s, as was Colorado.  Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia have always been good with few blips.  Detroit’s recent run of success clashes with the Dead Wings era to bring them down a little bit…and there’s Buffalo, sitting in eighth.

Anyone that knows NHL history knows that despite not having won a Stanley Cup, the Sabres have been decent to good more often than they haven’t.  Moreso, in fact, than some other teams that I think get thought of as more successful, namely the Rangers, Flames, and Penguins.

This chart is my favorite though, mostly because it has the New Jets just a hair below the Old Jets.  Some things never change.

The 1970s

Rank Team Average
1 Montreal 91.4%
2 Boston 91.2%
3 Philadelphia 78.9%
4 NY Rangers 66.0%
5 Buffalo 65.8%
6 NY Islanders 61.5%
7 Chicago 60.7%
8 Toronto 53.5%
9 Atlanta Flames 51.9%
10 Los Angeles 49.9%
11 Pittsburgh 46.0%
12 St. Louis 39.1%
13 Minnesota North Stars 35.9%
14 Hartford 35.0%
15 Detroit 29.2%
16 Edmonton 25.0%
17 Cleveland Barons 24.0%
18 Vancouver 22.6%
19 Oakland/California Golden Seals 11.0%
20 Quebec 10.0%
21 Washington 9.5%
22 Colorado Rockies 8.8%
23 Kansas City Scouts 6.0%
24 Winnipeg Jets I 5.0%

Again, not surprising to see those teams at the top.  Montreal, Boston, and Philadelphia were great in those days, and Buffalo had the French Connection.  What did surprise me was the relative success of the Atlanta Flames a franchise that, by nature of it no longer existing, is often thought of as a failure on the ice.  Not the case.  The short lived Kansas City Scouts finished second to last in both of their seasons (1974-1976), the Colorado Rockies peaked at 13th out of 18 teams in their tenure (1976-1982) and the Jets Part I finished 20th, second to last ahead of Colorado, in their inaugural season (1979-1980).

The 1980s

Rank Team Average
1 Edmonton 85.5%
2 Montreal 81.0%
3 Boston 77.5%
4 Calgary 75.0%
5 Philadelphia 73.5%
6 NY Islanders 67.5%
7 Washington 64.0%
8 Buffalo 62.0%
9 NY Rangers 50.5%
10 St. Louis 46.5%
11 Chicago 46.0%
12 Quebec 45.0%
13 Minnesota North Stars 42.5%
14 Winnipeg Jets I 42.5%
15 Hartford 38.0%
16 Los Angeles 33.5%
17 Pittsburgh 28.5%
18 Detroit 27.5%
19 Vancouver 27.0%
20 New Jersey 22.5%
21 Toronto 17.5%
22 Colorado Rockies 5.0%

Ah, the Oilers were good, and so were the Islanders until they tailed off, and some teams that some fans nowadays only know to be successful, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Vancouver, and New Jersey, sucked.

The 1990s

Rank Team Average
1 Colorado Avalanche 86.0%
2 Detroit 85.4%
3 Pittsburgh 78.4%
4 New Jersey 75.7%
5 Dallas 70.4%
6 St. Louis 68.4%
7 Philadelphia 64.4%
8 Boston 62.6%
9 Washington 60.4%
10 Chicago 59.1%
11 Phoenix 57.0%
12 Montreal 56.6%
13 NY Rangers 56.5%
14 Buffalo 52.3%
15 Florida 50.3%
16 Toronto 48.0%
17 Calgary 46.0%
18 Carolina 43.7%
19 Quebec 43.2%
20 Vancouver 40.6%
21 Los Angeles 40.6%
22 Edmonton 35.3%
23 Anaheim 32.4%
24 Ottawa 31.4%
25 Winnipeg Jets I 26.8%
26 San Jose 23.8%
27 Minnesota North Stars 23.3%
28 Hartford 22.4%
29 NY Islanders 21.5%
30 Tampa Bay 16.1%
31 Nashville 11.5%
32 Atlanta Thrashers 0.0%

I think Colorado gets a bit of an asterisk here as they only existed for half of the decade.  Oh, and those “hard working” “gritty” Buffalo teams of the 90s?  Pretty mediocre.

The 2000s

Rank Team Average
1 Detroit 89.8%
2 San Jose 77.4%
3 Vancouver 72.2%
4 New Jersey 71.3%
5 Philadelphia 65.1%
6 Boston 63.8%
7 Ottawa 63.3%
8 Dallas 60.3%
9 Pittsburgh 56.7%
10 Washington 55.3%
11 St. Louis 54.1%
12 Anaheim 53.5%
13 Colorado Avalanche 52.5%
14 Buffalo 51.1%
15 Nashville 50.8%
16 Chicago 50.6%
17 NY Rangers 49.7%
18 Montreal 48.9%
19 Calgary 47.4%
20 Toronto 45.6%
21 Los Angeles 43.8%
22 Phoenix 41.2%
23 Minnesota Wild 40.3%
24 Carolina 37.7%
25 Winnipeg Jets II 34.5%
26 Tampa Bay 33.8%
27 Edmonton 31.6%
28 NY Islanders 28.2%
29 Florida 21.8%
30 Atlanta Thrashers 21.7%
31 Columbus 18.6%

Poor ‘lumbus.

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