The 2014-15 NHL season is almost here. It’s been a long offseason for hockey fans, but the most beautiful game on earth is ready to be played again. My excitement for the upcoming NHL season is met only by my passion for NHL history. The history of the NHL is vast yet unquestionably a bit murky. The NHL has had numerous definable eras, its share of controversies, and has slowly became a bigger part of American culture. Since the inception of the NHL many incredibly successful franchises have risen up. But which NHL franchises are the greatest of them all?
Die-hard fans of many organizations claim that their franchise is the greatest of all-time by weighing certain eras of the NHL with more emphasis than others. The NHL began long ago, well before the Great Depression, but six teams came together to form the “Original Six” in 1942. Since then, the game that Canada so graciously brought to the world has evolved immensely. The League has boomed to include 30 franchises and I set out to answer the question of ‘which ones are the greatest?’ I compiled this list based on a weighted formula which gives points for success in the categories that represent consistent organizational greatness.
This isn’t just a list that ranks franchises in order of how many Stanley Cups they have won, anyone can look up that information for themselves. There is much more to being a successful or great NHL franchise than winning it all. Winning divisions and conferences should also weigh toward a franchise’s greatness as those things shows overall consistency — and do in this ranking system.
This point system is weighted to slightly rise in points for a Stanley Cup victory in accordance to when the league added more teams. Some people argue that ‘talent was more concentrated when there were only six teams, 12 teams,’ which is a valid thought process. But the truth is, it is easier to win a championship when you only have to out perform five teams, instead of 29 like teams have had to do since 2000. Thus, Stanley Cups won today are worth more points to reflect that difference. Are Cups won now worth dramatically more? No, but just enough to account for the NHL’s evolution (common sense prevails). In 1967 the “Second Six” doubled the NHL’s size. In 1979 four franchises from the WHL joined the NHL and in 2000 the league reached its current capacity. Division championships were kept at a baseline point total throughout NHL history to counterbalance the Conference Championship and Presidents’ Trophy’s possible points that came about in the 1980s.
Stanley Cup (Original Six Era 1942-1967): 10 Points
Stanley Cup (Second Six Era 1967-1979): 12 Points
Stanley Cup (Expansion Era 1979-1999): 14 Points
Stanley Cup (Modern Era 2000-Present): 16 Points
Conference Championship (1982-Present): 8 Points
Division Championship (1942-Present): 4 Points
Presidents’ Trophy (1985-Present): 6 Points
Quantifying: Each franchise’s total points were then divided by how long they’ve been in the NHL (with the 1942-43 season as the first season considered). This ensures that this ranking shows which franchises truly are the greatest per year, not just long-tenured.
Note: The year beside each franchise’s name refers to when it joined the NHL, not necessarily when it was formed. For “Original Six” teams their date is set at 1942 — this is because that is how far back this ranking system reached to award points for the various categories.
The year 1942 was chosen as the first year to consider the NHL’s applicable history because that is when the “Original Six” came together to play the first 25 years of organized and consistent NHL hockey (until the 1966-67 season). Numerous organizations boast histories that stretch back well before 1942 and many Stanley Cups were won before that date. Those are unique pieces of history, but they are just not applicable for the purposes of this ranking. Prior to 1942 many franchises popped up and folded; for the sake of consistency, I valued only from the 1942-43 season onward.
How does your favorite NHL franchise stack up?