Virtually every sports fan can name what most people consider to be the worst Major League Baseball team of all time—the 1962 New York Mets—but few are aware of the worst NHL teams that have ever taken the ice. Here are the top, or more appropriately, the bottom five of all-time:
1. 1974-1975 Washington Capitals
The NHL's round of expansion for the 1974-75 season brought in two teams that would take hockey to new depths—the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts (see below). The Caps finished the 1974-75 season with the unbelievably horrific record of -67-5, including a road losing streak of 37 games. They finished 8-27-5 at home and 1-39-0 on the road, their sole road victory coming against the California Golden Seals in their next to last road game. They lost four games to opponents by ten or more goals. Their fifth place finish in the Norris Division was 37 points behind the fourth place Detroit Red Wings, and 92 points behind the Division-winning Montreal Canadiens. Their 446 goals allowed on the season and winning percentage of .131 are all-time NHL lows. Right winger Tommy Williams led the Caps with 22 goals, but the goaltending stats were truly astounding: Michel Belhumeur led the team with a 5.36 goals against average, yet finished the season with a record of 0-27-3. Ron Low was in the nets for all of the Caps' wins and two ties. To paraphrase what they used to say about the old Senators, Washington: first in war, first in peace, and last in the NHL. There are four other teams in this list, but no one comes remotely close to the 1974-75 Washington Capitals for total hockey incompetence.
2. 1930-1931 Philadelphia Quakers
Moving to the City of Brotherly Love after six years as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia's first entry in the NHL, was clearly the worst team in NHL history until the Washington Capitals came along. The Quakers finished the '30-'31 season with a record of 4-36-4, a record only passed by the 1974-1975 Caps. The Quakers didn't score their first goals until the third game of the season, and held the record for most consecutive losses—15—until the Caps also broke that record in '74-'75. The Quakers suspended operations after their only season in Philadelphia with the intention of moving back to Pittsburgh when that city promised to build a new arena for the NHL franchise. The NHL finally eliminated the franchise in 1936 when it became apparent that Pittsburgh would not be able to fulfill its promise. The one bright spot for the Quakers was the introduction of future Hall of Famer Syd Howe to the NHL.
3. 1980-1981 Winnipeg Jets
Sometimes the mighty really do fall hard. After winning the final two World Hockey Association championships (the Avco Trophy) in 1978 and 1979, the Jets had an absolutely horrific season in 1980-1981. The Jets set the all-time, all-major league sports record for games without a win—yes, even breaking the previous records held by, no surprise, the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts—when they dropped or tied 30 games in a row. With many players snatched away by other teams after the NHL/WHA merger and a load of rookies, the Jets simply could not compete. While their first season in the NHL, 1979-1980, was nothing to be proud of, the Jets came close to breaking the 1974-75 Washington Capitals record for fewest wins in the modern era by only winning nine games during the 1980-81 stanza. But with a few trades, the picking of David Babych as the #1 overall pick in the 1981 NHL and another year of NHL experience under their belts, the Jets turned it around in 1981-82, finishing with a .500 record and making the NHL playoffs for the first time.
4. 1975-1976 Kansas City Scouts
Expansion partners with the Washington Capitals for the 1974-1975 season, the Scouts finished their first year in the NHL with almost double (41) the amount of points the Caps did that year. It was still a horrific years for the Scouts—which were named after a statue in Kansas City, Mo.—but in comparison to the Caps… Things did, however, get worse for Kansas City's second year in the league. The Scouts managed to put together a record of only 12-56-12, finishing fifth in the weak Smythe Division just behind a lousy Minnesota North Stars team. Future Penguins goalie Dennis Herron compiled a record of 11-39-11 and a 4.02 GAA. However, scoring was the problem for Scouts: only four players scored 15 or more goals during the season. The Scouts simply could not buy a goals in some games. Eventually, attendance fell through the floor in Kansas City's old Kemper Arena and the team relocated to Denver, as the Colorado Rockies, for the following six seasons. The Scouts finally became the New Jersey Devils in 1982, winning their first Stanley Cup
5. 1972-1973 New York Islanders
The expansion Islanders managed to finished the '72-'73, 78-game season with a record of only 12-60-6. They finished 8th in the East Division with 30 points, almost half of the point total of the 7th place team, the Vancouver Canucks (yes, the NHL put Vancouver in the east back then). While their win total of only 12 is one of the lowest in NHL history, there were some good signs of what was to come. Goaltender Billy Smith still managed to post a 4.16 goals against average despite having a generally horrific defense in front of him. However, the Islanders used their 1973 #1 rookie draft pick to select future great Denis Potvin, and hired Al Arbour as coach at the end of the season. The Isles just about doubled their point total the following year and won their first Stanley Cup just seven seasons later.