Rangers captain Mark Messier hoists the Stanley Cup over his...

Rangers captain Mark Messier hoists the Stanley Cup over his head to celebrate his team's win over the Canucks on June 14, 1994. Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill

The Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups.

The Winnipeg Jets have won none – despite being part of two different NHL franchises, despite three WHA Avco Cups in the 1970s, and despite representing a city that did win the Cup in its amateur era, most recently in 1902.

But what those teams have in common is what every team has: That one, special team and season that fans still recall as the best of them all.

For some it’s an easy pick, surprisingly so in the case of the mighty Canadiens. For others, it’s tricky. But that is what we are here for: Making choices and starting arguments.

So let’s take a leisurely skate across memory lake and pick the best team for each of the current 32 NHL franchises, starting with a couple of local interest. (All statistics are from hockey-reference.com.)


ISLANDERS, 1981-82

Islanders' John Tonelli has a happy smile as he's hugged...

Islanders' John Tonelli has a happy smile as he's hugged by teammate Tomas Jonsson after Tonelli's winning goal on Feb. 20, 1982. Credit: Newsday File Photo/Newsday File Photo

Coach: Al Arbour

Record: 54-16-10 (118 points), beat Canucks (4-0) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier

The argument: There is not much to debate here, despite some very good Islanders teams that did not win the Cup and three others that did.

(Shoutout to the 1978-79 team that led the league with 116 points then lost to the Rangers in an epic playoff semifinal.)

But the 1981-82 team stands alone.

In January and February, they won a then-league-record 15 games in a row – without benefit of overtime or shootouts – and in 12 of them scored six or more goals.

They outscored opponents in the regular season, 385-250. Mike Bossy had 64 goals and 83 assists, Bryan Trottier 50 and 79. That only was a warmup for the playoffs, when Bossy had 17 goals and Trottier 23 assists in 19 games.

Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy with a 2.97 goals-against-average in an era of skyrocketing offense, and Roland Melanson backed him up with a 3.24 GAA.

They did all that despite captain and star defenseman Denis Potvin missing 20 games because of injuries and struggling at times when he did play.

The Islanders swept the Nordiques and Canucks in the final two rounds to win their third Cup in a row, but that team is best recalled for a near-death experience in the first round against the Penguins.

After winning the first two of the best-of-five series by a combined 15-3, the Islanders lost twice in Pittsburgh, then trailed Game 5 at Nassau Coliseum, 3-1, with less than six minutes remaining.

Mike McEwen scored at 14:33 of the third. John Tonelli tied it at 17:39 and won it 6:19 into overtime. Bedlam.

The entire game is on YouTube, with Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall on the call. It is nearly as shocking and exciting now as it was then, even though we know the result.

RANGERS, 1993-94

Coach: Mike Keenan

Record: 52-24-8 (112 points), beat Canucks (4-3) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Glenn Anderson, Mike Gartner, Brian Leetch, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Sergei Zubov

The argument: The Rangers have won only one Stanley Cup in the past 81 years, but they made it a doozy.

The 1993-94 team led the NHL in points with 112, then closed the deal with a playoff run that featured a pair of seven-game thrillers against the Devils in the conference finals and the Canucks in the Cup Final.

As much as the clincher against the Canucks meant to fans – as Sam Rosen famously put it, "This one will last a lifetime!" – the most memorable victories in the run were Games 6 and 7 against the Devils.

Before Game 6, captain Mark Messier promised a victory. Then he secured one, 4-2, with a natural hat trick in the third period.

Then came Game 7, which also had an iconic call, Howie Rose’s "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!"

Stephane Matteau won it, 2-1, in double overtime, after the Devils’ Valeri Zelepukin had tied it with 7.7 seconds left in regulation time.

The roster included several Cup winners from the Oilers’ glory days – led by Messier, one of six future Hall of Fame players on the roster at one time or another – stars in their primes such as Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and goalie Mike Richter, and rising talents such as Sergei Zubov and Alex Kovalev.

Zubov led the team with 89 points on 12 goals and 77 assists. (Try that trivia question on friends at your next party!) Graves scored 52 goals. Messier had 58 assists and Leetch 56. Richter’s goals-against average was 2.57.

There have been other memorable Rangers teams, including three other Cup champs, and recently the 2013-14 team that reached the Final before losing to the Kings and the ’14-15 team that had 113 regular-season points.

But 1993-94 already has lasted an adult lifetime, and figures to resonate for lifetimes to come.


Coach: Robbie Ftorek/Larry Robinson

Record: 45-24-8-5 (103 points), beat Stars (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens

The argument: It’s not an easy choice, given all of the winning the Devils did under future Islanders president Lou Lamoriello.

That includes some very good non-Cup-winners, including the 1993-94 team that lost an epic conference final against the Rangers and the 2000-01 team that compiled 111 regular-season points and fell in the Cup Final to the Avalanche.

And props to the Devils’ other two Cup winners, including Pat Burns’ defensively suffocating 2002-03 team that sported a 1.95 goals-against average.

But our pick is the ’99-00 team that had an up-and-down regular season before canning coach Robbie Ftorek and going to Larry Robinson with eight regular-season games left. It worked, sparking a huge playoff run.

With Martin Brodeur in goal, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora leading the offense – with linemate Jason Arnott – and a pair of Hall of Fame defensemen in Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, this team was Peak Lou in Jersey.

New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save against...

New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur makes a save against the Dallas Stars during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in East Rutherford, N.J., on May 30, 2000.  Credit: AP/Bill Kostroun


Coach: Peter Laviolette

Record: 52-22-8 (112 points), beat Oilers (4-3) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame player: Mark Recchi

The argument: With due respect to the Hurricanes’ late, beloved franchise ancestors from Hartford – and all of the other teams that have played in Carolina – 2005-06 stands alone.

Those ‘Canes were not big on star power. Their only Hall of Famer, Mark Recchi, spent only 20 regular-season games with the team after a trade from the Penguins and scored four regular-season goals.

But the Hurricanes had a bit of everything, led offensively by young Eric Staal, who had 45 goals and 55 assists (and 28 more points in the playoffs), with veteran leaders such as captain Rod Brind’Amour, now Carolina’s coach and reigning Jack Adams Award winner.

The ‘Canes needed Game 7 victories over the Sabres and Oilers in the final two playoff rounds but got it done.

Rookie goaltender Cam Ward played 28 games in the regular season, then 23 in the playoffs to secure the Conn Smythe Trophy.

FLYERS, 1974-75

Coach: Fred Shero

Record: 51-18-11 (113 points), beat Sabres (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent

The argument: Stick tap for some excellent Flyers teams that did not win the Stanley Cup, including the 1979-80 group that was rolling through the playoffs before encountering a certain Long Island-based franchise in the Final.

Picking between the two Cup winners is splitting hairs. They had similar seasons with similar players after in ’73-74 they became the first team from the 1967-68 expansion to win it all.

But the nod goes to the repeat champs of 1974-75, who between Cups traded for Reggie Leach, who ended up with 45 goals that season.

Bobby Clarke led the team in points with 116 and Bernie Parent’s goals-against average was a neat 2.04.

Those Flyers had a harrowing experience in the Cup semifinals when the Islanders stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 in Philly. But the Flyers, won, 4-1, behind a hat trick from Rick MacLeish.

CAPITALS, 2017-18

Coach: Barry Trotz

Record: 49-26-7 (105 points), beat Golden Knights (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The Capitals have had some crazy-good teams that did crazy-bad things in the playoffs, notably in 2009-10, ‘15-’16 and ’16-’17, groups that led the league in regular-season points and never saw the third round.

So while winning a Cup is not mandatory here, it obviously helps, thus the nod goes to the ’17-18 crew that broke through under future Islanders coach Barry Trotz to win the first Cup for the franchise and for Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin led the Caps with 49 goals and 87 points, backed by 50-assists-plus seasons from Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson.

The Caps lost their first two games to Columbus in the first round, at which point Trotz reinstated Braden Holtby in goal. He beat the Blue Jackets in double overtime and never looked back.

Ovechkin had 15 goals and 12 assists in 24 playoff games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

PENGUINS, 1992-93

Coach: Scotty Bowman

Record: 56-21-7 (119 points), lost to Islanders (4-3) in division final

Hall of Fame players: Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy

The argument: The Penguins have won five Stanley Cups, which usually provides plenty of fodder for arguing best-team status – often with the 1991-92 or 2015-16 team winning such debates.

But we have no rule here about having to win a Cup, so we will take the no-three-peat team of ’92-93, which suffered a shocking second-round ouster when David Volek won Game 7 for the Islanders in overtime, 4-3.

Those Penguins won 17 games in a row before tying the Devils in the regular-season finale, then took out the Devils in five games. So they were on a 21-1-1 roll before their ill-fated encounter with the Islanders.

Mario Lemieux was limited to 60 games because of treatment for cancer, yet somehow had 69 goals, 91 assists and 160 points. Kevin Stevens added 55 goals and Ron Francis 76 assists.

Young Jaromir Jagr – no, really, he once was young – totaled 60 points.


Coach: John Tortorella

Record: 50-24-8 (108 points), lost (4-1) to Penguins in first round

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: There is not much to argue about, given the modest achievements of this franchise in its two decades in the NHL. Columbus never has gotten past the second round of the playoffs.

The ’16-17 team got off to a 27-5-4 start under former Rangers coach John Tortorella, including an early 10-0 victory over the Canadiens and a 16-game winning streak – one short of the NHL record – that included a 14-0 mark in December.

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was the team’s star, going 41-17-5 with a 2.06 goals-against average in the regular season and securing his second career Vezina Trophy.

Cam Atkinson led a balanced scoring attack with 35 goals, and five players totaled 50 or more points: Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and Sam Gagner.

The Jackets went quietly in the first round of the playoffs, losing in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins.


SABRES, 1974-75

Coach: Floyd Smith

Record: 49-16-15 (113 points), lost to Flyers (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame player: Gilbert Perreault

The argument: Despite never winning a Stanley Cup, the Sabres have had some memorable teams, notably the 1998-99 group that lost to the Stars in the Final, plus back-to-back 110 points-plus seasons in ’05-06 and ’06-‘07.

(Whatever you do, do NOT mention Game 6 of the ’99 Final and/or the name Brett Hull to Sabres fans.)

But we have a Baby Boomer soft spot for the 1974-75 team that had 113 points and reached the Final in the franchise’s fifth season.

The Sabres lost in six to Philadelphia but did win the "Fog Game" in Game 3 in Buffalo, in which Rene Robert scored the winner in overtime, helped by the fact Flyers goalie Bernie Parent could not see the puck in time.

Robert and linemates Gilbert Perreault and Richard Martin formed the famed "French Connection" and led the team in the regular season with 100, 96 and 95 points, respectively.

CANADIENS, 1976-77

Coach: Scotty Bowman

Record: 60-8-12 (132 points), beat Bruins (4-0) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Steve Shutt

The argument: The debate is not so much whether the 1976-77 Canadiens are the best team in franchise history, but whether this is the best team in NHL history. Spoiler alert: It is.

The Habs had nine future Hall of Fame players, and two more HoFers in coach Scotty Bowman and GM Sam Pollock, and dominated en route to their second of four consecutive Cups.

They led the league in goals for (387) AND goals against (171). They closed the regular season 27-1-6 in their final 34 games. They went 12-2 in the playoffs, losing only to the Islanders in a six-game semifinal.

Guy Lafleur (56 goals, 80 assists) and Steve Shutt (60 goals, 45 assists) led the offense. Ken Dryden went 41-6-8 in goal, with a 2.14 goals-against average. Backup "Bunny" Larocque was better: 19-2-4 and 2.09.

In ’77-78, they went 59-10-11 and won their third Cup in a row.

MAPLE LEAFS, 1947-48

Coach: Hap Day

Record: 32-15-13 (77 points), beat Red Wings (4-0) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Syl Apps, Max Bentley, Turk Broda, Ted Kennedy, Bud Poile (as a "builder"), Harry Watson

The argument: The fact the rich and famous Maple Leafs have not so much as reached a Cup Final since last winning it in 1966-67 – pre-expansion!! – is one of the most remarkable factoids in sports.

But we digress. That long-ago Cup winner is a candidate for this list, as are the three in a row from 1962-64.

Yet the prize goes to the ’47-48 team that finished first in the regular season then steamrolled the Bruins and Red Wings in the playoffs while losing once.

The top four scorers were Hall of Famers: Syl Apps, Max Bentley, Ted Kennedy and Harry Watson. Goalie Turk Broda, who played all 60 games, had a 2.38 goals-against average.

The Leafs already had won Cups in ’42, ’45 and ’47, but the ’47-48 team was bolstered by the acquisition of Bentley early in the season in a trade with Chicago that remains one of the biggest in league history.

BRUINS, 1971-72

Coach: Tom Johnson

Record: 54-13-11 (119 points), beat Rangers (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: John Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr

The argument: Boston produced some cartoonishly good records in the 1930s, including the 1929-30 team that went a cool 38-5-1 in the regular season (then lost the Cup Final to the Canadiens).

But no post-World War II Bruins team can surpass the ’71-72 squad that led the league in goals with 330 and had a relative breeze through the playoffs, going 12-3.

Two of those playoff losses came in the Final against a much-loved Rangers team that lost by one goal in each of its first three defeats in the series, the Rangers’ first Final since 1950.

You might be familiar with the Bruins’ top two scorers that regular season. Phil Esposito had 66 goals and 67 assists. Bobby Orr had 37 goals and 80 assists. Each added 24 points in 15 playoff games.

It was the Bruins’ second Cup in three seasons. They have won one since – in 2011.

PANTHERS, 1995-96

Coach: Doug MacLean

Record: 41-31-10 (92 points), lost (4-0) to Avalanche in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None

The argument: There have been Panthers teams with more points, including the 103-point group that in 2015-16 was bounced in the first playoff round by the Islanders. (Remember Barclays Center? Remember John Tavares?)

But nothing in franchise lore beats the ’95-96 team that in only the third season in franchise history found a way to the Cup Final before being swept by Colorado.

That team was most famous for fans throwing plastic rats onto the ice after goals.

Scott Mellanby had killed a rat in the dressing room before the opener with his stick, then scored two goals that night with the same stick.

Former Rangers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed the two-goals-and-one-rat feat a "rat trick," and a tradition was born.

Mellanby led the team in goals (38) and points (70). Rob Svehla had a career-high 49 assists.

Vanbiesbrouck had a strong season, including a 2.25 goals-against average in the playoffs.

SENATORS, 2002-03

Coach: Jacques Martin

Record: 52-21-8-1 (113 points), lost (4-3) to Devils in Eastern Conference finals

Hall of Fame player: Marian Hossa

The argument: We see you, 2006-07 Senators who reached the Cup Final. But the best all-around team in the franchise’s mostly "meh" history clearly is the ’02-03 group that won the Presidents’ Trophy with 113 points.

(The original Senators were an early hockey power, but that was not the same franchise as this one and thus ineligible by our criteria.)

The Sens had offensive skill led by Hall of Famer Marian Hossa (45 goals, 35 assists) and Daniel Alfredsson (27 goals, 51 assists) and strong goaltending from Patrick Lalime (2.16 goals-against average).

Adding to the degree of difficulty off the ice that season: The franchise filed for bankruptcy in January.

In the conference finals, the Senators ran into a famously stingy Devils team that eventually won the Stanley Cup. After falling behind in the series, 3-1, Ottawa won two in a row then lost Game 7 at home, 3-2.

LIGHTNING, 2018-19

Coach: Jon Cooper

Record: 62-16-4 (128 points), lost to Blue Jackets (4-0) in first round

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: Oh, there are going to be arguments about this. We get it. The Lightning have won three Stanley Cups, of course, including the last two in a row!

But there are two things to remember about the ’18-19 Bolts: One, they were really, really, really good. And two, their mind-boggling playoff flop against the Blue Jackets set the stage for the Cups in the two seasons to come.

The Lightning were determined not to let that happen again under coach Jon Cooper – a former Hofstra lacrosse player! – and they have not, twice narrowly escaping the Islanders in the semifinal round before winning it all.

Back to ’18-19: Tampa Bay led the NHL with 325 goals. Nikita Kucherov had 41 goals and 87 assists and won the Hart Trophy. Steven Stamkos had 45 goals and 53 assists. Brayden Point added 41 and 51.

Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy.

RED WINGS, 2001-02

Coach: Scotty Bowman

Record: 51-17-10-4 (116 points), beat Hurricanes (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Chris Chelios, Sergei Federov, Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman

The argument: The Red Wings have had the league’s best record 18 times in their history. That list includes a 131-point season in 1995-96 that ended with a conference finals loss to Colorado.

But there is a Detroit team that fits our bill for regular-season brilliance while also having gotten the job done:

The 2001-02 team that included nine future Hall of Fame players – plus Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman – went 51-17-10-4 and beat the Hurricanes for the Cup.

Their biggest scare came in the conference finals, where the Avalanche took a 3-2 series lead on them. The Red Wings won the next two games by a combined score of 9-0.

Detroit’s top four scorers – Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Federov, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille – were Hall of Famers, as were six of the top seven and seven of the top nine.

Oh, and Dominik Hasek was in goal. Not bad.


STARS, 1998-99

Coach: Ken Hitchcock

Record: 51-19-12 (114 points), beat Sabres (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Ed Belfour, Guy Carbonneau, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Sergei Zubov

The argument: This one is complicated, thanks to the California Golden Seals / Cleveland Barons / merging with the North Stars thing. (Hello there, 1980-81 North Stars, losers to the Islanders in the Cup Final!)

But despite the franchise’s unusual genetic path, there is a clear No. 1 in its history: the ’98-99 Cup winners.

Coming off a Presidents’ Trophy season in ’97-98, the Stars were even better the next year, totaling a league-best 114 points, then going 16-7 in the playoffs.

They were the NHL’s best defensive team, behind a 1.99 goals-against average for Ed Belfour. They also could score, led by Mike Modano’s 34 goals and 47 assists. Four of five 50-points-plus scorers were future Hall of Famers.

Dallas was down 3-2 to the Avalanche in the conference finals, then scored back-to-back 4-1 victories.

Brett Hull’s controversial triple-overtime Cup clincher still is a sore spot for Sabres fans.

WILD, 2002-03

Coach: Jacques Lemaire

Record: 42-29-10-1 (95 points), lost to Mighty Ducks (4-0) in conference finals

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The Wild have had some good regular seasons mixed in with a lot of mediocrity, but their playoff resume is awful.

Hence the nod goes to the ’02-03 team that reached the only conference final in franchise history and did so in the third season of its existence – creating a bond between team and fans in a hockey-mad state.

The foundation was the defense, which ranked fourth in the NHL behind goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez.

Future Ranger Marian Gaborik led the team in goals (30) and assists (35).

The playoffs were fun. Trailing Colorado 3-1 in the first round, the Wild won three consecutive 3-2 games, the last two in overtime. Andrew Brunette won Game 7 with a goal 3:25 into OT.

They trailed the Canucks 3-1 in the second round, and again won three straight. Then they totaled one goal in four losses to Anaheim.


Coach: Joel Quenneville

Record: 36-7-5 (77 points), beat Bruins (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame player: Marian Hossa

The argument: The storied franchise has had memorable teams and great players over the past 95 years, but this discussion comes down to the three Cup winners in 2010, ’13 and ’15.

Reasonable people can disagree on which was the most formidable, and even the core players involved in all three are not sure which is the best of that bunch.

We will give a narrow nod over 2009-10 to the 2013 team with key players at their peaks, a group that started the lockout-shortened season on a 21-0-3 run.

It wasn’t easy in the playoffs. The Red Wings took a 3-1 series lead in the second round, after which Chicago won three in a row, including Game 7 in overtime on a goal by Brent Seabrook.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews scored 23 goals each in the truncated season. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery each had 1.94 goals-against averages.

PREDATORS, 2017-18

Coach: Peter Laviolette

Record: 53-18-11 (117 points), lost to Jets (4-3) in second round

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: Look, this is not an exact science, dear reader.

The most memorable season in Predators history? Clearly 2016-17, when after a string of playoff flops Nashville finally made it to the Cup Final and gave a city that knows how to party another reason to do so.

But the best Preds team was the next one, with most of the same players who had mounted that Cup bid.

Nashville won the Presidents’ Trophy, but thanks to the quirks of the NHL playoff system had to face the league’s second-best team in the second round and lost in seven games to the Jets.

Pekka Rinne was the primary goaltender, and the balanced scoring attack featured seven players totaling from 48-64 points, headed by Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and P.K. Subban.

The Predators fashioned another 100-point season in 2018-19 . . . and lost in the first playoff round.


Coach: Dave Tippett

Record: 42-27-13 (97 points), lost to Kings (4-1) in conference finals

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The original Winnipeg Jets won three WHA titles, but in their NHL era they never finished first in their division before moving to Arizona in 1996, which helps simplify this discussion.

So does the fact the Coyotes have not been all that great in their current location, either.

Our choice is the ’11-12 team, the third of three consecutive strong entries that gained some traction in a non-traditional hockey market.

In his first season in goal, Mike Smith was a revelation for the Coyotes, and while their skaters lacked big-name star power they got the job done.

Ray Whitney, who turned 40 during the playoff run, led the team with 53 assists and 77 points. Radim Vrbata had a team-high 35 goals.

The Coyotes lost the conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Kings in five games – and have not finished higher than fourth in their division since.


Coach: Paul Maurice

Record: 52-20-10 (114 points), lost to Golden Knights (4-1) in conference finals

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The good people of Winnipeg would picket Newsday’s offices if we went with the 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers here. But no need. The ’17-18 Jets justify inclusion on our list.

They were the second-best team in the regular season, finishing three points behind the Predators, then they eliminated Nashville in seven games in a second-round series that seemed to come too early in the playoffs.

Their 277 goals scored ranked second in the league, with Patrik Laine’s 44 leading the way. (His 20 power-play goals led the league.) Blake Wheeler had a team-high 91 points, including a league-best 68 assists.

Connor Hellebuyck’s 44 victories led the league among goaltenders.

The Jets finished the regular season on an 11-1 run, then after bouncing the Wild and Predators they ran into the upstart Golden Knights of future Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. Winnipeg won Game 1, then lost four in a row.


Coach: Bob Hartley

Record: 52-16-10-4 (118 points), beat Devils (4-3) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic

The argument: The Avalanche finished first in their division in their first eight seasons after moving to Colorado from Quebec, including a Stanley Cup winner in their first season in the United States, in 1995-96.

But the ’00-01 season was the best of them all, complete with a Presidents’ Trophy and a lineup with five future Hall of Famers.

The Avs started that season with nine victories in their first 11 games and cruised from there, although they had to win two games in a row in the Cup Final to avoid a repeat for the Devils.

They outscored New Jersey by a combined 7-1 in Games 6 and 7, and 40-year-old Ray Bourque had his first Cup.

Joe Sakic (54 goals, 64 assists) and Peter Forsberg (27 goals, 62 assists) paced the offense. Goaltender Patrick Roy won his fourth Cup – two with the Canadiens and two with the Avs.

BLUES, 2018-19

Coaches: Mike Yeo, Craig Berube

Record: 45-28-9 (99 points), beat Bruins (4-3) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The Blues were an early power of sorts among the expansion teams of the late 1960s, and they have had some good teams over the decades, especially the Presidents’ Trophy winners of 1999-2000.

But the 2018-19 team that won the Cup takes the cake as one of the strangest league champions of all time.

They fired their coach, Mike Yeo, after 19 games. On Jan. 3, they were 15-18-4, the worst record in the NHL.

The rest is St. Louis sports history. Their revival included an 11-game winning streak, then they survived the second playoff round when Pat Maroon scored a double-overtime Game 7 winner against Dallas.

They also needed seven games to beat Boston in the Final.

Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington went 24-5-1 in the regular season, with a league-best 1.89 goals-against average. Vladimir Tarasenko scored 33 goals and Ryan O’Reilly had 28 goals and 49 assists.


OILERS, 1984-85

Coach: Glen Sather

Record: 49-20-11 (109 points), beat Flyers (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier

The argument: Picking one team from the Oilers’ 1980s dynasty is splitting hairs, but that is what we do here.

So make it ’84-85, the second of Edmonton’s five Cup winners in seven seasons, thanks to the historic offensive weaponry that marked that era.

Wayne Gretzky totaled 73 goals and 135 assists, good for 208 points. Jari Kurri added 71 goals and 64 assists, second best in the league – a mere 71 behind Gretzky!

Paul Coffey had 37 and 84, and Grant Fuhr minded the net.

In 18 playoff games, Gretzky, Coffey and Kurri had 47, 37 and 31 points, respectively.

The Oilers went 15-3 in the playoffs, including an 8-3 victory over the Flyers in the Cup clincher. They scored 36 goals in their four victories over Chicago in the conference finals. Thirty-six!!

In 2017, they won an NHL centennial fan poll as the greatest team of all time.

FLAMES, 1988-89

Coach: Terry Crisp

Record: 54-17-9 (117 points), beat Canadiens (4-2) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Doug Gilmour, Al MacInnis, Lanny McDonald, Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk

The argument: Oh, goody, an easy one!

The Flames have had other moments since moving from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980, but none like 1988-89, a team that had the league’s best regular-season record.

They then closed the deal in the playoffs to secure the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup. Not that it was easy.

Calgary narrowly averted a first-round loss to the Canucks when Joel Otto scored in overtime to win Game 7. The Flames went 12-3 in the final three rounds, including a second-round sweep of Wayne Gretzky and the Kings.

Mike Vernon went 37-6-5 in goal in the regular season, then was 16-5 in the playoffs to win the first of his two career Cups, the other coming with Detroit in 1997.

New York’s own Joe Mullen led the team with 51 goals and 59 assists for 110 points. Hakan Loob and Doug Gilmour had 85 points apiece.

CANUCKS, 2010-11

Coach: Alain Vigneault

Record: 54-19-9 (117 points), lost to Bruins (4-3) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The Canucks have been to three Cup Finals, the first two of which are close to the hearts of New York fans. They lost to the Islanders in 1982 and the Rangers in ’94.

But neither of those was their best team. That honor goes to the 2010-11 team that ranked No. 1 in the NHL in goals scored (262) and allowed (185).

After surviving a first-round series against Chicago with an overtime goal in Game 7, the Canucks faced Boston in the Final.

They had two chances to win the Cup, but lost Game 6 in Boston then Game 7, 4-0, at home, after which a riot broke out outside the arena, during which more than 100 people were injured.

Brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin led the team in scoring with 104 and 94 points, respectively. Former Islanders first-round draft pick Roberto Luongo had a 2.11 goals-against average.

SHARKS, 2008-09

Coach: Todd McLellan

Record: 53-18-11 (117 points), lost to Ducks (4-2) in first round

Hall of Fame players: Rob Blake

The argument: If the 2015-16 Sharks had won the Cup Final over the Penguins, that would have been enough to make the difference in a tricky call. But they did not, losing in six games.

So back to ’08-09, and a very good team that led the league with 117 points before bombing in the opening round of the playoffs, losing to the Ducks in six games. Not good.

But before that, there was a lot of good, including a scorching 36-6-5 start that later got to 42-9-9.

Future Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov was the primary netminder.

Joe Thornton was the top scorer with 25 goals and 61 assists. Patrick Marleau had 38 goals and 33 assists, and Devin Setoguchi added 31 goals and 34 assists.

The Sharks were strong again in ’09-10, compiling 113 points and advancing to the conference finals before getting swept by eventual Cup champion Chicago.

DUCKS, 2006-07

Coach: Randy Carlyle

Record: 48-20-4 (110 points), beat Senators (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Teemu Salanne

The argument: This was the franchise’s first season as the just-plain-Ducks rather than the "Mighty Ducks." Either way, everything was just ducky as the team won its first Cup in convincing fashion.

That included a 16-5 romp through the playoffs behind goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who in his 18 appearances sported a 1.97 goals-against average after he missed the start of the playoffs because of his newborn son’s health problems.

In the regular season, Giguere allowed only 2.26 goals per game.

Teemu Selanne paced the offense with 94 points (48 goals, 46 assists), backed by Andy McDonald (27 and 51), Scott Niedermayer (15 and 54), Chris Kunitz (25 and 35) and Chris Pronger (13 and 46).

The addition of Pronger, a 6-6 bruiser, in an offseason trade with the Oilers was a key addition that added to the Ducks’ grit after a loss to the Oilers in the ’05-06 conference finals.


Coach: Gerard Gallant

Record: 51-24-7 (109 points), lost to Capitals (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: Well, that didn’t take long! The Golden Knights shocked the world with one of the greatest seasons by an expansion team in any sport.

They advanced to the Cup Final before losing in five to the Capitals in a matchup of future Rangers and Islanders coaches Gerard Gallant and Barry Trotz.

The Golden Knights were assembled from other franchise’s spare parts, like all expansion teams, but in their case a favorable expansion procedure and motivated players clicked in a huge way.

It started with stability in goal, with Marc-Andre Fleury, and included contributions from many quarters, including William Karlsson (78 points), Jonathan Marchessault (75), David Perron (66) and Reilly Smith (60).

Vegas showed it was serious by sweeping the Kings in the first playoff round – all in one-goal games – then beat the Sharks in six games and the Jets in five before running into Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

KINGS, 2013-14

Coach: Darryl Sutter

Record: 46-28-8 (100 points), beat Rangers (4-1) in Stanley Cup Final

Hall of Fame players: None (yet)

The argument: The Kings’ second Cup in three seasons came after a wild ride through the playoffs that included Game 7 victories in the first three rounds, starting with overcoming a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose.

All three Game 7 victories came on the road, including in overtime against Chicago in the conference finals.

In the Cup Final, the Kings eliminated the Rangers in five games, but of their four victories two came in double overtime and one in overtime, as the Rangers mounted their deepest run of the Henrik Lundqvist era.

Alec Martinez scored the series winners in overtime in both the conference finals and Cup Final.

The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the league, as Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens combined for a 1.99 goals-against average.

Anze Kopitar’s 29 goals and 41 assists both led the team. Jeff Carter added 27 goals and 23 assists.


This is the first season of the franchise.


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