The Best NHL Teams In History By Decade
It is often argued who the best National Hockey League teams of all-time are. It is hard to compare the 1930 Boston Bruins with the 1977 Montreal Canadiens when the rules, conditions, equipment, training and number of teams change at a constant pace.
What we look at here in this article is the best NHL team from each decade since the 1920’s based solely on single season winning percentage. The number of games played in a season has gone from 24 to 82 in just a short 80 years and winning percentage is the only true measure of a team’s success during the regular season.
The 1919-20 Ottawa Senators played in a young NHL with only 3 other teams and with only a 24 game schedule. The team won 19 of the 24 games and had no ties for a winning percentage of .792. The Senators won the Stanley Cup that season which is, from what we will find out, somewhat of a rarity among teams who excel to extreme levels of success during the regular season.
The 1929-30 Boston Bruins had the highest single season winning percentage of all-time. In the 44 games schedule, the Bruins had 38 wins and 1 tie to go along with their 5 losses for a winning percentage of .875. This was the era before the ‘Original 6’ and the NHL consisted of two divisions of 5 teams. The Bruins were easily the top team in the American Division. However, the Montreal Canadiens from the Canadian Division would be the eventual winners of the Stanley Cup that season.
The 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens would achieve a winning percentage of .830 with 38 wins, 5 losses and 7 ties over a 50 game season. The league consisted of 6 teams and the Canadiens were crowned Stanley Cup Champions.
The Detroit Red Wings had a winning percentage of .721 in 1950-51 on 44 wins, 13 losses and 13 ties over 70 games. The league still consisted of the original 6 teams. Despite Detroit’s success, the Toronto Maple Leafs would steal the Stanley Cup away.
The 1961-62 Montreal Canadiens had a winning percentage of .700 on 42 wins, 14 losses and 14 ties over 70 games. The league was in its final decade of just 6 teams with expansion arriving in 1967-68. Once again, the Toronto Maple Leafs snatched the Stanley Cup away from the regular season league leader.
The team that is considered by many to be the best of all-time put in a winning percentage of .825 in 1976-77. The Montreal Canadiens lost just 8 games while winning 60 and tying 12 over 80 games in the 18 team league. The Canadiens would breeze to a Stanley Cup win that season.
Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers controlled the 1983-84 season with a winning percentage of .744 on 57 wins, 18 losses and 5 ties over 80 games. Not only would the Oilers top the 21-team league over the regular season but would take the Stanley Cup, as well.
In 1995-96, the Detroit Red Wings set the record for most wins in a single season with 62, a record that stands today. The Wings posted a winning percentage of .799 over the 82 game schedule, losing 13 and tying 7. The league had expanded to 26 teams at this point. Despite the record number of wins, Detroit would fall to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup final.
Ten years after their record performance, the Detroit Red Wings posted the best record of the decade with a .756 winning percentage. The feat was accomplished on a record of 58 wins, 16 losses and 8 ties. At this point, the league was up to 30 teams and remains at that number today. Once again, the Wings would not take home the Stanley Cup as the Carolina Hurricanes would win their first.