Best Hockey Teams of All-Time

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The best hockey teams of all-time is subjective. It’s tough to rank the best NHL teams, as the way the game is played has changed throughout the decades. We’re going to uncover the top ten hockey teams of all-time. One thing all of these teams have in common is that they won the NHL Stanley Cup.

There have been some great dynasties in the NHL over the years. The Maple Leafs won five of seven Stanley Cups between 1945-51, the Canadiens won five consecutive Cups between 1956-60, Montreal won six of ten Stanley Cups in the 1970s as well, the Islanders won four consecutive Cups between 1980-83 and the Oilers won five of seven Stanley Cups between 1984-90.

Let’s uncover the best hockey teams of all-time. Rather than include the same dynasties throughout the rankings, we’re going to include ten different teams throughout several generations.

Best Hockey Teams in NHL History (#1-#5)

Here are the top five best hockey teams in NHL history:

#1 – 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers were stacked in 1984-85 and no opposing team stood a chance at defeating them once the NHL playoffs started. Edmonton went 15-3 in the 1985 NHL playoffs. Wayne Gretzky set a postseason record for assists (30) and points (47). Jari Kurri tied the postseason record for goals (19). Kurri set the record for postseason hat tricks (4). The team had six future Hall of Famers in the lineup.

#2 – 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

Some ice hockey fans will argue this Canadiens team should be ranked first. This team went 60-8-12 in the regular season. No other team has lost fewer regular season games (minimum 70 games played). Montreal went 12-2 in the 1977 NHL playoffs, sweeping the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. Guy Lafluer won the Conn Smythe Trophy, as he finished the postseason with nine goals and 17 assists.

The 1984-85 Oilers and 1976-77 Canadiens are the best hockey teams of all-time.

Lemieux and Jagr Form Formidable Duo

#3 – 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh won their first Cup appearance in 1991. Scotty Bowman coached the team the following year. After struggling in the regular season (39-32-9), the Penguins upset the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. After going down 2-1 to the Rangers in the second round, the Penguins would go on to win 11 consecutive games to win the Cup. Mario Lemieux had 34 points in 15 postseason games for Pittsburgh.

#4 – 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings

Only the best hockey teams repeat as Stanley Cup champions. After winning the 1997 Stanley Cup, the Red Wings went 16-6 in the 1998 NHL playoffs to repeat. Bowman coached both teams. This Red Wings team was stacked (Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Nicklas Lindstrom, Branden Shanahan and Chris Osgood). Ten players scored 16 game-winning goals in the playoffs, showing their incredible depth.

#5 – 1982-83 New York Islanders

No other team has won four consecutive Stanley Cups since the Islanders (1980-83). Billy Smith won the Conn Smythe Trophy after holding Gretzky’s Oilers to six goals in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals. The Isles swept the Oilers to win the Cup. Mike Bossy had 26 postseason points in 19 games (17 goals). It was the end of the dynasty for the Islanders, as they lost to the Oilers in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Islanders were one of the best NHL teams, but they haven’t had a Cup appearance since 1984.

The 1971-72 Boston Bruins were one of the best hockey teams.
The 1971-72 Boston Bruins were one of the best hockey teams.

Best Hockey Teams in NHL History (#6-#10)

We’ll finish our rankings of the best hockey teams by uncovering spots #6-#10.

#6 – 1971-72 Boston Bruins

The Bruins have had some of the best hockey teams in recent years, but the 1971-72 Bruins are the best team Boston have had. Led by Phil Esposito (133 points) and Bobby Orr (117 points), Boston went 12-3 in the 1972 NHL playoffs, defeating the Rangers for the Cup in six games. They were the highest scoring team in the NHL during the season and they were also stacked on the blue line.

#7 – 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers

This Flyers team was the first post-expansion NHL team to win the Cup. They conceded a league-low 164 goals thanks to goaltender Bernie Parent. The “Broad Street Bullies” were hard-hitting and played great defense. After defeating the Rangers in seven games, the Flyers defeated the Bruins in six games to win the Cup. Parent allowed 11 goals in the Cup series and had a shutout (30 saves) in Game 6.

Calgary Flames Win First and Only Stanley Cup

#8 – 1988-89 Calgary Flames

The Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in 1989. They were dominant all season. They won the Presidents’ Trophy (54-17-9 / 117 points) and then went 16-6 in the postseason. The Flames had three players (Al MacInnis, Joe Mullen and Doug Gilmour) average a point per game or better in the playoffs. Mike Vernon had three shutouts in the playoffs. The Flames defeated Montreal in six games for the Cup.

#9 – 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche won their first Cup in 2001. They won the Presidents’ Trophy (52-16-10-4 / 118 points) and went 16-7 in the postseason. The Avs were down 3-2 in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals against the Devils, but they won the last two games. Joe Sakic led the team in regular season points (118) and playoff points (26). Ray Bourque won his first Cup and Game 7 was the last game of his career.

#10 – 1993-94 New York Rangers

After winning the Presidents’ Trophy (52-24-8 / 112 points), the Rangers went 16-7 in the postseason to win their first Stanley Cup in over 50 years. The Rangers needed seven games to defeat the Devils in the Conference Finals and Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Brian Leetch led the team in postseason points (34) and Mark Messier was second (30). Mike Richter had four shutouts in the postseason.

That concludes our list of the top ten best hockey teams of all-time.

Best Hockey Teams of All-Time – Honorable Mentions

We were able to discuss ten different teams in our rankings of the best hockey teams of all-time. Our list could have featured the Canadiens, Oilers and Islanders ten times, as they all had lengthy dynasties, but we wanted some variety of teams and players in our rankings of the best NHL teams.

A few of the best hockey teams just missed the cut as well, but they’ve earned an honorable mention.

HM #1 – 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks were Central Division winners (52-22-8) in the 2009-10 NHL season. Chicago went 16-6 in the postseason and no playoff series went past six games. Jonathan Toews (29 points), Patrick Kane (28 points) and Patrick Sharp (22 points) all averaged a point per game or better in the playoffs. This Cup win would set off a dynasty, with the Blackhawks winning the Cup in 2013 and 2015 as well.

HM #2 – 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks won the Cup in 2007 for the first and only time. The team was loaded with talent on both ends, including Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Pronger and Corey Perry. Anaheim had nine players score 10+ points in the playoffs. The Ducks went 16-5 in the postseason. They finished three playoff series in just five games, including in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals against Ottawa.

HM#3 – 1950-51 Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs haven’t won a Cup since 1967, but they were one of the best hockey teams for a long time. The Maple Leafs best season was 1950-51 when they won the Cup against Montreal in five games. What’s interesting about the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals is every game went to overtime. Al Rollins and Turk Broda were great in net. Max Bentley, Sid Smith, Ted Kennedy and Tod Sloan led the offense.

Who will make our list of best hockey teams next? Only time will tell.