FeaturedTop 15 NHL Teams of All Time

Top 15 NHL Teams of All Time – #1

The first round of the playoffs saw the Canadiens matched up against the St. Louis Blues. The Blues went 32-39-9 in the regular season and were heavy heavy underdogs. In the regular season, the Canadiens won the season series 3-1, and outscored the Blues 20-11, with 7 of the Blues goals coming in the 1 game they won. Their playoff series was absolutely no different. The Canadiens destroyed (and destroyed may not be a strong enough word) the Blues in a 4 game sweep. In the 4 games, the Blues managed to score just 4 goals, and the Canadiens scored 19. The Blues really had no chance in the series and the Canadiens showed just how big of a gap there was between them and the rest of the NHL. In the 2nd round were the New York Islanders.

The Islanders had managed to fight their way to the 2nd round after sweeping the Blackhawks 2-0 in the preliminary round, and then sweeping the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in the 1st round to set up a matchup with the Canadiens. The Islanders went 47-21-12 in the regular season and were a very good young team. The Islanders were led by Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier and hadn’t yet drafted Mike Bossy, the third player who would put them over the top in the early 80’s (they would actually draft Bossy in the draft following this season). However, they were still good enough to put  a scare into the Canadiens if they were too casual. Montreal came out of the gates hot and took control of the series, taking Game 1 4-3 and then following that up with a 3-0 shutout in Game 2. However, the Islanders weren’t ready to quit and won Game 3, 5-3. Those 5 goals in Game 3 were the most goals the Canadiens gave up that entire playoff run. Game 4 was pivotal. If the Islanders took it, the Canadiens knew that they would be in a dog fight, so they needed to bring their “A” game. Ken Dryden was up to the task. Dryden posted a 4-0 shutout to give the Canadiens a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Islanders would manage to steal Game 5 in OT, but instead of feeling like they were back in it, it seemed more like the postponement of the inevitable. The Canadiens put the Islanders out of their misery in Game 6, winning 2-1 to send the young Islanders home. Awaiting the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals were the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins finished the regular season at 49-23-8 for 106 points. The Bruins were led by 36 year old center Jean Ratelle who scored 33 goals and 94 points that season. In the regular season, the Bruins were the only team to hold a winning record against the Canadiens, going 3-2 against the Canadiens in the regular season, and being the only team to beat the Canadiens at the Forum. However, we are talking about the greatest team in NHL history and there was no way they were going to be intimidated by losing the regular season series to the Bruins. In Game 1, Montreal came out and made a big statement. The Canadiens scored 4 goals in the first period en route to a 7-3 thrashing of the Bruins. Game 2 was no different, as the machine-like Canadiens scored 1 goal in each period on their way to a 3-0 shutout of the Bruins. After giving up 20 goals in the 5 regular season games against the Bruins, the Canadiens had allowed just 3 goals in the first two games and were determined to keep up the defensive intensity heading back to Boston. Game 3 saw the machine keep rolling as Lafleur recorded a goal and 2 assists in the first period on his way to a 4 point night, leading the Habs to a 4-2 win.

Knowing that they would need their best effort to even steal one game from the Habs, the Bruins brought the kitchen sink with them to Game 4. In Game 4, the Bruins scored first for the first time all series, as Bruins winger Bobby Schmautz scored on a shot from the point when Ken Dryden had lost his mask. Back in the day, if a goalie lost his mask, play did not stop, and Dryden was still expected to make the save. In the 2nd period, Jacques Lemaire brought the Habs even, as Lafleur found Lemaire wide open in the slot and he beat Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers high glove side. The Canadiens kept coming in waves after that, but Cheevers stopped everything that his came his way. The game went into OT tied at 1. After a chip in deep by Guy Lapointe, the Habs pressure forced a turnover. Lafleur stole the puck and as he was skating behind the net, he spotted Lemaire parked right in front of the goal. Lafleur hit him with a pass and it was an easy tap-in goal. The Habs were the Stanley Cup champions for the 2nd year in a row. Lafleur won the Conn Smythe for his 8 points in the Stanley Cup Finals.

That’s the story of the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens, the greatest team of all time. We’ve already illustrated several different reasons as to why the 76-77 Habs were the greatest team of all time, but I’ll try and reinforce it here. Their 60-8-12 record is the best in NHL history. Their 33-1-6 home record is the best in NHL history. Their +2.7 goal differential was the biggest goal differential in NHL history. Their + 130 goal differential at home (+3.25 a game) is the greatest in NHL history. They had 9 Hall of Famers without including Coach Scotty Bowman. They were #1 in goals for, #1 in goals against #2 in PP%, #1 in PK%, and #1 in Even Strength Goals For/Against. Their 24-1-5 post All Star Break record is the best in NHL history by a wide margin. That season the Habs had the best player, the highest point scorer, the highest goal scorer, the best defenseman, the best goalie, the most outstanding player, the best coach, and the best player of the postseason. What more do you want? The 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens are without a doubt, the greatest team in NHL history and that’s why they have the #1 spot in our countdown of the Top 15 NHL Teams of All Time.

To recap:

#15  1995-1996 Colorado Avalanche

#14 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings

#13 1993-1994 New York Rangers

#12 1971-1972 Boston Bruins

#11 2000-2001 Colorado Avalanche

#10 1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins

#9 2001-2002 Detroit Red Wings

#8 1996-1997 Detroit Red Wings

#7 1986-1987 Edmonton Oilers

#6 1974-1975 Philadelphia Flyers

#5 1981-1982 New York Islanders

#4 1977-1978 Montreal Canadiens

#3 1988-1989 Calgary Flames

#2 1983-1984 Edmonton Oilers

#1 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens


So there you have it. Thanks for reading and keeping up with the countdown and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the article, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Prashanth Iyer

Prashanth Iyer

Prashanth is a third year doctor of pharmacy student at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, NC. Prashanth is studying to be an infectious disease pharmacist, but in his spare time, he watches any hockey game he can catch. He was born and raised just outside Detroit, Michigan and hence is a big Red Wings fan. He is always willing to hear any and all debates pertaining to his articles, so feel free to contact him.
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You're insane...the 2001-02 Red Wings were easily the best team ever. All the team's from the 60's, 70's, 80's are so freaking overrated. The skill level wasn't even close to what it is in the modern era. 


@sAAp34 Then by your logic, wouldn't the best team of all time be the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks? The skill level in the early 2000s isn't close to what it is now in 2015. So, with your logic, the best team of all time is simply the most recent team to win the title. Your logic sucks. I shouldn't be surprised though, you are a Red Wings fan after all.


I don't think the author if this list is very informed and was obviously too young or not born yet to watch some of these teams play.  Your #2 team, the 1984 Edmonton Oilers played in a conference with a total of three winning teams, the Oilers, Flames, and North Stars. Every other team had a losing record, which made their path to the finals a cake walk compared to the gauntlet the Wales Conference teams had to go through.  


Another team that belongs of this list are the Penguins from the early 90's.  They were another team that didn't put a premium on the regular season, but were loaded.  Other than the Canadians and Islanders, and possibly the Oilers, they would have killed just about any team on this list.  Like the Oilers, they could only win two Cups in a row, both were loaded on offense, were shaky on defense and were solid in net with Fuhr and Barasso.   In 1993, the one year they did try to make a statement in the regular season, and won the Presidents trophy they lost.  In most sports, the team with the best regular season record falls short, which is why your premise that only a Presidents Trophy winners can qualify is stupid.  The 1986 Oilers were probably better overall than the 1984 Oilers, but Steve Smith put a puck into his own net, and they eliminated themselves.  The 1993 Penguins were probably better than either the 91 or 92 teams, but talked trash to a depleted, inferior, Islander team and lost.  The top two teams in the post expansion era is a coin flip between the Canadians and Islanders, followed by the Oilers and Penguins.  After that there's a huge drop off.  None of the post 2004 teams are nearly as deep or as loaded with Hall of Famers playing in their primes together as those top 4


This list is a joke, the top two teams are the Canadians ans Islanders,  They are the only two teams on this list that won four consecutive Stanley Cups and they're the only two complete teams on the list.  The Canadians had the most dominant single season, and the Islanders has the most dominant run.  They are the only team in history to win 19 consecutive playoff series and owned the Oilers.  They beat them 10 consecutive times entering the 1984 finals. which is the only year the finals had a 2-3-2 format.  Not to mention the Oilers played in the inferior Cambell Conference. The only competition the Oilers had were the Flames, while in the Wales Conference the Canadians, Bruins, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and Capitals beat the hell out of each other.  I also think putting a premium on the regular season record is also a joke.  Back in the era of the Canadians, Islanders and Oilers, their were only 21 teams that played in 4 divisions with 5 teams each.  The Patrick division was the only one that had 6 teams.  The regular season was essentially meaningless. As long as a team didn't finish in last place or in the bottom two in the Patrick division every team every team qualified for the playoffs. The only criteria should be playoff dominance, and in that area the Canadians and Islanders stand alone.


It's funny how the 94 Rangers and the 96 As are on your list and you mention the hall of fame players for each team which are two foe both, and yet I don't see the 2000 or 2001 devils for whom had 4 future hall players. Why do the devils get no respect or credit for their excellence, this is a team that was along with Detroit the most dominant and successful nhl teams during that time, to do something like that there had to be significantly strong rosters.

IgorBurdetskiy moderator

James before you jump to a conclusion you should have realized we didn't make an omission whatsoever. If you read our guidelines in #15 you would know that we were focusing on the post original-six era. The team you mentioned was obviously during just the original six era which doesn't fall into our criteria for this list. I'm sure that team was good just as many other teams were for the Canadiens back then. HOWEVER, there wasn't much competition during the original six era to be considered even a top NHL team of all time.

James Stevenson
James Stevenson

You folks have made a glaring ommision--The 1958-59 Canadiens, in fact, the 1958-60 Canadiens, "Les Glorieux". Check their regular season as well as their playoff record. Besides, on their roster, they had  Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Tom Johnson, Doug Harvey, and Jacques Plante--all legends and all in the Hall of Fame. What other team can make a player roster like that! Shame on you!

        Yours Regretfully,

            James Stevenson







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