Sunday, December 14, 2008
Worst post-67 Cup Winning Team?
The columns in the above list show, from left to right, the season, the cup winning team during that season, that team's adjusted winning percentage (AW%) during the regular season, and how that team ranked in the league in terms of AW% during that season. The teams that I've highlighted are teams that I feel are arguably the worst post-67 teams to win the cup, or teams that are generally included in that discussion by others.
A few general comments:
1. Those Hab teams of the late 1970s were very, very good.
2. The Oilers dynasty teams, despite putting up some gaudy offensive totals, don't appear to be much better than the average cup winning team.
4. The 89' Flames were probably the best non-dynasty team of all time.
Now, the analysis:
The 91' and 92' Penguins
While their AW% is pretty unspectacular for a team that managed to win the cup two consecutive years, a lot of this probably has to do with the fact that Lemieux only managed to play 90 regular season games in total during those two seasons. That probably explains the regular season success/playoff success discrepancy. With a healthy Lemieux, neither of those teams are close to being the worst post-67 to win it all. Not even remotely.
The 86' Canadiens
Contrary to popular belief, the 86' Canadiens were not a mediocre team that Roy carried to the cup. Despite receiving average goaltending for the majority of the regular season (sv%=0.873), they had the third best AW% in the league. Considering that they, rather fortuitously, managed to avoid playing both the Oilers and the Flyers during their road to the cup, it's not really surprising that they managed to win. Not the worst post-67 team to win the cup.
The 95' Devils
Admittedly, their regular season numbers were pretty underwhelming, finishing 10th in a 26 team league in AW%. However, a lot of this, I think, had to do with bad luck. They were averaging 30.1 SF/G and 25 SA/G during the regular season and, despite playing tight defensive hockey, had a team save percentage of only .901. Presumably, they just weren't getting the bounces. All of this was to change in the playoffs, though. They went 16-4, scored 67 GF while allowing 33, averaged 30.4 SF and 23.2 SA, all the while starting every series on the road against tough competition (DET, PHI, PIT, BOS). Highly impressive.
The 93' Canadiens
Like the 86' team, the 93' Habs benefited from not having to play the truly elite teams during their cup run (PIT, DET, CAL, BOS). The difference is that the 93' team was much more reliant on goaltending and luck (12-1 in one goal games) to do it. Also, their regular season was fairly mediocre by cup-winning standards. Still, they only managed to lose 4 games en route to winning. Probably not the worst post-67 cup winner, but we're getting warmer.
The 90' Oilers
I don't know too much about this team, but the fact that Ranford won the Conn Smythe suggests that they, like the 93' Canadiens, were pretty dependent on goaltending. However, they were still the 5th best team that year and were only one year removed from their dynasty. Not the best post-1967 cup winner by any stretch of the imagination, but not the worst ceither.
The 04' Lightning
The 04' Lightning were one of the best teams in the league during the regular season. While one might point out that they played in the league's worst division that year, AW% takes schedule difficulty into consideration. They were the 4th best team despite regularly playing the likes of FLA, ATL, WAS, and CAR. Their shot differential was impressive too (30 SF/G, 25.3 SA/G), so it's not as if their success was being driven by the percentages. Why, then, have I chosen to include them in the discussion? Well, that team was extraordinarily fortunate on the injury front that year. They only lost some 35 man games to injury that year, the majority of which belonged to Andre Roy. It can be safely assumed that this had a lot to do with their success that season, and the fact that they were fairly average in both the following and preceding seasons lends support to this. Still, they're not the worst.
The 06' Hurricanes
It's no secret that the Hurricanes were the recipients of tremendous good fortune in terms of their opponents sustaining bizarre and debilitating injuries to key players all throughout the postseason. Injuries to Koivu, Roloson, and virtually the entire Sabres defence contributed more to that victory than any single Hurricane player. What will surprise most, though, is how ordinary Carolina was during the regular season that year. While their 112 points might give the impressive that they were an elite team, this was largely the product of: a) playing one of the easiest schedules in the league b) doing well in the shootout and c) outperforming their goal differential by winning close games. Their AW% was 13th in the league -- barely above average. This was, without question, the worst post-expansion team to win the cup.
EDIT: As requested, here are the Top 50 post-expansion teams according to AW%.