Rather than be subjective and just say, “the Chicago Blackhawks were great and the Edmonton Oilers sucked,” for much of the 2010s, we thought we’d approach our team rankings for the decade with a more formulaic approach. As it turns out, the Blackhawks were great and the Oilers sucked by the numbers as well. In fact, the Oilers were a Connor McDavid lottery win away from being the flat-out worst team of the decade. That honor belongs to the Buffalo Sabres.
So here was how we ranked the teams of the decade. We assigned points, both negatively and positively, for various benchmarks. A Stanley Cup was worth 15 points and a Presidents’ Trophy was worth 10. Each team’s regular-season record for the decade (through games Dec. 20) was inversely proportional to the number of points they accrued, with the best team earning 31 points and the Oilers 1. Each year a team made the playoffs was worth three points and missing them was minus-3. Each playoff series win was worth five points and each team’s individual trophy winner accounted for three points.
Since the Vegas Golden Knights had only two seasons and the rest of the league had 10, with the exception of their overall record, their accrued points were multiplied by five. Here’s our ranking:
(And a huge stick tap to Bob Waterman of the Elias Sports Bureau for providing us with each team’s record for the decade.)
Not only were the Blackhawks the pre-eminent dynasty of the 2010s, their three Stanley Cups make them the first real post-2005 lockout dynasty. They fell on hard times toward the end of the decade, but were making a spirited run for a playoff spot by the mid-season mark.
In an earlier blog, The Hockey News named Sidney Crosby the player of the decade, so for sure that helps. The Penguins were the only team in the NHL that played the entire decade and secured a playoff spot each season. They’re also the only post-lockout team to win back-to-back Cups.
Playoff success eluded them for much of the decade, but their regular-season excellence, both from collective and individual standpoints, has them near the top of the league. Nobody scored more goals in the decade than Alex Ovechkin and it wasn’t even close. No team had a better regular-season record than the Caps.
A surprise entrant in the top five, the Golden Knights have done more with less than the majority of the NHL. It all started, of course, with their phenomenal inaugural season, the best by an expansion team in the history of professional sports. The Golden Knights left Seattle an almost important act to follow in the 2020s.
Another team that won only one Stanley Cup during the decade, the Bruins did manage to get to the final twice, losing in agonizing fashion to Chicago in 2013 and St. Louis in 2019. They don’t get any extra points for it, but no team has manipulated the salary cap better than the Bruins.
Perhaps the most underachieving NHL team of the decade, the Lightning were dealt the body-blow of the decade when they were swept in the first round of the playoffs in 2019 after winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Their play in the last half season of the decade was enough to drive their fans to drink. Heavily.
You might be surprised at how low the Kings are, but the regular season counts for something, too. Even when they won their two Cups, the Kings were not exactly regular-season juggernauts and they definitely fell on hard times as the decade came to a close. There are still a lot of teams that would trade places with them, though.
The feel-good story of 2019, and perhaps of the decade, the St. Louis Blues were actually a pretty solid team for the entire 10-year period. From Jan. 1 through games played Dec. 20, there was not a team with a better regular-season record than the Blues, who were 31st overall in the NHL on Jan. 3, 2019.
That sound you hear in northern California is the Stanley Cup window being slammed shut on the Sharks, which is too bad because they were a force through much of the decade. Judging by their play in the first half of 2019-20, the first part of the 2020s does not look particularly promising, particularly since they are without their first-round pick in 2020.
The rebuild is full-on in New York, a team that was really good over the decade, but not quite good enough. The Rangers have an impressive stable of prospects and young players and continue to stockpile assets that will make the middle of the 2020s a lot brighter.
They won a Presidents’ Trophy and got to the Stanley Cup final in 2017, but again were another really good, but not great team. It was not for a lack of trying by GM David Poile, who made some of the most blockbuster deals of the decade.
As the glory years of this franchise continue to fade into memory, the Canadiens endured just the second full decade of their existence without recording a single Stanley Cup. It was essentially more of the same overall mediocrity with a few bright spots, but they missed the playoffs twice in this decade and three times in the previous one. There are some tantalizing prospects that make the 2020s intriguing, however.
Things had started out so well for the Canucks in this decade, what with the Sedin twins at the height of their powers and their Stanley Cup final appearance in 2011. The loss in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins on home ice was a gut-punch to be sure. The Canucks are another team that has promising days ahead.
We’re really getting to the mushy middle here, eh? The Ducks managed to put up some pretty impressive regular seasons throughout the decade, but as it progressed, the window to win a Stanley Cup progressively closed. Entering the new decade, the Ducks are in a bit of no-man’s land, not good enough to seriously contend, nor bad enough to amass high draft picks. Except for this season, which holds some very serious tanking possibilities.
All right, let’s just get this out of the way right now. The Flyers were sabotaged through much of the decade by their inability to find someone, anyone, who could stop the puck with any sense of consistency. They hope to have found that young man in Carter Hart. With Hart in net and some good prospects, some of them coming only a little more slowly than expected, the Flyers still seem a ways away from contending.
The Red Wings spent so much of the decade trying to keep their consecutive playoff streak alive that they lost sight of the future. And now that future, at least in the short-term, looks grim. But there is hope. Some of the kids can really play, Steve Yzerman brings instant credibility to the hockey department and the potential exists that the Red Wings could have one of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on their roster as early as next season. But if you’re looking for a quick fix, go somewhere else.
There is no truth to the speculation that the Minnesota Wild are considering officially changing their name to the Meh-nnesota Not Wild. Was there in the team that had a more middling decade than the Wild? Not terribly good, not terribly bad, just kind of there. They shocked the hockey world when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2012, but failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.
Well, this was interesting, if you like soap operas. The Islanders were moribund for most of the decade, all the while employing the talents of the dynamic John Tavares on a deal that was one of the most team-friendly in the league. The entire franchise was supposed to cave in when he left, but instead GM Lou Lamoriello has revitalized the franchise. With a new building on the horizon, things are looking up.
Sorry to the Islanders about that soap opera comment. The Senators were easily the longest-running drama of the decade. Aside from 2017 when they made an unlikely run to the Eastern Conference final, they didn’t do much of anything on the ice that was noteworthy. But that owner, eh? People paid for billboards in an effort to run him out of town. Their attempts to get a new building have provided a fair bit of comedy. With their worst days behind them and roughly 187 draft picks in the next couple of years, the Sens are casting an eye to the future.
The Stars came within one overtime game of advancing to the Western Conference final last season. The playoff series they won to get there was only the second playoff round of the decade they managed to win. Most of that was due to the fact that they failed to get a ticket to the dance in seven of the years of the 2010s.
When the Flames dealt heart-and-soul captain Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline in 2013, much of their identity left town with him. The Flames have had some bright spots, but it’s generally been 10 years of futility. At least the Flames managed to look north and do what the Edmonton Oilers did, which was convince taxpayers to largely foot the bill for a shiny new arena for them.
When the Blue Jackets swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning in the first round of the playoffs last season, they escaped mediocrity for the first time in the decade. But it came at a steep price. GM Jarmo Kekalainen went all-in last season, keeping Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky and trading for Matt Duchene. None of them was there when training camp opened this season.
You know it’s not a great decade when your performance in the draft lottery exceeds your play on the ice. The Devils made the Stanley Cup final in 2012, the only three playoff rounds they won in the decade. They also got an MVP season from Taylor Hall, whom they peddled off for a bunch of uncertain futures.
Get back to us on these guys. Because they’re really, really good. Cale Makar is the most dynamic defenseman to come along in decades and Nathan MacKinnon might just be the best player in the world not named Sidney Crosby.
The 2010s will forever be remembered as the decade the NHL came back to Winnipeg to stay. And for a while, that was enough. But the Jets’ faithful are starting to get a little weary of a team that can’t seem to put together a whole lot of consistency. Like ever. Well, at least the city won the Grey Cup for the first time in 29 years in 2019. Man, that’s a lot of losing.
The Coyotes thought they’d mix it up a little in 2019. After serving as a feeder team for the rest of the NHL for most of the decade, they were finally in on the buyer end of a deal when GM John Chayka traded for Taylor Hall, knowing full well that Hall will almost certainly opt for unrestricted free agency after the season. It has been a long, dry decade in the desert, chock full of uncertainty. It would be nice to see the Coyotes reverse the trend on every front in the 2020s.
The Center of the Hockey Universe™ had endured some pretty pathetic decades and the 2010s were right up there when it came to misery, at least for the first three quarters of it. The Leafs enter the 2020s with some of the most dazzling offensive players in the game and play an up-tempo game. Wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s see if they can win a playoff series first.
The Hurricanes are hoping to capitalize on getting the Eastern Conference final in 2019, which prevented them from going 0-for-the-2010s in missing the playoffs. We’re not even sure what owner Tom Dundon is all about, but there are some really good things happening there.
One of three teams to fail to win a single playoff series in the decade, the Panthers served notice of their intention to contend in 2019 by hiring Joel Quenneville to coach and Sergei Bobrovsky to play goal. Somehow, though, the Panthers are still trying to become more than a sum of their parts. But things are looking up.
No team had a worse points percentage than the Oilers did in the 2010s. No team endured more coaching changes. No team made its fans want to riot in the streets more than the Oilers. (OK, Canucks fans actually did riot in the streets after their team lost the Stanley Cup final in 2011.) They got a new arena, which was nice. And they got the best player on the planet, which was nicer.
Shortly after buying the Sabres in 2011, owner Terry Pegula boldly stated: “Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup.” How did that work out for them? Well, their sole reason for existence for much of the decade was to be a punching bag for the rest of the league. But that Jack Eichel kid, he’s really good, eh?
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