Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Tracing the history of the NHL’s championship belt of franchise dysfunction - Part 1

Hockey fans love to argue about which franchise is in the best shape. These guys just won the Cup, but this team has a brighter future, and this one is run by the smartest people. They’re the teams that you want your team to be when it grows up.

And sure, that’s all well and good. But I think we can have just as much fun with the other side of the coin. What about the franchise that’s a complete mess?

After all, there always seems to be at least one franchise in this league that’s just a total trainwreck. So today, let’s try to answer the question: Who was the single most dysfunctional team at any given point in NHL history?

To do it, we’re going to break out one of my favorite gimmicks: The Bill Barnwell “championship belt”. Bill debuted this concept back in the Grantland days, and I’ve borrowed it before. The concept is simple enough: At any given point in history, one team holds the championship, and to win the belt you’ve got to be able to clearly beat them. We go back to the beginning and trace the lineage of the title, figuring out when it changed hands and why, until we get back to today.

To be clear, we’re not just looking for the worst team in terms of on-ice results (although that will obviously be an important factor). We already have the standings to tell us which team lost the most games in a given era. We’re looking deeper than that, for the teams that were a mess from top-to-bottom, on the ice and off. The roster, the coaching, the front office and ownership will all be factored in.

In short, we’re looking for the one team, at any given point in time, that you’d look at as the fan of another team and think “Well, we might be bad, but at least we’re not them”.

We’ll begin at the beginning, although we’ll speed through the early history to get to the more modern stuff you’re probably waiting for. This is Part One, which will take us from the earliest days through the first 75 years of NHL history; the rest will come tomorrow.

Can your team win the coveted belt? Let’s see just how dumb this league can get.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

(Want to read this post on The Athletic for free? Sign up for a free trial.)


  1. It was a difficult 2 weeks, but I am glad the work is done now.

  2. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here!

  3. This great article has truly peaked my interest.