Expansion teams are traditionally not very good. Some are downright awful and it is painful to watch them stumble through a season. Like watching a new baby deer learn to walk, expansion sports franchises aren’t pretty to watch when starting life. Things usually get better eventually though and before long that bumbling franchise turns into something beautiful.
The Vegas Golden Knights are showing no signs of that stumbling phrase, however. The team boasts a record that has made history — in a good way. The Golden Knights are off to a 5-1 start having defeated the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes on two separate occasions. The hot start has equaled the Montreal Canadiens’ record from 1917-18 as the only franchise to start life in the NHL at 5-1.
With Las Vegas looking great out of the starting blocks, it is worth looking at some of the NHL’s past expansion sides and their good – or bad – starts to life on the ice.
Florida Panthers 83 Points in 1993-94
The Florida Panthers started life in the NHL with a bang. Florida amassed 83 points in its first season, and
two years later, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course, since then the Panthers have rarely made the playoffs but that first season turned plenty of fans on to ice hockey in the Sunshine State. Scott Mellanby led the way for Florida with 30 goals for a Panthers team that just missed the postseason by a single point.
Tampa Bay Lightning Strike for 53 Points in 1992-93
Tampa Bay wasn’t great in its inaugural season, but the team wasn’t bad either. A 53-point haul is respectable for a completely new franchise. Especially one that began life playing ice hockey at the local fairgrounds arena in St. Petersburg. The team started well and after 19 games, the Lightning were a respectable 9-8-2. The team even won five out of six games in November before the wheels came off. It took the team over 10 years, but it captured their first Stanley Cup in 2003-04.
Washington Capitals 21 Points in 1974-75
The Capitals may be fighting for a Presidents’ Trophy today, but back in 1974-75 Washington was the worst team to hit the ice. Washington holds the record for the fewest points obtained in a single season (21), and it was the expansion season that saw the Caps set that record. The team also set several other records for being bad in ’74-’75: lowest goal differential (-265) and worst home record (7-28-5). At one point during the season, the team lost 38 straight games on the road. It was a terrible debut in Washington and one few fans probably remember.
Ottawa Senators 24 Points in 1992-93
Ottawa joined the NHL in 1992-93 and proceeded to have the worst NHL expansion away record of all-time. In fact, the Senators’ away record is the all-time worst of any kind in the league. Ottawa went on to tally a 1-41 record away from home. The Senators did get better, but it took time. By the late 1990s, Ottawa was a regular in the National Hockey League Playoffs for the next 11 years.
The Golden Knights’ start shows the team could be more like Florida and Tampa, rather than Washington and Ottawa. However, there is still a lot of ice hockey left to play this season. The lowest number of points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference was 94 in 2016-17. The Golden Knights will need a similar number if the team wants to qualify in its expansion season.
Main Image: The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate on the ice after David Perron #57 scored the game-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres in overtime at T-Mobile Arena on October 17, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights won 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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