How often do NFL teams finish with winning records but miss the playoffs?

For the 1967-68 season, the NFL added the divisional round to the playoffs expanding them after having added the championship round only two years earlier. Since the divisional round of the playoffs was added, there have been 147 teams to have finished the regular season with a winning record and not make the playoffs. This includes the NFL since the 1967-68 season and the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons of the AFL.

Timeline and breakdown by season

1967: NFL adds two divisional rounds, four-team playoffs

1968: AFL adds one divisional round, three-team playoffs

1969: AFL adds two divisional rounds, four-team playoffs

1970: NFL-AFL merger, eight-team playoffs

1978: Wildcard round added, 10 team playoffs

1982: Strike shortened season (nine games), special 16 team playoffs

1987: Strike shortened season (15 games)

1990: Second wildcard round added, 12 team playoffs

There have been 10 seasons where at least five teams finished with winning record and missed the playoffs. In contrast, there have only been two seasons where it did not happen. The strike-shortened 1982 season and the 1998 season.

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in the NFL, notes

Click here to view larger image of above graph

Breakdown by Era and 10+ win teams

The next three graphs show a breakdown of the above cumulative graph into three different eras based on how the playoffs were formatted.

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL Divisional Round Era (1967-68 to 1977-78)

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL's 10 team Wild Card Era (1978-79 to 1989-90)

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL's 12 team Wild Card Era (1990-91 to 2017-18)

The graph below shows how often a team that finished the season with 10 or more wins missed the playoffs in each NFL season.

Teams with 10+ wins to miss playoffs in the NFL each season (1967-68 to 2017-18)

Records of teams to not make the playoffs

The table below shows the number of times each the playoffs was missed by a team with a specific winning record. Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season schedule, 70/103 (67.96%) of teams to miss the playoffs with winning records finished at 9-7. In the 14-game era, the most common winning record was 8-6, which happened 11/44 times (25%).

*All four 8-7 teams came during the NFL’s strike-shortened 15-game season in 1987.

Record
Number of times team missed playoffs with that record
11-1-2 (.917) 1
10-3-1 (.769) 1
10-4 (.714) 5
9-4-1 (.692) 3
11-5 (.688) 2
8-4-2 (.667) 1
9-5 (.643) 8
10-6 (.625) 21
8-5-1 (.615) 4
8-6 (.571) 11
7-5-2 (.571) 5
9-7 (.563) 70
7-6-1 (.538) 5
8-7 (.533)* 4
8-7-1 (.531) 6

The best teams to miss the playoffs in this span

Below is a list of the top 13 teams (those with at least a .667 win percentage) who did not make the playoffs in this span. Since 1977, only two teams with this high of a winning percentage have missed the playoffs, the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots.

Team Year Record
Baltimore Colts 1967 11-1-2 (.917)
Los Angeles Rams 1968 10-3-1 (.769)
Miami Dolphins 1975 10-4 (.714)
Houston Oilers 1975 10-4 (.714)
St. Louis Cardinals 1976 10-4 (.714)
Cincinnati Bengals 1976 10-4 (.714)
Miami Dolphins 1977 10-4 (.714)
St. Louis Cardinals 1968 9-4-1 (.692)
Detroit Lions 1969 9-4-1 (.692)
Los Angeles Rams 1970 9-4-1 (.692)
Denver Broncos 1985 11-5 (.688)
New England Patriots 2008 11-5 (.688)
Oakland Raiders 1971 8-4-1 (.667)

The total amount of times each franchise has missed the playoffs with a winning record in this span

The Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins have both missed the playoffs with a winning record a league-high nine times. Since 2000, 27/32 (84.37%) of the league has missed the playoffs at least once with a winning record. The only exceptions are the Panthers (who have never done so), the Raiders (1994), Colts (1992), 49ers (1991), Bengals (1986) and the Rams (1971).

Team # of times missed playoffs with winning record
Last year missed with winning record
Kansas City Chiefs 9 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Washington Redskins 9 2016: 8-7-1 (.531%)
Denver Broncos 8 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Los Angeles Chargers 8 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
New England Patriots 8 2008: 11-5 (.688)
Miami Dolphins 7 2005: 9-7 (.563%)
Arizona Cardinals 6 2013: 10-6 (.625%)
Detroit Lions 6 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
New York Giants 6 2012: 9-7 (.563%)
Seattle Seahawks 6 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Cleveland Browns 5 2007: 10-6 (.625%)
Dallas Cowboys 5 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Green Bay Packers 5 2000: 9-7 (.563%)
New York Jets 5 2015: 10-6 (.625%)
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 2009: 9-7 (.563%)
Buffalo Bills 4 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Chicago Bears 4 2012: 10-6 (.625%)
Cincinnati Bengals 4 1986: 10-6 (.625%)
Indianapolis Colts 4 1992: 9-7 (.563%)
Oakland Raiders 4 1994: 9-7 (.563%)
Tennessee Titans* 4 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Atlanta Falcons 3 2009: 9-7 (.563%)
Los Angeles Rams 3 1971: 8-5-1 (.615)
Minnesota Vikings 3 2005: 9-7 (.563%)
New Orleans Saints 3 2002: 9-7 (.563%)
San Francisco 49ers 3 1991: 10-6 (.625%)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Philadelphia Eagles 2 2014: 10-6 (.625%)
Baltimore Ravens 2 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Houston Texans 2 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Jacksonville Jaguars 1 2004: 9-7 (.563%)
Carolina Panthers 0 N/A

Teams to make the playoffs with a losing record

In contrast to the 147 teams to have missed the playoffs with a winning record, only four have made the playoffs with a losing one. Two of these teams make the playoffs during the 1982 strike-shortened season, which featured a special 16 team playoff.

Team Year Record
Detroit Lions 1982 4-5 (.444)
Cleveland Browns 1982 4-5 (.444)
Seattle Seahawks 2010 7-9 (.438)
Carolina Panthers 2014 7-8-1 (.469)

Sources and info:

Featured Image: “Game Competition Sport Athletic American Football” from maxpixel.net is CC0 Public Domain

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1967/ (Used this season through the last 2017-18 season)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1968_AFL/index.htm (Used the 1968 and 1969 seasons)

All other charts and tables made using Google Spreadsheet

 

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Every NHL team’s playoff record since the 1999-00 season

Which NHL teams have performed the best and which have underachieved in the playoffs so far this century? Starting with the 1999-00 season, this article will look at each team’s playoff history over the last 18 postseasons (2004-05 was a lockout year), using information gathered from Hockey Reference.com.

Every NHL team’s playoff record

Below is a table of showing every NHL team’s basic playoff information, sorted by the number of playoff appearances that each team has. It also shows each team’s overall playoff record and their series record.

Out of the 30 NHL teams (not counting Vegas since they have only played one season), 17 have made the playoffs at least 10 times. The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are tied with the most appearances, having made it 16/18 times this century. At the bottom are the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets with only three appearances.

Team Playoff App Playoff Record Series Record
Detroit Red Wings 16 97-84 (53.6%) 18-14 (56.3%)
San Jose Sharks 16 94-90 (51.1%) 16-16 (50%)
Pittsburgh Penguins 14 112-87 (56.3%) 23-11 (67.6%)
Philadelphia Flyers 14 74-79 (48.4%) 12-14 (46.2%)
Washington Capitals 13 68-70 (49.3%) 10-12 (45.5%)
Ottawa Senators 13 64-65 (49.6%) 10-13 (43.5%)
Anaheim Ducks 12 85-62 (57.8%) 15-11 (57.7%)
New Jersey Devils 12 80-69 (53.7%) 16-10 (61.5%)
Boston Bruins 12 70-63 (52.6%) 11-11 (50%)
St. Louis Blues 12 47-59 (44.3%) 7-12 (36.8%)
New York Rangers 11 61-68 (47.3%) 11-11 (50%)
Nashville Predators 11 49-56 (46.7%) 7-11 (38.9%)
Vancouver Canucks 11 47-58 (43.2%) 7-11 (38.9%)
Montreal Canadiens 11 48-63 (44%) 8-11 (42.1%)
Chicago Blackhawks 10 77-56 (57.9%) 16-7 (69.6%)
Colorado Avalanche 10 62-55 (53%) 11-9 (55%)
Los Angeles Kings 10 56-53 (51.4%) 11-8 (57.9%)
Tampa Bay Lightning 9 71-56 (55.9%) 14-8 (63.6%)
Dallas Stars 9 48-51 (48.5%) 8-9 (47.1%)
Minnesota Wild 9 26-47 (35.6%) 4-9 (30.8%)
Toronto Maple Leafs 8 40-43 (48.2%) 5-8 (38.5%)
Calgary Flames 7 30-37 (44.8%) 4-7 (36.4%)
New York Islanders 7 16-30 (34.8%) 1-7 (12.5%)
Buffalo Sabres 6 33-32 (50.8%) 5-6 (45.5%)
Edmonton Oilers 5 27-27 (50%) 4-5 (44.4%)
Arizona Coyotes 5 14-23 (37.8%) 2-5 (28.6%)
Carolina Hurricanes 4 39-33 (54.2%) 9-3 (75%)
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 5-16 (23.8%) 0-4 (0%)
Winnipeg Jets 3 9-16 (36%) 2-3 (40%)
Florida Panthers 3 5-12 (29.4%) 0-3 (0%)
Vegas Golden Knights 1 13-7 (65%) 3-1 (75%)

Jetpack

Best and worst performing playoff teams this century

Over the last 18 playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks have been the best team in terms of winning games at a clip of just under 60%. Technically, the Vegas Golden Knights are the best (65%) but they have only played one season so their numbers are skewed compared to all the other teams.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins have 112 wins (15 more than Detroit), along with the fourth best win percentage. This gives then more playoff wins in this timeframe than 18 NHL franchises have played total playoff games.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Florida Panthers (29.4%) and Columbus Blue Jackets (23.8%) are the only teams to win less than 30% of their playoff games. The table below lists the top six teams (plus Vegas) and the bottom six teams in terms of their playoff win percentage by game.

Team Playoff Record
Vegas Golden Knights 13-7 (65%)
Chicago Blackhawks 77-56 (57.9%)
Anaheim Ducks 85-62 (57.8%)
Pittsburgh Penguins 112-87 (56.3%)
Tampa Bay Lightning 71-56 (55.9%)
Carolina Hurricanes 39-33 (54.2%)
New Jersey Devils 80-69 (53.7%)
Arizona Coyotes 14-23 (37.8%)
Winnipeg Jets 9-16 (36%)
Minnesota Wild 26-47 (35.6%)
New York Islanders 16-30 (34.8%)
Florida Panthers 5-12 (29.4%)
Columbus Blue Jackets 5-16 (23.8%)

Every NHL team's playoff win percentage this century (2000-2018, by game not series)

In terms of winning playoff series, only six teams have won over 60% of the ones they have played in this century. At the top are the Golden Knights and Hurricanes, although they have both played at least 10 less playoff series than the other four top teams.

I also listed the bottom six teams as a counter to the top six. Panthers and Blue Jackets fans have gone through hard times as neither has won a playoff series this century, with Columbus having never one won one since their franchise’s first year was the 2000-01 season.

Vegas won more playoff series in their inaugural season than four NHL franchises have this century (Coyotes, Jets, Islanders, Panthers and Blue Jackets). This is on top of the fact that their 13 playoff wins are more than those same teams, besides the Islanders, have.

Team Series Record
Carolina Hurricanes 9-3 (75%)
Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 (75%)
Chicago Blackhawks 16-7 (69.6%)
Pittsburgh Penguins 23-11 (67.6%)
Tampa Bay Lightning 14-8 (63.6%)
New Jersey Devils 16-10 (61.5%)
Calgary Flames 4-7 (36.4%)
Minnesota Wild 4-9 (30.8%)
Arizona Coyotes 2-5 (28.6%)
New York Islanders 1-7 (12.5%)
Florida Panthers 0-3 (0%)
Columbus Blue Jackets 0-4 (0%)

Every NHL team's playoff win percentage this century (2000-2018 playoffs by series)

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Playoff sweeps so far this century

Out the 270 series to be played over these past 18 playoffs, there has been a total of 31 sweeps. The Anaheim Ducks have the most accounting for 5 (16.12%) of all sweeps. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins has the most sweeps (3) without having been swept.

The Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Islanders stand neither swept anyone or been swept yet in the playoffs this century. At the bottom, the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators, and Winnipeg Jets have all been swept twice but never swept an opponent.

Team Swept Opp Got Swept
Anaheim Ducks 5 1
Detroit Red Wings 4 1
Boston Bruins 3 0
New Jersey Devils 2 0
Chicago Blackhawks 2 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 2 1
San Jose Sharks 2 1
Tampa Bay Lightning 2 1
Nashville Predators 1 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 1 0
Vegas Golden Knights 1 0
New York Rangers 1 1
Colorado Avalanche 1 2
Los Angeles Kings 1 2
Montreal Canadiens 1 2
St. Louis Blues 1 2
Vancouver Canucks 1 2
Buffalo Sabres 0 0
Edmonton Oilers 0 0
New York Islanders 0 0
Arizona Coyotes 0 1
Calgary Flames 0 1
Carolina Hurricanes 0 1
Columbus Blue Jackets 0 1
Dallas Stars 0 1
Florida Panthers 0 1
Philadelphia Flyers 0 1
Washington Capitals 0 1
Minnesota Wild 0 2
Ottawa Senators 0 2
Winnipeg Jets 0 2

Getting to each playoff round

The San Jose Sharks have the most 2nd round appearances with 11. The Pittsburgh Penguins have the most conference championship appearances with six.  They are also tied with the New Jersey Devils for the most Stanley Cup Final appearances with four.

The Carolina Hurricanes have made the most of their playoff appearances this century, having made it to the Finals twice despite only having made the playoffs four times. Every other team with at least two Finals appearances have made the playoffs nine or more times.

21/31 (67.74%) of the league has made it to the Finals this century, with the most recent Stanley Cup being contested between two newcomers in Washington and Vegas. All but three teams (Islanders, Panthers and Blue Jackets) have appeared in at least one conference championship.

Team Playoff App 2nd Round App Conf. Champ App Finals App
Pittsburgh Penguins 14 10 6 4
New Jersey Devils 12 6 4 4
Chicago Blackhawks 10 5 5 3
Detroit Red Wings 16 9 4 3
Anaheim Ducks 12 7 5 2
Tampa Bay Lightning 9 6 5 2
Los Angeles Kings 10 4 3 2
Carolina Hurricanes 4 3 3 2
Boston Bruins 12 6 2 2
San Jose Sharks 16 11 4 1
Philadelphia Flyers 14 7 4 1
New York Rangers 11 7 3 1
Colorado Avalanche 10 6 3 1
Ottawa Senators 13 6 3 1
Dallas Stars 9 5 2 1
Washington Capitals 13 7 1 1
Nashville Predators 11 5 1 1
Vancouver Canucks 11 5 1 1
Calgary Flames 7 2 1 1
Edmonton Oilers 5 2 1 1
Vegas Golden Knights 1 1 1 1
Montreal Canadiens 11 6 2 0
St. Louis Blues 12 5 2 0
Buffalo Sabres 6 3 2 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 8 4 1 0
Minnesota Wild 9 3 1 0
Arizona Coyotes 5 1 1 0
Winnipeg Jets 3 1 1 0
New York Islanders 7 1 0 0
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 0 0 0
Florida Panthers 3 0 0 0

The Stanley Cup Finals

The Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils, Detriot Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings have dominated this century so far, winning 12/18 (66.66%) of all Stanley Cup Finals. 13 of the past 18 Finals have featured at least one of these teams, with the exceptions being 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2018.

The Western Conference has been controlled by the Blackhawks and Red Wings who have 6/18 (33.33%) of the conferences’ total Finals appearances. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference has been dominated by the Penguins and Devils, who have 8/18 (44.44%) of the total Finals appearances.

Team Finals App Finals W/L
Finals Game Record
Pittsburgh Penguins 4 3-1 14-11
New Jersey Devils 4 2-2 13-13
Chicago Blackhawks 3 3-0 12-6
Detroit Red Wings 3 2-1 11-7
Los Angeles Kings 2 2-0 8-3
Anaheim Ducks 2 1-1 7-5
Boston Bruins 2 1-1 6-7
Tampa Bay Lightning 2 1-1 6-7
Carolina Hurricanes 2 1-1 5-7
Washington Capitals 1 1-0 4-1
Colorado Avalanche 1 1-0 4-3
Calgary Flames 1 0-1 3-4
Edmonton Oilers 1 0-1 3-4
Vancouver Canucks 1 0-1 3-4
Dallas Stars 1 0-1 2-4
Nashville Predators 1 0-1 2-4
Philadelphia Flyers 1 0-1 2-4
San Jose Sharks 1 0-1 2-4
New York Rangers 1 0-1 1-4
Ottawa Senators 1 0-1 1-4
Vegas Golden Knights 1 0-1 1-4

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Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)

Featured Image: “Stanley Cup Playoffs” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/index.html#site_menu_link (Used to get playoff information for each team)

https://www.printyourbrackets.com/winning-percentage-calculator.php (Used to find win percentage for each team)

 

How often does the best NHL team win the Stanley Cup?

Yesterday, the Nashville Predators won their first Presidents’ Trophy, awarded for having the best record in the league. With the playoffs starting on April 11, what does history say about their chances of hoisting the Stanley Cup by merit of finishing with the best record in the league?

Since 1926, the Stanley Cup has been under the control of the NHL. That is when the Western Hockey League (WHL) folded, leading to the end of non-NHL teams vying for the Cup. That year will be the starting point when examining how often the best team wins the Stanley Cup.

While this article will examine the last 90 NHL seasons (not counting 2017-18), it will include 91 total teams. This is because the 1932-33 season saw a tie between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings for the league’s best record.

Making the Stanley Cup Finals 

First, let’s take a look at how often the team that finished the season with the best record makes the Stanley Cup finals.

Era Odds of making finals
Founding (1926-42) 8/17 (47.05%)
Original Six (1943-67) 16/25 (64%)
Expansion (1968-92) 17/25 (68%)
Modern (1993-2017) 8/24 (33.33%)
Total (1926-2017) 49/91 (53.84%)

The history of the NHL would suggest that Nashville odds’s of making the finals are slightly above 50/50. However, since the NHL’s modern era (starting with the 1993 playoffs) the best team in the league has struggled to make the finals as often as they once did.

Once in the best team tends to win

If we take a look at the odds of the team with the best record winning the Stanley Cup before the start of the playoffs, the numbers go lower. Starting with the 1993 playoffs, the team with the best record only has a 1/4 chance of winning the championship.

Era Odds of winning Finals at beginning of playoffs
Founding 6/17 (35.29%)
Original Six 14/25 (56%)
Expansion 14/25 (56%)
Modern 6/24 (25%)
Total 40/91 (43.95%)

However, these numbers improve drastically if the team with the best record makes the Stanley Cup Finals. Historically, the best team has won it all 40 out of the 49 times it has made the Finals. This number has also held steady over the history of the sport.

Era Odds of winning the Cup once in the finals
Founding 6/8 (75%)
Original Six 14/16 (87.5%)
Expansion 14/17 (82.35%)
Modern 6/8 (75%)
Total 40/49 (81.63%)

How does this all break down by team?

Here is a break down of the last 91 seasons (counting this year) of the NHL by which teams finish with the best record. It also shows if the team made and subsequently won the finals in the year they finished with the best record. Over this span, the Canadiens, Red Wings and Bruins have dominated the NHL in terms of finishing with the best record.

Team Finished with best record Made Finals Won Finals
Montreal Canadiens 21 15 14
Detroit Red Wings 18 10 8
Boston Bruins 14 7 4
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 3 2
Chicago Blackhawks 4 1 1
NY Rangers 4 1 1
Dallas Stars 3 2 2
Edmonton Oilers 3 2 2
Philadelphia Flyers 3 2 1
Washington Capitals 3 0 0
NY Islanders 2 2 2
Calgary Flames 2 1 1
Colorado Rockies 2 1 1
Vancouver Canucks 2 1 0
*Ottawa Senators 1 1 1
Buffalo Sabers 1 0 0
Ottawa Senators 1 0 0
Pittsburgh Penguins 1 0 0
San Jose 1 0 0
St. Louis Blues 1 0 0
Nashville Predators 1 TBD TBD

*This is the original version of the Ottawa Senators that played in the NHL from 1917-34

chart

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Sources and Notes:

https://www.hockey-reference.com/leagues/NHL_1927_standings.html

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/141.html

Tables and chart make using Google Docs (Spreadsheets)

Image source: [1930 Stanley Cup| Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]