Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! The first round of polling closes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31.
1985 Edmonton Oilers vs. 1970 Boston Bruins
No. 1: 1984-85 Oilers
One of five teams in NHL history to exceed 400 goals.
Extended a postseason win streak to a record 12 games.
Voted “Greatest NHL Team of All Time” in league’s centennial celebration fan vote.
The Edmonton Oilers repeated as Stanley Cup champions and produced three major award winners in a record-breaking regular season. Wayne Gretzky won his sixth straight Hart Trophy and fifth consecutive Art Ross Trophy with 73 goals and 208 points, while also establishing the current postseason scoring record with 47 points in 18 games. Defenseman Paul Coffey won his first of three Norris trophies and Jari Kurri won the Lady Byng, while also matching the playoff record for goals in a single postseason with 19.
No. 16: 1969-70 Bruins
Clinched fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Bobby Orr scored “The Goal,” providing one of the most iconic photos in sports history.
It was truly the Bobby Orr season. No. 4 became the first defenseman in league history to exceed the 100-point threshold, winning the scoring title with 120 total. He recorded the most goals ever by a defenseman with 33, and also set an NHL record with 87 assists. He won the Hart and Norris trophies for his brilliant regular season, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player.
1987 Edmonton Oilers vs. 1994 New York Rangers
No. 8: 1986-87 Oilers
Overcame huge disappointment from previous season to win the Cup for the third time in four years.
Scored 54 goals more than the next highest-scoring team.
It wasn’t the most dominant team from the Oilers’ dynasty seasons, and it needed seven games to defeat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final, but it might have been the most talented. Wayne Gretzky extended his ownership of the league’s most valuable player award to an eighth season.
No. 9: 1993-94 Rangers
Ended a 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
Rode a stingy defense to a league-best 52 regular season wins.
Mark Messier issued one of the most famous guarantees in sports history after the Rangers were pushed to the brink in the Eastern Conference Final versus the Devils, promising the Rangers would win Game 6. The captain backed up his words with a hat-trick performance, and the Rangers won consecutive Game 7s to bring the Stanley Cup back to Manhattan after more than a half century.
1992 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 1984 Edmonton Oilers
No. 5: 1991-92 Penguins
Swept Chicago to claim second straight Stanley Cup.
Won final 11 games of the playoff en route to the title.
The 1992 Penguins featured maybe the greatest version of the great Mario Lemieux. He posted 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 15 games for Pittsburgh, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for the second straight year — becoming just the second player in League history to accomplish the feat. The Pens also became the third team at the time to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with a different coach leading the way.
No. 12: 1983-84 Oilers
Oilers became first of the four WHA expansion teams to win Stanley Cup.
Put an end to the New York Islanders dynasty, while launching their own.
The first of the Oilers run of five Cups over the next seven seasons, the ‘84 squad featured Wayne Gretzky coming off another 200-point, MVP regular season, but it was fellow Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier’s team in the postseason. Messier posted eight goals and 26 points to claim the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP. Hall-of-Fame Goaltender Grant Fuhr, making his Stanley Cup final debut, put up a shutout in Game 1 at Nassau Coliseum to give the Isles their first loss in 10 Cup-final games.
1989 Calgary Flames vs. 2002 Red Wings
No. 4: 1988-89 Flames
Won franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup.
Led the NHL regular season with 117 points and a 54-17-9 record.
The ‘89 Flames capped one of the best regular seasons in NHL history by capturing Calgary’s first, and only, Stanley Cup. This loaded squad featured a stacked class including the likes of Lanny McDonald, Theo Fleury, Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis, Joel Otto and Gary Roberts, and had support from one of the best “fourth lines” in playoff history.
No. 13: 2001-02 Red Wings
Established a mini, modern-day dynasty with third Stanley Cup under Scotty Bowman.
Secured the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s regular season champions.
The 2002 Wings, on top of their legendary coach, boasted a lineup full of future Hall of Famers, including Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman and goalie Dominik Hasek. They also became the first team ever to capture the Cup after starting their postseason with two losses at home.
1977 Canadiens vs. 2010 Blackhawks
No. 2: 1976-77 Canadiens
Posted one of the all-time great regular seasons in NHL history.
Best team of the Canadiens’ 70s dynasty squads.
En route to their second straight Cup, and fourth of six total championships in the 1970’s for Montreal, the Habs posted an absurd 60-8-12 record in the regular season before steamrolling their way through the playoffs with a 12-2 mark. Ken Dryden became just the fifth NHL goalie ever to post four shutouts in a single postseason, while Guy Lafleur — with nine goals and 26 points — took home playoff MVP honors.
No. 15: 2009-10 Blackhawks
Secured Chicago’s first Stanley Cup since 1961.
Kicked off a run of three titles in five years for the Blackhawks.
Led by a young Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — who secured the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP — the Blackhawks preempted their first Cup in 49 years with an almost equally-as-rare regular season division title. This championship also gave Chicago the honor of being the only city to have claimed at least one ‘ship in each of the four major professional sports (since 1985). Also of note, Kane scored the weirdest, most confusing Cup-winning goal ever in the final.
1996 Detroit Red Wings vs. 2001 Colorado Avalanche
No. 7: 1995-96 Red Wings
Set single-season wins record (62).
Scored at least once in all 82 games while allowing fewest goals against.
It was one of the greatest seasons on record, and the 1995-96 Red Wings still hold the record for points in an 82-game season, but it ended in disappointment. The Red Wings crashed out in the Western Conference Final in the first of many battles with the rival Colorado Avalanche. They’re the only non-Cup winning team in this bracket — they were that good.
No. 10: 2000-01 Avalanche
Won franchise’s second Stanley Cup and second Presidents’ Trophy.
Patrick Roy became the NHL’s all-time leader in wins.
Joe Sakic handed the Stanley Cup to the retiring Ray Bourque to hoist over his head first after Colorado’s seven-game series victory over the Devils, offering one of the most memorable moments in the NHL history.
1988 Edmonton Oilers vs. 1978 Montreal Canadiens
No. 6: 1987-88 Oilers
Won franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title in five years.
Went 16-2 — arguably the most dominant postseason performance in league history.
After finishing second in the division to a talented Calgary Flames squad — when the Battle of Alberta was at its ‘80s apex —the Oilers went on an absolute tear during the first three rounds of the postseason before sweeping the Boston Bruins in the Cup final. Wayne Gretzky, whom you may have heard of, set a Stanley Cup final record with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in just four contests en route to his second Conn Smythe Trophy.
No. 11: 1977-78 Canadiens
Montreal dominated their way to their third consecutive Stanley Cup.
Lost just 10 games during the regular season.
Leading another one of those egregiously stacked Canadiens squads of the 1970s was defenseman Larry Robinson, who took the Conn Smythe after posting a playoff-best 17 assists. This team featured it all — explosive offense, an all-world defense corps, Hall of Fame goaltending, and was coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman — and was as good top-to-bottom as any team in NHL history.
1983 New York Islanders vs 2007 Anaheim Ducks
No. 3: 1982-83 Islanders
Won fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.
Led NHL in fewest goals allowed.
While the Islanders were not the same team that they were in the previous three regular seasons, a remarkable run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs saw them prolong their dynasty — and delay another. The veteran Islanders swept the Oilers in Gretzky and Co.’s first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance, holding the highest-scoring team in the league to just six goals.
No. 14: 2006-07 Ducks
Won first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Set record with 16-game unbeaten streak to start season.
Anchored by Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, one of the greatest one-two punches on the backend in league history, the Ducks travelled one of the cleanest records toward a championship, losing only five games across four rounds.