Having largely overhauled the roster this offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks are hoping they can improve significantly on the 2020-21 season’s 24-25-7 record and speed up the rebuild. The franchise’s long history – from tough seasons in the 1920s when the club began to the recent nadir of the early 2000s – shows that it’s possible to rebound quickly. Here’s a look back at the worst seasons and most impressive one-year turnarounds in Blackhawks history.
What was the worst season in Blackhawks history?
The worst winning percentage ever compiled by a Blackhawks team was in the franchise’s second season ever -- .193, in 1927-28. Players like captain Dick Irvin suffered injuries that contributed to the team’s 7-34-3 record. The following season, Chicago was in last place in the league again with a winning percentage of .250.
Since the NHL began playing at least 80 games a season (aside from seasons impacted by lockouts or the COVID-19 pandemic), the Blackhawks’ worst season was 2003-04, with a winning percentage of .360 and only 59 points. That team couldn’t complete a one-year turnaround, with a lockout canceling the 2004-05 season and a winning percentage of only .396 the following season – but just two years after that, the Blackhawks stood on top of the league with their first of three Stanley Cups in six seasons.
What was the Blackhawks’ best one-year turnaround in history?
When it comes to turning around a team’s fortunes in only a year, we have to look back to the Blackhawks’ early years again. The biggest one-year rebound in winning percentage came in Chicago’s fourth season. After those two years of being at the bottom of the league, the 1929-1930 team raised its winning percentage from .250 to .534, good enough to make the playoffs.
In more modern times, the 1982-83 team had a winning percentage of .650 compared to the previous season’s .450. Chicago finished first in the Norris Division and made it to the conference finals, where it was swept by the Edmonton Oilers. Steve Larmer, who had only played three games in 1981-82, scored 43 points and had 47 assists, both second to fellow third-year forward Denis Savard, who racked up 121 points.
The Blackhawks fell off again in 1983-84 with a .425 winning percentage. Here’s hoping that the current team’s rebuild is more sustainable