If history is any indicator, regular season success can actually get in the way of a Stanley Cup pursuit.
Only eight winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, annually awarded to the NHL team with the most regular season points starting in 1985-86, have gone on to lift the Stanley Cup. Still, that hasn’t stopped teams from putting together record-setting regular seasons while chasing hockey’s ultimate prize.
Let’s look back at some of the best – and worst – regular season point totals in NHL history.
NHL record for most points in a season
The Montreal Canadiens dominated the NHL in the 1970s, but the 1976-77 squad stands alone atop the leaderboard for single-season points.
The Habs set two records with their 60-8-12 record in 1976-77. Along with their unprecedented 132 points in just 80 games, their eight losses are the fewest in NHL history. To make it even better, the team ended the year by winning the second of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
Three teams from the last 10 years have made a run at the 1976-77 Canadiens’ points record. The 2015-16 Washington Capitals got within 12 points, the 2021-22 Carolina Hurricanes got within 10 points and the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning fell just four points shy of Montreal’s mark. Not only did none of those teams wind up winning a championship – none of them even reached a conference final.
Here are the 11 teams with the most points in an NHL season, with four of them – all Montreal – going on to become Stanley Cup champions:
1. Montreal Canadiens, 1976-77: 132 points (60-8-12)
2. Detroit Red Wings, 1995-96: 131 points (62-13-7)
3. Montreal Canadiens, 1977-78: 129 points (59-10-11)
4. Tampa Bay Lightning, 2018-19: 128 points (62-16-4)
5. Montreal Canadiens, 1975-76: 127 points (58-11-11)
6. Detroit Red Wings, 2005-06: 124 points (58-16-8)
7. Florida Panthers, 2021-22: 122 points (58-18-6)
T-8. Boston Bruins, 1970-71: 121 points (57-14-7)
T-8. Washington Capitals, 2009-10: 121 points (54-15-13)
T-10. Montreal Canadiens, 1972-73: 120 points (52-10-16)
T-10. Washington Capitals, 2015-16: 120 points (56-18-8)
It is worth noting that the NHL began awarding points for overtime losses in 1999-2000, so 21st century teams have had more opportunities for points.
How many points are the 2022-23 Boston Bruins on pace for?
The 2022-23 Boston Bruins set the NHL record as the quickest team to eclipse 100 points, doing so in just 61 games.
The team is averaging 1.66 points per game this season, putting them on pace for over 136.12 points on the year. They need 32 points over their last 21 tilts (1.52 points per game) to pass the 1976-77 Canadiens for No. 1 on the all-time list.
NHL record for fewest points in a season
On the opposite end of the scale, the 1919-20 Quebec Bulldogs are the only team in NHL history that failed to reach double-digit points in a season. The team went 4-20-0 across 24 games, placing them fourth among the four teams in the league at the time.
As for teams with the fewest points in a season featuring 78 games or more, that dishonor goes to the 1974-75 Capitals, who picked up just 21 points over 80 games and ended the year with an 8-67-5 record.
Next on the list are two teams that had even more games to play for points. The league had 84-game regular seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 with each team getting two “neutral site” games, but that didn’t stop the San Jose Sharks or Ottawa Senators, both expansion franchises in 1992-93, from approaching the wrong side of history.
Here are the 10 teams with the lowest point totals in years featuring regular seasons of at least 78 games:
1. Washington Capitals, 1974-75: 21 points (8-67-5)
T-2. San Jose Sharks, 1992-93: 24 points (11-71-2)
T-2. Ottawa Senators, 1992-93: 24 points (10-70-4)
4. New York Islanders, 1972-73: 30 points (12-60-6)
5. Quebec Nordiques, 1989-90: 31 points (12-61-7)
T-6. Washington Capitals, 1975-76: 32 points (11-59-10)
T-6. Winnipeg Jets, 1980-81: 32 points (9-57-14)
T-8. California Golden Seals, 1973-74: 36 points (13-55-10)
T-8. Kansas City Scouts, 1975-76: 36 points (12-56-12)
10. Ottawa Senators, 1993-94: 37 points (14-61-9)