The Biggest Winners in the History of the NHL

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Every NHL season brings a new crop of winners—a Stanley Cup champion, scoring leaders, and award winners—and hockey fans often get a kick out of comparing teams, players, and coaches from different eras. Who’s better: Gordy Howe, Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky? Which was the best team of all time: the mid-seventies Canadiens or the mid-eighties Oilers? Each generation of fans has its own favorites.

But then there are the raw numbers, the statistics that exist outside these kinds of arguments. A few individuals and teams have achieved unrivalled levels of success. Here are some of the all-time great winners from the 102 years the National Hockey League has been in existence.

Most Stanley Cups (Team): 23

One of the four founding teams of the NHL, the Canadiens won their first league championship in 1924. (They won their first Stanley Cup the year before the NHL was founded, so their total number of Cup wins is actually 24.) They were NHL champs seven times over the league’s first four decades, but in the mid-1950s, the Habs began to dominate the league—winning 15 Cups in the 24 seasons from 1956 through 1979. Their best streak was five championships in a row, starting in 1956, and they won four in a row in the late seventies, as well. The team is currently in the midst of its longest-ever Stanley Cup drought, with their last championship coming in 1993. The Toronto Maple Leafs are second on the list of Stanley Cup-winning teams, with 13, but their last championship was in 1967!

Most Stanley Cups (Player): 11

It only makes sense that the player who won the most Stanley Cups would be on the team that has won the most, and Henri Richard wore the Habs’ sweater from 1955 through 1975. The younger brother of the more famous Maurice “The Rocket” Richard—another Montreal legend—Henri was known as the “Pocket Rocket.” Hall-of-Famer Henri Richard even scored the Cup-winning goal in two of his 11 championships. In Game Six of the 1966 finals against the Red Wings, Richard scored in the first overtime, and in Game Seven of the 1971 finals against the Blackhawks, he scored both the tying and winning goals. Second on the list of individual cup-winners is Richard’s teammate, Jean Beliveau, with 10.

Most Stanley Cups (Coach): 9

The Canadiens’ Glory Days also played a part for the coach who has won the most Cups. Scotty Bowman took over as coach of Montreal in 1971, after four years leading the bench for the St. Louis Blues. Bowman’s Blues had reached the Stanley Cup finals three times, but had lost all three series—twice to the Canadiens. In his second season with Montreal, Bowman won his first Cup, at the end of the 1972-73 season, and then went on to win four in a row from 1976 through 1979. He won number six with Pittsburgh in 1992 and won three as coach of the Red Wings (1997, 1998, and 2002). Number two on the list of coaches with the most Cups is Toe Blake, who led the Canadiens at the beginning of their Glory Days, winning five in a row from 1956 through 1960, and then three more in 1965, 1966, and 1968, for a total of eight.

Most Wins All Time (Coach): 1,244

Scotty Bowman spent 30 years on the bench, coaching the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Detroit Red Wings. In his four seasons in St. Louis, he won 110 games, before spending eight years in Montreal, winning 419 games. His least successful stint was in Buffalo, where over seven seasons he won 210 before being fired after just 12 games of the 1986-87 season. After four years out of coaching, he returned with the Penguins in 1991 and won 95 games and a Stanley Cup in two seasons. He finished his career with a nine-year stint in Detroit, where he won 410 games and three more championships. All told, Bowman won 1,244 and had a winning percentage of .581. Second on the list of winningest coaches is Joe Quenneville with 895—349 fewer than Bowman and with a winning percentage of .543.

Most Wins All Time (Goalie): 691

Martin Brodeur played 21 seasons—from 1994 through 2014—for the New Jersey Devils before finishing his career by playing half a season as a backup goalie for the St. Louis Blues. He won 688 games and three Stanley Cups with New Jersey (1995, 2000, and 2003) in a legendary career. His three wins in six starts for the Blues put his final tally at 691, a remarkable 140 more than the second goaltender on the list, Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens (551).

Most Wins in a Season (Team/Coach): 62

Two teams share the record for the most wins in a single season: the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, coached by Scotty Bowman, and the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, coached by Jon Cooper. While both had the same number of wins, the Red Wings team had three fewer losses, to give them the slight edge. That Red Wings team—led by the trio of Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman, and Vyacheslav Kozlov—enjoyed two nine-game winning streaks, as they amassed the second-highest points total for a season, 131. The 2018-19 Lightning had their own scoring trio—Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point—and tore off 10 wins in a row in February. Remarkably, neither of these powerhouse teams won a Stanley Cup. The Red Wings lost to the eventual champions, the Colorado Avalanche, in the Western Conference Finals, four games to two. Remarkably, the 2018-19 Lightning made history a second time that season, by becoming the first President’s Trophy winner to get swept in the opening round of the playoffs, losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Most Wins in a Season (Goalie): 48

The only one of these “most wins” categories that leaves room for argument has to do with goalies. While both Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals (2015-16) and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils (2006-07) won a remarkable 48 games in an 82-game regular season, Holtby actually played in 12 fewer games than Brodeur in his record season. Holtby’s 48 wins in just 66 games gave him a .727 winning percentage, compared to Brodeur’s .615.

Comparing these kinds of records from era to era can bring up all kinds of mitigating factors to consider—changes in season length, rules, etc.—that might make a lower number seem more impressive. But there’s no denying that these players, coaches, and teams reached incredible heights that should be remembered in the NHL history books.