As the Cleveland Browns inch closer to becoming the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16, ESPN decided to identify the worst seasons in each of the four major professional sports leagues. On Tuesday, the “worldwide leader in sports” declared the 1974-75 Washington Capitals the worst team in NHL history, the franchise’s inaugural season after joining the NHL as an expansion team.
Owned by then-Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin, the 1974-75 Capitals finished with an abysmal 8-67-5 record, going through three head coaches over the course of the season. The team set many NHL records for futility, including the fewest wins in a season lasting at least 70 games, and the worst road record in league history.
“There have been 1,506 team seasons in the NHL over the past 100 years; the Capitals collected .131 percent of their available standings points, which ranks them at No. 1,506,” ESPN senior hockey writer Greg Wyshynski wrote Tuesday. “Their 5.58 goals against per game makes them the worst defensive team in NHL history (over at least 60 games). They also looked the part, wearing hideous white pants that were easily soiled.”
Wyshynski noted that the Capitals, along with the NHL’s other expansion team that year the Kansas City Scouts, had a limited number of players to choose and form a team with in 1974.
“The rules were rough: The NHL’s 16 teams could protect 15 players and then pull back one player each time they lost one,” Wyshynski explained. “But the biggest impediment for the first-year Capitals was an unprecedented shallow talent pool. Including Washington, the NHL had added 10 teams in a six-year span, while the rival 14-team World Hockey Association was vacuuming up players as well.”
Things have certainly picked up for the Capitals since then. Washington has become a perennial playoff contender in recent years, but the franchise nonetheless got off to a terribly rocky start in its first NHL season.
Joining the 1974-75 Capitals in ESPN’s unfortunate foursome are the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119 record), the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats (7-59), and of course the 2008 Detroit Lions, the first—and for now, only—NFL team to go 0-16.
• Josh Luckenbaugh can be reached at email@example.com.
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