The Five Worst Teams that Outshot their Opponents

R O from Matchsticks and Gasoline wondered what the flip-side of the winning teams who were outshot looked like. That is, which teams outshot their opponents but did poorly either due to poor goaltending, generally mediocre offense or perhaps just multi-year bad luck. I don't think this is a sustainable situation for an organization - if you're good enough to outshoot your opponents, you're probably a good team, and you either need to add a small amount of scoring talent, or trade from your strength for a goaltender. And if you keep losing, coaches and general managers will get fired, leading to a complete remake of a team's characteristics.

At any rate, on to the list: there have been many examples, but I don't think anyone is going to get excited about the 1972-73 Blues, so I'm going to stick to the post-WHA era.

#5. 2005-06 Chicago Blackhawks. Call this the ironic choice. The Hawks outshot their opponents by nearly a shot per game, but they put offensive lightweights Kyle Calder, Mark Bell and Tyler Arnason on their first line power-play and ended up being outscored by 74 goals on the season. The irony is that their goaltending tandem - which posted a very bad .887 save percentage - featured Nikolai Khabibulin and Craig Anderson, both of whom have looked good enough recently for their respective teams' fans to put down the deposit for playoff tickets.

#4. 1990-93 Minnesota North Stars. Over three seasons, they outshot their opponents by nearly 700 shots, but were outscored by 63 goals. Jon Casey played the bulk of Minnesota's games in this span, so he deserves much of the blame. Of course, no one really knows what was going on with the North Stars because despite they ramped up their offense just in time for the 1990-91 playoffs and had a two games to one lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals before the wheels came off and they gave up 19 goals in three games.

#3. 2002-04 Carolina Hurricanes. Truly the gang that couldn't shoot. Over two seasons, they had bad, but not terrible goaltending (903 SVPCT) and a complete inability to put the puck in the net (7.1% shooting percentage), which rendered a four shot-per-game advantage null-and-void. After the lockout, Eric Staal and Justin Williams emerged as scoring threats, and even though their goaltending regressed, they finally outscored their opponents and went from 50-game losers to Stanley Cup champions. Then they went back to outshooting their opponents and missing the playoffs.

#2. 2006-10 Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the start of the 2006-07 season, the Leafs are +670 on shots and -103 on goals. It's not likely any one thing has been terrible - they've just been consistently below average in shooting percentage and consistently worse than average at giving up goals. Too many penalties, weak penalty-killing and poor goaltending are all to blame. If there was ever going to be a dynasty of outshooting your opponents but losing to them anyways, this would be it.

#1. 1985-86 Winnipeg Jets. Well, they had to be #1 at something, didn't they? This was the year GM John Ferguson inexplicably became fed-up with his 23-year-old All-Star two-way defenseman, Dave Babych, and traded him to the Hartford Whalers. This was also the year that the Jets goaltenders posted an 847 save percentage. And it was also the year that the Jets outshot their opponents by more than two shots per game. It pains me to re-visit that Babych trade, but if you were going to trade one of the best five defensemen in the league, wouldn't you try to fix your goaltending problem?

The unbalanced schedule didn't help: some of their misery came from playing 16 games against Edmonton and Calgary, who outscored them 91-65, but they were awful against everyone else too. They went 11-30 in games decided by three or more goals and finished the season with 59 points. And somehow finished third in their division and made the playoffs.

I was at the third and final games of the opening playoff series against the Calgary Flames. I can't remember if it was snow or disinterest that kept the crowd at the Winnipeg Arena to a paltry 8,000 that night, but I was able to walk down to the front row with a couple of my friends. Ferguson had fired his coach with 14 games to go in the season and was still behind the bench in the playoffs. Local sportscasters had noticed that Ferguson had the previously unseen ability to sweat through the armpits of his suit jackets on the bench, and kept a running tab on the number of jackets he'd ruined. Down 2-0 and desperate for goaltending, the Jets plucked 20-year-old 155-pound Daniel Berthiaume directly from the QMJHL to start their do-or-die game. He played well, stopping 39 shots, and the Jets somehow limped into overtime. But the Berthiaume miracle ended as quickly as it started, eight minutes into overtime.

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