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NHL: Worst ever starts to an NHL season

The Vancouver Canucks are yet to win a game in seven attempts to begin the 2022/23 NHL season (0-5-2) and became the first team to blow multiple goal leads in their opening four games, but how does their poor start compare to the worse in history?

We take a look: 

1943/44 New York Rangers 

The 1943/44 Rangers hold the record for worst ever start to an NHL season. It was back in the original six era, when New York lost their first 11 games of the season and remained winless through 15 games. The losing streak was broken by a 2–2 tie with Montreal Canadiens in game 12, but they then lost the next four in a row too. In 50 games, the Rangers won just six times with five ties and 39 defeats. 

Their 17 points remains the lowest tally in their franchise history. They scored just 162 goals while allowing a whopping 310. Bryan Hextall was the leading scorer with 21 goals and 54 points, and was about the only bright spot on this team. 

World War II was a major factor in New York's terrible start, as several of their best players were forced to join the armed forces and believing the NHL would cease operations, General Manager of the time Lester Patrick sold off all the players from his top farm club the Philadelphia Ramblers leaving them thread bare of talent. 

In 16 seasons before, the Rangers won three Stanley Cups, finished first in the regular season three times and missed the playoffs just once. In each of the next two seasons after 1944, the Rangers also finished last and Patrick was dismissed. 

2015/16 Columbus Blue Jackets 

The Blue Jackets lost their first eight games of the 2015/16 NHL season which is the second longest losing streak to begin a campaign. John Tortorella was hired to replace Todd Richards at 0-8-0 and he immediately put a stop to the run with the Blue Jackets beating Colorado Avalanche 4-3. 

In the end, Columbus finished with a 34-40-8 record which ranked last in the Metropolitan Division. Tortorella (now of Philadelphia Flyers) improved the Blue Jackets considerably over the next four years, qualifying for the playoffs in each campaign which included a first-round victory over Tampa Bay Lighting. 

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2017/18 and 2021/22 Arizona Coyotes 

The Coyotes appear twice in a list of five teams behind the Rangers (15) who went winless through 11 games to begin an NHL season (2017/18 and 2021/22). The earlier version was worse, managing to snap the skid with an overtime win against Philadelphia Flyers in game 12 of the season, but taking until the 21st game to get a win in regulation against the Montreal Canadiens. 

The 2021/22 Coyotes grabbed a regulation victory in game 12 of the season. In both seasons Arizona finished bottom of their division, a position they will likely take up this season too (1-4-0 to start) after opting to aggressively re-build following just one playoff appearance in the past ten seasons. 

1992/93 Ottawa Senators 

The Ottawa Senators entered the NHL in 1992/93 and the start to the season was nothing short of a disaster. To this day, the Senators remain the only team in post-expansion history to register fewer than four points through the first 20 games of the campaign (1-18-1). 

Their only regulation time victory came on opening night but it quickly went down-hill from then on. Ottawa allowed 105 goals against across the first 20 games of the campaign, second-most in league history behind only the 1984/85 Vancouver Canucks (119 goals against), and the Senators’ minus-62 goal differential due in part to a 12-3 loss to Buffalo marked the worst in a 20-game start since the 1919/20 NHL season. 

Ottawa finished the season with just 10 wins (10-70-4), the third-fewest all-time in a campaign with at least 80 games, and finished with a goal differential of minus-193. Only three teams in NHL history have ever fared worse. 

Thankfully for the Senators, their franchise grew much stronger and from 1996 to 2008 qualified for the playoffs 11 straight times including a Final appearance in 2007. Since, they have been in an out but remain a competitive outfit in the Eastern Division.

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