The 1974-75 Washington Capitals would have been the worst fear of those supporting the inaugural season for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Fortunately VGK has been the best of all-time first year teams. Here is what Vegas avoided. (A thanks to ESPN for the research material).
1974-75 Washington Capitals
Coach: Jim Anderson (4-45-5), Red Sullivan (2-16-0), Milt Schmidt (2-6-0)
Record: 8-67-5 (21 points)
As much as the Golden Knights were set up to succeed, the expansion Capitals were destined to fail. The rules were rough: The NHL’s 16 teams could protect 15 players and then pull back one player each time they lost one. 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.
The Capitals were a bad team on paper and the worst team of all time on the ice. There have been 1,506 team seasons in the NHL over the past 100 years; the Capitals collected 0.131 percent of their available standings points, which ranks them at No. 1,506. 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.
But they had a sense of humor about it, at least on one night. After winning in Oakland to end a 37-game road losing streak, forward Tommy Williams pulled a trash can out of the dressing room, had some teammates sign it, and a few Capitals skated it around the rink in celebration, calling it “The Stanley Can.”
The Capitals followed the worst season in NHL history with what stands as the 12th worst – 11-59-10 in 1975-76, with a paltry .200 points percentage and 25 straight games without a win. The only thing notable over the next few years was defenseman Yvon Labre, whose number was retired after 334 games with the team.
Washington finally made the playoffs in its ninth year after minor league coach Bryan Murray was hired instead of giving Don Cherry total control of the team. The Capitals made the playoffs for seven straight seasons under Murray and 14 straight overall from 1982 to 1996.
The franchise can be split into four eras: its pathetic beginnings, its playoff consistency, the folly of trading for Jaromir Jagr and subsequent tank job in the early 2000s, and the post-2005 lockout “Rock The Red” era starring Alex Ovechkin. But the Capitals have made the Stanley Cup Final only once as a franchise, losing in 1998 to the Detroit Red Wings, so the count remains one Stanley Can, zero Stanley Cups.
“It was a pretty scary hockey club, not a whole lot of things you remember about it as great. You look at a lot of things that took place, [like giving up] 13 goals at Buffalo and four of them by your own defensemen. You could make a pretty good movie out of it,” said goalie Ron Low, via NHL.com.