NHL's top 20 of 2000s by strength ratings

By Steve Makinen  (Point Spread Weekly editor) 


With the excitement of the NHL’s playoff announcement last week, I’m continuing my series on top teams from each sport in the 21st century by looking at the NHL.

Since hockey is less data-rich than football, basketball or baseball, the process I use to make strength ratings and odds is a blend of stats, perception and betting market analysis. However, these NHL rankings are 100% statistical, a calculation of by how much a team outplayed its opposition, comparing its goals for and against versus the quality of opposition it faced.

The formula I have used to create these ratings has not changed in the 25 years I have done them, an important factor to consider when comparing teams from different seasons or eras. You can get a hypothetical feel for what the odds might be between teams by comparing their overall Effective Strength Ratings. For instance, using the top two teams, the 2005-06 Senators would be considered a 4.1% better team than the 2000-01 Avalanche — essentially about a -114 favorite in a head-to-head neutral-ice matchup or a -140 favorite at home (+ 110 underdog on the road).

So here is a look at my top 20 NHL teams of the last 20 years, according to my Effective Strength Ratings. Remember these are 100% statistically based and are not impacted by teams’ eventual playoff accomplishments. Only a quarter of these teams, or five, won Stanley Cups, and only three more reached the final. That is a testament to how unpredictable the NHL playoffs have been. Consider that as you handicap the eventual return of the 2020 postseason, when we’ll also add a long delay, a changed format and neutral-ice environments to the equation. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.


1. 2005-06 OTTAWA SENATORS: 3.879

Record: 57-35-4 (-19.45 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

Season recap: Because they didn’t win the Stanley Cup, the Ottawa teams from 2002-07 aren’t widely remembered as some of the best of this century. But they were statistically, and if not for the player lockout of 2004-05, the franchise might have placed five straight teams on this list. As it stands, four made it, led by the 2005-06 group that lost to Buffalo in the East semifinals in five games despite being favored by -195 or more three times. Ottawa lost all three of those contests, part of the reason it finished -19.45 units for bettors for the season. The Senators were highly regarded by oddsmakers, especially after a 19-3 start. They were just 4-12 in overtime games, much of the reason their won-lost record doesn’t seem as flashy as others. Wings Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson starred for this team, each accounting for more than 100 points this season.


2. 2000-01 COLORADO AVALANCHE: 3.724

Record: 68-27-10-9 (+ 17.5 units)

Playoff fortunes: Won Stanley Cup

Season recap: The top Stanley Cup-winning team on the list is the 2000-01 Avalanche, which earned the title by winning the best final series of the last 20 years over the team ranked No. 3. Colorado posted a very impressive record, playing 105 games, and bested the Devils in a classic seven-game series. That followed a 12-4 run through the three rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. Surely you remember this team, carried by C Joe Sakic and G Patrick Roy.

3. 2000-01 NEW JERSEY DEVILS: 3.701

Record: 63-32-12-7 (+ 11.5 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

Season recap: On the short end of that epic 2001 Stanley Cup Final series was New Jersey, a team that boasted star power in goal with Martin Brodeur. LW Patrick Elias was the top scorer on a team that ranked No. 8 on the list of best offensive teams of the last 20 years. The Devils played 107 games, winning 63, including 13 in a row in a February/March surge. In the end, though, it was a 4-0 loss as -175 favorites in Game 6 and then having to travel to Colorado for a Game 7 that kept them from winning a title.


4. 2007-08 DETROIT RED WINGS: 3.677

Record: 70-27-8 (+ 5.35 units)

Playoff fortunes: Won Stanley Cup

Season recap: Arguably the best franchise of the 21st century thus far, Detroit put five teams on the top-20 list. The best was the 2007-08 group that won the Stanley Cup by beating Pittsburgh in six games. The Red Wings won their betting backers only + 5.35 units of profit for the season despite a gaudy record. A huge reason was that they were -200 or higher favorites nine times in the postseason alone. This team had two nine-game winning streaks, including during one stretch in the playoffs. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were the top scorers, while Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek split time in net with nearly identical effectiveness.


5. 2018-19 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 3.641

Record: 62-20-14 (+ 21.65 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference first round

Season recap: The Lightning posted an insane 62-16-4 regular-season record to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs only to be swept out of the first round by Columbus. It probably goes down as the single most improbable playoff result of the 21st century. Tampa Bay was favored in all four games of the series, including -320 in a 5-1 game 2 setback. In all, the Lightning and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed a shocking 19 goals to Columbus in the four games, and their offense, ranked No. 2 in the last 20 years, scored just eight times. This team had 10- and eight-game winning streaks plus two of seven games. RW Nikita Kucherov scored a team-high 128 points.


6. 2008-09 BOSTON BRUINS: 3.634

 Record: 60-23-12 (+ 10 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

Season recap: Three Boston teams made the list, headed by the 2008-09 version that also ranks No. 7 on the best defensive teams list. Goalie Tim Thomas headlined the defensive effort and had a huge year, while centers Marc Savard and David Krejci carried the offense. After sweeping Montreal in the first round of the East playoffs, the Bruins rallied from a 3-1 deficit versus Carolina to force a Game 7 but lost 3-2 in shocking fashion as -205 favorites. They were favored in all seven games of that series, four times by -200 or more. Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1, Boston went 24-3, the best stretch of a season that ended in disappointment.


7. 2005-06 DETROIT RED WINGS: 3.598

Record: 60-20-9 (+ 1.35 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Western Conference first round

Season recap: After the lost season of 2004-05 due to the lockout, the Red Wings and No. 1 Ottawa above led the league’s comeback, but both failed miserably in the playoffs after stellar seasons. Like the Senators, Detroit was highly respected by oddsmakers and won just 1.35 units of profit for bettors despite an impressive season. Much of that profit was dissolved in a 4-2 first-round playoff loss to Edmonton, as this powerhouse club lost twice as a favorite of -270 or higher. This Red Wings team was the best performing offensive team of the century for the franchise and was led by four players who had 80 or more points: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom.


8. 2012-13 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: 3.552

Record: 52-14-7 (+ 25.65 units)

Playoff fortunes: Won Stanley Cup

Season recap: Chicago has just one entry on our top-20 list, and unsurprisingly it’s the championship team of 2013 led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. While the regular season was shortened to 48 games due to another lockout, the Blackhawks posted a scintillating 36-7-5 record and then went on a 16-7 run in the playoffs. With a total betting profit of + 25.65 units, this team produced at better than a 36% ROI for backers. Chicago also won titles in 2010 and 2015 for coach Joel Quenneville, but this team was the most dominant of the three.


9. 2001-02 DETROIT RED WINGS: 3.550

Record: 67-24-10-8 (+ 11.8 units)

Playoff fortunes: Won Stanley Cup

Season recap: Detroit has won four titles since 1996, and we already touched on the 2007-08 edition. But the 2001-02 team was nearly as accomplished. This team produced 11.8 units of betting profit and took the last four games of a lopsided Stanley Cup Final to capture the trophy. The Red Wings were -220 or higher favorites in all five games of the series over an outmanned Carolina team and allowed just seven goals for the set. Goalie Dominik Hasek was the Dominator, and Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan were the team’s top scorers.


10. 2002-03 DALLAS STARS: 3.546

Record: 52-23-15-6 (+ 3.5 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Western Conference semifinals

Season recap: Dallas enjoyed a long run of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning the ’99 Stanley Cup and reaching the final a year later. After missing the playoffs in 2001-02, the Stars returned with a bang in the 2002-03 season, going 46-17-15-4 and earning the No. 1 seed in the West. After beating Edmonton, they were upset in six games by Anaheim in the second round despite being favored in every game of the series. C Mike Modano as the key player in the lineup, and Marty Turco was the star in net, yielding just 2.01 goals per game.


11. 2009-10 WASHINGTON CAPITALS: 3.535

Record: 57-19-14 (-2.3 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference first round

Season recap: The Capitals have won just one Stanley Cup this century, but it’s  by neither of the two Washington teams that made the top 20 list. Statistically, the best Washington team of the last 20 years was the 2009-10 edition, which went 54-15-13 in the regular season but succumbed in the first round of the playoffs to the Canadiens in seven games. The Capitals were a profitable team in the regular season but gave it all back and then some by losing the last three games to Montreal as chalk of -365, -210 and -315. The tandem of Alex Ovechkin, 24, and Nicklas Backstrom, 22, was just getting started, and both scored more than 100 points. Goalie Jose Theodore boasted a phenomenal won-lost record despite allowing 3.18 GPG, backed by the No. 1-ranked offense of the last 20 years.


12. 2013-14 BOSTON BRUINS: 3.491

Record: 61-24-10 (+ 9.95 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

Season recap: Boston’s 2010-11 team won the Stanley Cup. But the second of the three Bruins teams on the list is the 2013-14 edition, whose 54 regular-season wins matched a 43-year high. As is the case with most teams on the list, playoff disappointment followed, as Boston fell to Montreal in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals despite being favored in every game. That’s a common theme thus far. David Krejci was joined by fellow center Patrice Bergeron as the team’s offensive leaders, while Tuukka Rask minded net. A 12-game March winning streak highlighted the push to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.


13. 2002-03 OTTAWA SENATORS: 3.487

Record: 63-28-8-1 (+ 16.65 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference finals

Season recap: Although the Senators have not won a title, the 2002-03 team started a five-year run of four statistically dominant teams that all made this list. This Ottawa team lost in the Eastern Conference finals in a hotly contested seven-game series. This team and the 2005-06 edition share the franchise record with 52 regular-season wins. RW Marian Hossa was the team’s points leader with 80, and Patrick Lalime headed the goal-stopping unit.


14. 2006-07 DETROIT RED WINGS: 3.483

Record: 60-27-15 (-2.5 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Western Conference finals

Season recap: Detroit placed four straight teams on the list of the top 20 teams of the 21st century, spanning 2005-06 to 2008-09. The second of those teams reached the Western Conference finals in the spring of ’07 but lost in six games to an Anaheim team over which it was a small favorite. This Red Wings team commanded respect from oddsmakers like all the others and actually lost money for bettors, -2.5 units. C Pavel Datsyuk was the leading scorer with 87 points, and 42-year old G Dominik Hasik allowed a stellar 2.21 GPG.


15. 2010-11 BOSTON BRUINS: 3.477

Record: 62-34-12 (+ 1 units)

Playoff fortunes: Won Stanley Cup

Season recap: The last of the three Boston teams to make the list is its only championship team of the century. The 2010-11 team was nowhere near the franchise best in terms of its regular season, but it survived three Game 7s in the postseason to take home the title. In the Stanley Cup Final, favored Vancouver pushed the Bruins to the limit despite being outscored 23-8. G Tim Thomas came up huge and was named series MVP.


16. 2017-18 WINNIPEG JETS: 3.476

Record: 61-25-11 (+ 16.55 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Western Conference finals

Season recap: This Winnipeg team was favored to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final but was upset by a first-year Vegas franchise. This is one of only three Jets teams to make the playoffs since 2011 and the only one to appear on this list. Winnipeg enjoyed a huge regular season, going 52-20-10, and produced 16.55 units of profit for bettors. RW Blake Wheeler had a big season, as did 19-year-old RW Patrick Laine, but Wheeler was the star in the postseason. The Jets won 14 of their final 16 regular-season games and seemed poised to make a run at their first Cup.


17. 2003-04 OTTAWA SENATORS: 3.468

Record: 46-27-10-6 (-13.5 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference first round

Season recap: Ottawa’s franchise surge continued in the 2003-04 season, though it could be argued that the team showed better statistically than its actual strength. The Senators outscored opponents by 72 goals despite going only 13 games over .500. The cracks in the foundation were exposed in a first-round loss to Toronto. The Senators again lost money for bettors, finishing -13.5 units. The stars were forwards Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson.


18. 2016-17 WASHINGTON CAPITALS: 3.464

Record: 62-25-10 (+ 8.95 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

Season recap: After an incredible 55-19-8 regular season in 2016-17, Washington was pushed to six games in the first round of the playoffs by what should have been an overmatched Toronto team, then lost in seven games to Pittsburgh despite being favored in every game. The Capitals enjoyed five winning streaks of five games or more but continued to starve their fans for a first Cup title. They would capture that a year later.


19. 2008-09 DETROIT RED WINGS: 3.445

Record: 66-29-12 (-6.65 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

Season recap: Yet another Detroit team checks in at No. 19 on the list, as the Red Wings pretty much dominated the regular seasons of the last half of the 2000s. Coming off a season in which they won the Stanley Cup, the 2008-09 Red Wings made it back to the final but blew a 2-0 series lead to Pittsburgh and lost in seven games. They were -200 favorites in Game 7, a sign of the respect they garnered from oddsmakers during this era. Losing 6.65 units for bettors was the net result.


20. 2006-07 OTTAWA SENATORS: 3.442

Record: 61-32-10 (-3 units)

Playoff fortunes: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

Season recap: The final team on the list is the 2006-07 Senators, bookending the top 20 with the team that preceded it. This Ottawa team reached its highest playoff level, losing in five games in the Stanley Cup Final to Anaheim. It appeared the franchise was ready to win its first title, especially after the Senators had disposed of their three East playoff opponents in 4-1 decisions. While reaching the playoffs six times since, the Senators have not returned to the final.


Those were the overall Effective Strength Ratings. Here are the top 10 offensive and defensive teams of the last 20 years using my effective scoring calculations. None of the top offensive teams won the Stanley Cup, but the top two defensive teams did. The 2019-20 Bruins check in at No. 9 on the defensive list, and hopefully soon we’ll learn of their playoff fortunes.


Top 10 Offensive Teams (Effective Offensive Strength)

1. 2009-10 WASHINGTON CAPITALS: + 0.918. Lost in Eastern Conference first round

2. 2018-19 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: + 0.803. Lost in Eastern Conference first round

3. 2005-06 OTTAWA SENATORS: + 0.721. Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

4. 2011-12 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: + 0.692. Lost in Eastern Conference first round

5. 2008-09 DETROIT RED WINGS: + 0.672. Lost in Stanley Cup Final

6. 2016-17 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: + 0.671. Lost in Stanley Cup Final

7. 2012-13 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: + 0.621. Lost in Eastern Conference finals

8. 2000-01 NEW JERSEY DEVILS: + 0.599. Lost in Stanley Cup Final

9. 2005-06 DETROIT RED WINGS: + 0.59. Lost in Western Conference first round

10. 2002-03 DETROIT RED WINGS: + 0.563. Lost in Western Conference first round


Top 10 Defensive Teams (Effective Defensive Strength)

1. 2002-03 NEW JERSEY DEVILS: -0.695. Won Stanley Cup

2. 2011-12 LOS ANGELES KINGS: -0.653. Won Stanley Cup

3. 2018-19 NEW YORK ISLANDERS: -0.638. Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

4. 2011-12 ST. LOUIS BLUES: -0.629. Lost in Western Conference semifinals

5. 2005-06 CALGARY FLAMES: -0.626. Lost in Western Conference first round

6. 2012-13 BOSTON BRUINS: -0.592. Lost in Stanley Cup Final

7. 2008-09 BOSTON BRUINS: -0.57. Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

8. 2002-03 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: -0.569. Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals

9. 2019-20 BOSTON BRUINS: -0.566. To be determined

10. 2006-07 DETROIT RED WINGS: -0.565. Lost in Western Conference finals


I’ll continue this series next week with a look at the NBA’s top teams of the 21st century.



back to news

Live On Air

Streaming Now: VSiN Best Bets

play Watch Live radio Listen Live


A Numbers Game: Be careful with betting teams with players in, or heading for concussion protocol. With the latest guidelines in place, we have seen most guys miss at least one game, if not more. View more tips.

Albert Nguyen: Money Line - Packers (-102) vs Lions. View more picks