Sports' best and worst expansion teams

With the NHL reportedly set to expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-2018 season, here's a look at the best and worst expansion teams in the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Teams have mostly struggled in inaugural season

Florida Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck was excellent in goal in helping the club to the most successful inaugural season in NHL history. (Getty Images)

With the NHL reportedly set to expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-2018 season, a team will be added to one of the four major North American pro sports leagues for the first time since Houston joined the NFL in 2002.

Some have questioned Sin City's passion for hockey, and looking back on how expansion teams have performed in the past, Las Vegas fans may be tested early. In recent memory, no expansion franchise has reached a .500 record. 

With that in mind, here's a look at the best and worst expansion teams in the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball.



Team: Florida Panthers
Season: 1993-94
Record: 33-34-17 (83 points)

The Panthers don't have a lot to brag about in their short history, but the franchise can boast the best-ever record in an inaugural season across all four major North American leagues. In the 1993 expansion draft, Florida snagged former Vezina-winning goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck with the top pick. The "Beezer" posted a solid 2.53 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in the Panthers' first season. With 30-goal scorer Scott Mellanby leading the attack, the Panthers missed the post-season by just a single point.

Check out Vanbiesbrouck rob Marcus Naslund at the No. 2 spot on the 1993-1994 top saves list. 


Team: Washington Capitals
Season: 1974-75
Record: 8-67-5 (21 points)

Perhaps the most memorable day of Washington's awful inaugural season came on March 28, 1975. Up to that point the Capitals had lost 38 straight road games before sealing a 5-3 victory over the California Golden Seals. As the story goes, some of the Capitals' players were so thrilled with their first road win that they paraded around the dressing room hoisting a green trash can signed by each player. Washington lost the final two road games of the season to finish a dismal 1-39 away from home, and its 21 points are the fewest in a full season in the NHL's modern era.



Team: Los Angeles Angels
Season: 1961
Record: 70-91  

The Angels placed a respectable 15th out of the 18 teams in baseball at the time and posted an impressive 46-36 record at home. Still, they finished 38½ games behind the first-place Yankees.


Team: New York Mets​
Season: 1962
Record: 40-120 

Besides posting the worst expansion record in baseball history, New York's 40-win season is one of the worst of all time by any team. To top it off, considering the Yankees won the World Series that year, cheering for the Mets couldn't have been the trendiest thing to do in New York.



Team: Chicago Bulls
Season: 1966-67
Record: 33-48 

Before the Bulls went on to become one of the NBA's most storied franchises, they were the best expansion team. The forefathers of Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen actually made the playoffs in the Western Division, though they were swept by the St. Louis Hawks in three games.


Team: Vancouver Grizzlies
Season: 1995-96
Record: 15-67 

The Grizzlies joined the Toronto Raptors as the NBA put two new teams in Canada at the same time. It wasn't a memorable season for either city as the Grizzlies won just 15 games while the Raptors managed just 21 victories. Vancouver clearly lacked offensive talent as the team averaged only 89 points, the fewest by an expansion team.

The Grizzlies aren't alone, though, as the league's worst expansion team. The San Diego Rockets (1967-68), Cleveland Cavaliers (1970-71), Dallas Mavericks (1980-81) and Miami Heat (1988-89) all finished their first seasons with an identical 15-67 record. 

The Grizzlies actually won their first ever game against the Portland Trail Blazers


Note: The teams selected are from after the NFL-AFL merger in 1966.


Team: Carolina Panthers
Season: 1995
Record: 7-9 

Entering the league along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina lost its first five games before turning it around by winning five of its next six. The Panthers missed the playoffs but their 7-9 record still stands as the NFL's best in an inaugural season. The following year, the young Panthers built off of their initial success with an impressive 12-4 record, a division title and an appearance in the NFC championship game.


Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Season: 1976
Record: 0-14 

After its winless inaugural season, Tampa Bay started the following year 0-12, making it 26 straight losses before earning its first ever win with a 33-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints on December 11, 1977. The only thing that may save the Bucs from the "worst season ever" title would be the Detroit Lions, who finished the 2008 season 0-16.


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