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Ranking the 10 Most Hyped Teams in NHL History

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Hyped Teams in NHL History

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There's nothing like a team that comes to training camp and realizes it's capable of great things. 

    The players look around the locker room and know they are loaded. They know that if they come forth with their best effort, no team is capable of beating them.

    They have full confidence that they are going to be hoisting the Stanley Cup because they are simply the best team in the NHL.

    Sometimes those teams live up to the hype and deliver, while some fall on their faces. Here's a look at how the most hyped teams performed when their reputations were on the line.

10. 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings

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    Why they were hyped: The Detroit Red Wings had overwhelming talent and depth. Their roster included Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. They had a sensational goalie tandem of Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood. They had Mike Babcock in his third season behind the bench, and they were simply not going to be denied.

    Season record: 54-21-7, 115 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated Pittsburgh Penguins in SCF, 4-2

    Best player: Lidstrom, won Norris Trophy

    Motivating factor: Lost Western Conference Final to Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07, 4-2. While the Ducks had an excellent team that year and won the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings knew they were the better team and they felt humiliated by the defeat. They were determined not to fall short in 2007-08.

9. 2011-12 Vancouver Canucks

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    Why they were hyped: The 2010-11 Canucks won the Presidents Trophy and got to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final where they dropped a 4-0 home decision to the Boston Bruins. They had improved in three consecutive seasons, and they were supposed to turn their frustration at their 2010-11 near-miss into their first championship in 2011-12

    Season record: 51-22-9, 111 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Lost in first round; Defeated by Los Angeles Kings, 4-1

    Best player: Henrik Sedin, led NHL with 67 assists

    What went wrong: Instead of getting primed for the postseason, the Canucks played with fear in their hearts. It seemed like their defeat in the SCF the previous year was fresh in their minds when they were challenged by the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in the first round. They were outplayed, outworked and outfought by the Kings, and they went home after five pitiful games.

8. 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Why they were hyped: The Penguins arguably had the two best players in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. On paper, they looked unstoppable because even the best defensive teams would have to concentrate on stopping one player or the other. Stopping or even slowing down both did not seem realistic. The Penguins had the most talent of any team in the league.

    Season record: 45-28-9, 99 points, fourth place in Eastern Conference

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated Detroit Red Wings in SCF, 4-3

    Best player: Malkin led the league with 113 points; won Conn Smythe Trophy

    Motivating factor: The Pens had been defeated in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 by the Red Wings, and that defeat stayed with them all year. While they were fairly mediocre in the regular season, they turned it on in the playoffs and got revenge over the Red Wings.

7. 1982-83 New York Islanders

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    Why they were hyped: The New York Islanders were one of the great teams in NHL history going into the 1982-83 season. They had won three straight Stanley Cups and had brilliant players like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies and Battling Billy Smith in goal. The Islanders had overpowering skills, dominating confidence and a superb money goalie.

    Season record: 42-26-12, 96 points, fourth in Eastern Conference

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated Edmonton Oilers in SCF, 4-0

    Best player: Bossy scored 60 goals; Smith won Conn Smythe Trophy

    Motivating factor: The New York Islanders wanted to enhance their reputation that season. Prior to the 1982-83 season, only the Montreal Canadiens (1956-60) had won more than three consecutive titles. The Islanders wanted to match them and win their fourth title in a row. Despite an ordinary regular season, the veteran Islanders turned it on when they needed to and punished the up-and-coming Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.

6. 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Why they were hyped: The 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be a juggernaut. They had won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships and they were coming off a four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in the '92 Stanley Cup Final. They had Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and an elite supporting cast. They appeared to be unstoppable.

    Season record: 56-21-7, 119 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Lost in division final (second round); Defeated by New York Islanders, 4-3

    Best player: Lemieux, led NHL with 160 points

    What went wrong: The Islanders were slightly better than .500 during the regular season, and they did not appear to belong on the same ice with the Penguins. However, they were not intimidated by the sight of Lemieux and Co., and when unheralded David Volek finished off a two-on-one in overtime of the seventh game, the Penguins' run was history.

5. 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers

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    Why they were hyped: The 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers were one of the greatest teams in NHL history not to win the Stanley Cup. They were simply an explosive offensive team that scored 426 goals in 80 games, averaging 5.33 goals per game. The Oilers had a remarkable boatload of talent that included Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri and stellar goalie Grant Fuhr.

    Season record: 56-17-7, 119 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Lost in division final (second round); Defeated by Calgary Flames, 4-3

    Best player: Gretzky, led NHL with 215 points

    What went wrong: The Flames were sick and tired of getting their noses rubbed in the dirt by their regional rivals. They had an excellent team of their own and played their best hockey to extend the seires to seven games. Even with that, the Flames would have most likely lost if Oilers defenseman Steve Smith had not banked the puck off Fuhr's skate (video above) and into the net for the series-winning goal.

4. 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche

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    Why they were hyped: The Colorado Avalanche were loaded with talent. Their one-two punch of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg allowed them to run away from most opponents. Additionally, they had added future Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque the previous season, and he provided a level of offense on the blue line that they didn't have in the past. Goalie Patrick Roy was the security blanket for a team that was dominant on most nights.

    Season record: 52-16-10-4, 118 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated New Jersey Devils in SCF, 4-3

    Best player: Roy may have been the best goalie to ever play, but he had to share the spotlight with Sakic. The opportunistic Sakic scored 54 goals and 118 points that season.

    Motivating factor: The Avs were the best team in the league and wanted to prove it. However, they wanted to give Bourque his first and only Stanley Cup in his last season, and they succeeded with their dramatic seven-game victory over the Devils.

3. 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers

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    Why they were hyped: The Edmonton Oilers were ready for prime time as the 1983-84 season began. After getting swept by the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final in the previous season, the Oilers were determined to finish the job and hoist the Cup for the first time. Wayne Gretzky was at the peak of his powers and there would be no stopping this team.

    Season record: 57-18-5, 119 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated New York Islanders in SCF, 4-1

    Best player: Gretzky scored 87 goals and 205 points. 

    Motivating factor: While the idea of getting revenge over the team that had swept them in the SCF the year before was on the Oilers' minds, their time had simply come. They were the best team in the NHL and they asserted themselves in dominant fashion.

2. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

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    Why they were hyped: This was simply the best team in the history of the game. At the start of the 1976-77 season, the Canadiens had already won two straight Stanley Cups, and they were not about to slow down. They were loaded with superstars like Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and goalie Ken Dryden. Nobody could touch them.

    Season record: 60-8-12, 132 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Won Stanley Cup; Defeated Boston Bruin in SCF, 4-0

    Best player: Lafleur scored 56 goals and 80 assists for a league-high 136 points.

    Motivating factor: The Canadiens were the best team in the league by a wide margin. However, the reason they played such dominant hockey was that head coach Scotty Bowman kept his foot on the gas pedal all season and demanded their best performance on an every-night basis. This team painted masterpieces nearly every time they stepped on the ice.

1. 1970-71 Boston Bruins

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    Why they were hyped: The Boston Bruins won the 1970 Stanley Cup and had one of the most brilliant offensive teams of all time. Bobby Orr, perhaps the greatest player in NHL history, was at the peak of his powers and was joined by Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Johnny Bucyk to give the Bruins an offense that was nearly unstoppable. It wasn't a matter of if the "Big, Bad Bruins" would win their second straight Stanley Cup, it was a matter of whether any opponent could even make them sweat. The Bruins averaged a remarkable 5.11 goals per game in '70-'71.

    Season record: 57-14-7, 121 points, won Presidents Trophy

    Playoff finish: Lost in first round; Defeated by Montreal Canadiens, 4-3

    Best player: Orr scored 37 goals and 102 assists, finishing second in scoring to Espositio, who had 76 goals and 76 assists.

    What went wrong: The Bruins had a first-round date with the aging Canadiens, and they were expected to punish their old rivals. After a 3-1 victory in the first game, the Bruins built a 5-1 lead in the second game.

    While the Bruins were laughing, joking and back-slapping, the Canadiens mounted a sensational comeback. They scored a late goal in the second period and five more in the third to shock the Bruins 7-5. The series was extended to a Game 7 and Montreal closed out the Bruins with a 4-2 victory at the Boston Garden. 

    The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and '72, but the team that failed to win in '71 may have been the most talented team of all. It certainly was the most hyped.

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