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The STHS Era Franchise Rankings
(This post was last modified: 03-26-2020, 02:35 AM by JayWhy.)


During the time of STHS, we had 52 Challenge Cups played for and awarded to teams. Some were under auspicious circumstances, and I’m not even looking at Hamilton when I say that. The early seasons of the league were often the wild west in many ways, with no background checks on league employees basically as live simming wasn’t yet introduced until, I believe, S9. There was no guarantee the information you received was accurate and nobody had spent a couple hours simming to get their desired result, reloading until the result looked good. Or that they hadn’t changed things in your lines to confirm.

I say all this to explain that this is an imperfect ranking. We have teams from expansions throughout all different decades of the SHL. We did not specifically weigh that, though in our explanation of rank we will discuss it more so. Considering we did not weigh the factors of recency and limited opportunities for some, we did not weigh the factors of the original franchises and the time they come from. The SHL was a very strange place back then, and sometimes you just have to accept that it has grown since then, but we can never remove the history of the league.

In this, I am actively stealing from The Athletic. If you don’t subscribe, it is worth it to me. After the Super Bowl, they released a ranking of franchises in the “Super Bowl Era.” Their criteria for the scores they gave was fascinating to me, and so I took their criteria and applied to the SHL. The following is how points are accumulated:

Winning the Cup = 11 points
Losing in the Cup Finals = 5 points
Losing in the Conference Finals = 3 points
Making the Playoffs = 1 point

This led to a lot of interesting information about the amount of times a team made the playoffs in their franchise history and what they’ve done since getting there. I’ll delve deeper into that subject when I’m discussing placement of teams. However, you can see this is going to favor those who have won, and is going to favor longevity in many ways. This is the unfortunate side effect. Keep in mind that as time rolls on in FHM, we will see a drastic change to this list.

I do want to preface as well with congratulating every team as we have no teams, even including expansion, with a goose egg. It would be incredible if we had, but thankfully Chicago has turned it on and gotten themselves some space. Without further ado, let’s get into the list going from bottom to top.

Playoff years:
3 || Conference Finals Losses: 0 || Challenge Cup Losses: 0 || Challenge Cup Wins: 0

Our first entry on the list is a new expansion team in Chicago. They opted for the slow and steady path out of the gate from their expansion draft, and have slowly grown their base and developed into a contender status. Now primed for action, they’re going to be a highly dangerous team moving forward. However, in this exercise of looking back, they’re just not quite up to everybody else. It’ll happen, they’re new. At this point, they’ve made the playoffs in back-to-back years after initially making it in S47. All three of their trips to the playoffs they met the Manhattan Rage, coming out on top once but not advancing to the Conference Finals, and losing in 7 games twice in the Conference Semi-Finals. They are on their way, and in the meantime have developed a hated rival in the process for their fans to latch on to.

Playoff years:
7 || Conference Finals Losses: 0 || Challenge Cup Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Wins: 0

In what I would amount as an upset, the franchise of the Pride/Admirals comes second to last. They’ve had a fascinating journey as in 28 seasons of play they have only made the playoffs 7 total times! This franchise has had a lot go wrong in their past, having waited 9 seasons from their creation to make the playoffs, making it 3 times in 5 seasons and then waiting another 8 seasons to make it back. They’ve now made the playoffs four times in six seasons and ended the STHS Era with a run to the Challenge Cup Finals – their third trip as a franchise – and losing to the Manhattan Rage, the same team they lost to in their first time making the Finals. This team is one of the more interesting to study in terms of playoff appearances, as with their low total, they’ve managed to make the Cup Finals nearly half of the time they make the playoffs, and never pass the first round the other half. The team appears on an upswing with hotshot prospect Bo Kane entering the fold and primed to take off in FHM, but only time will tell how this franchise continues in these rankings.

Playoff years:
7 || Conference Finals Losses: 4 || Challenge Cup Losses: 1 || Challenge Cup Wins: 0

The surprise expansion team that has surpassed a rival from S25. New Orleans entered the league 21 seasons after San Francisco, only 7 seasons ago in S46. They immediately took off, and have yet to find themselves out of the playoffs in any given season. This team has set themselves up for high expectations, having made the Challenge Cup Finals in their first season, however have yet to make it there again after losing to the Buffalo Stampede. They went through a couple of seasons of losing in the first round before lately rattling off Conference Finals appearances in four of the last five seasons. New Orleans is led by an aggressive general manager in Joe Kortesi who never took no for an answer and made his way up the rankings immediately. Had San Francisco snagged a Cup, he would’ve fallen to 15, but to make it to 14 in just 7 seasons is a major accomplishment and with the team’s build you could expect only more success for this fast rising franchise.

Playoff years:
14 || Conference Finals Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Losses: 0 || Challenge Cup Wins: 2

One of two teams with a perfect record in the Challenge Cup Finals, the Buffalo Stampede had a natural progression to their now seemingly permanent perch atop the league. Coming in alongside San Francisco, they have had double the playoff appearances. They went 8 seasons initially without a berth in the playoffs before making it for four straight first round exits, took three seasons off and had another three season stretch. After another two down years, the Stampede made it back in S46 and won the Cup, doing it again in S48. Since their appearance in S46, they have yet to miss the playoffs, on a spectacular seven season streak matching the New Orleans Specters entire time in the SHL. This team is one you never want to find yourself on the other side of in the Finals and has been built to last with a steady stream of new talent coming in frequently thanks to the fantastic work of the management group there.

Playoff years:
27 || Conference Finals Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Losses: 4 || Challenge Cup Wins: 2

A team who’s expansion was long ago and far, far away, Los Angeles came to the league in S5 and immediately brought in some of the top free agents and made trades for some of the biggest and brightest stars in the league. Thanks to that, they came to win the Challenge Cup Championship in just their second year in the league. They made it back and won again in S17 under Niclas Wastlund, who recently announced his retirement from the general manager position. Since S17 however, the team has found themselves in long droughts, with a 7 season stretch of not making the playoffs from S25 to S32. They have made it to the Finals again, but have yet to take home the gold again and hold the longest current drought in the league, though barely. The most impressive thing with Los Angeles is that it took until S33 for them to have their first loss in the Conference FInals. They either went to the Challenge Cup Finals or were bounced in the first round. It’s an impressive streak which I don’t think we’ll see repeated, but with only three losses in the Conference Finals all-time in their 47 year history, they show that when they have the team to make it – they usually do.

Playoff years:
30 || Conference Finals Losses: 9 || Challenge Cup Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Wins: 1

Speaking of long Cup droughts, the Tampa Bay Barracuda are a team that has encountered many face lifts in their franchise history, and only had one successful run in S18 winning the Challenge Cup as the Seattle Riot. This places them exactly one season away from the longest drought. The Barracuda are fascinating in that they’ve been bounced around from place to place in spite of being one of the original four teams. They started as the Wisconsin Monarchs, became the Vancouver Ice Wolves, had a modest rebrand to the Vancouver Nightmare before moving to Las Vegas for an extended period of time as the Kings then finally resting – so we thought – in Seattle where they were for nearly 30 seasons before making a sudden jump across the continent to Tampa Bay. The team has been oftentimes a difficult one to cheer for, and one that people often struggle to remember where they even came from. Ultimately, with four Finals appearances and only one win, they haven’t had anything all too spectacular, but as could be expected they make it just above Los Angeles thanks to playoff appearances and number of Conference Final appearances, in spite of their losses there.

Playoff years:
34 || Conference Finals Losses: 10 || Challenge Cup Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Wins: 1

Often the butt of the joke, Toronto struggled at first to even win a playoff round. It took them 7 seasons to win their first playoff series, 15 to make it to the Challenge Cup Finals. The original franchise had such trouble in the post-season, it took them until S35 to even win their first, and only, Challenge Cup. The team has a history of failure when the stakes are highest, having only made the conference finals even 14 times in 52 seasons. Of the original franchises, they best only the Tampa Bay franchise in Conference Finals appearances and have reached the Challenge Cup an exact same amount of times with the same record. They made the Finals in back-to-back seasons in S15 and S16, then made it in S35 and S37, and are yet to make it back since. The team has comitted to rebuilding and working back to the promised land, and if they make it in the span of S55 to S57 it would continue their trend of making the Finals every 20 seasons, however the odds seem thinner than ever.

Playoff years:
25 || Conference Finals Losses: 7 || Challenge Cup Losses: 0 || Challenge Cup Wins: 4

Tying the North Stars in points, the Renegades get the edge thanks to Challenge Cup victories. Joining the league in S10, the Renegades are considered one of the more recent expansions. They joined alongside the then Hartford Hydras, who became the New England Wolfpack. Immediately aggressive out of the draft, Texas was similar to New Orleans now as they garnered success through an aging veteran leading them in Elias Armia and drawing in high end talent immediately. They made the playoffs in 7 of their first 8 seasons and won the Challenge Cup once in that time, then had 2 seasons missing before back-to-back Challenge Cup wins in S20 and S21. It took them until S36 to win again, and having not made the Finals in the S40s broke a streak of winning a Cup in each decade of their franchise history. Now the club is on the rebound a bit, rebuilding like Toronto as well, but at least boasts four Cup wins in 42 seasons and perhaps most spectacular is that they tie Buffalo for the best winning percentage with an undefeated record in the Challenge Cup finals. When they make it there, they’re hard to best.

Playoff years:
23 || Conference Finals Losses: 8 || Challenge Cup Losses: 2 || Challenge Cup Wins: 4

The latest Challenge Cup Champions settle in at #8. A franchise which entered in the S2 expansion, they were often a struggling team and among teams in the league prior to the S25 expansion have the fewest playoff appearances. However, when making the playoffs they have done something with it, making the Conference Finals 14 times out of their 23, the Cup Finals 6 times and winning 4 times. It took until their 20th season to win their first Challenge Cup, but since the S22 win they’ve only lost in the Finals once and won again in S34, S38 and S52. The Rage have been consistent contenders recently, with four of their conference final appearances happening in the last seven seasons. Prior to their Cup victory, they were in the mix of Texas and Toronto, but now have reached into a new tier with the next couple of teams on the list.

Playoff years:
24 || Conference Finals Losses: 5 || Challenge Cup Losses: 4 || Challenge Cup Wins: 4

The Wolfpack entered the league alongside the Renegades in S10 as the Hartford Hydra, and had arguably the worst start in league history with a 5-44-1 record in their first season. From there, it has been nothing but an upward trajectory, bypassing their expansion rivals in Texas over time. After missing the playoffs for four straight seasons to start, they had a stretch of 10 straight seasons with earning a bid, making the Conference Finals 3 times, the Challenge Cup Finals twice and winning the Cup for the first time in S23. After only making the playoffs once in six seasons, they made it back again with great success by winning the Cup three times in four seasons, doing a feat only done prior by the Edmonton Blizzard in S13, S15 and S16, ironically the team they beat in their back-to-back victory, and never done again after. Since then, the team has had ups and downs, never earning another victory but recently adding Rex Kirkby to the team in a bid to break that streak in the first season of the FHM era. The team is poised to be a contender for the foreseeable future, and should be expected to continue gaining points in these rankings consistently.

Playoff years:
29 || Conference Finals Losses: 10 || Challenge Cup Losses: 3 || Challenge Cup Wins: 3

The S5 expansion team alongside the Los Angeles Panthers, the Chiefs and Panthers both made aggressive plays to be competitive immediately and it paid off when they met in the S6 Challenge Cup Finals – going the way of the Panthers then. Minnesota, however, had a less troublesome path over time as they won two Challenge Cups in three seasons in S10 and S12, and in spite of a stretch of 8 seasons with only one playoff appearances – in which they made the Cup Finals – the Chiefs then had a stretch of 16 seasons without missing the playoffs, and had another run of 4 straight seasons following that. Minnesota has had struggles recently, but is a team that has had no trouble making the playoffs and excelling in them, and because of that have made it to an incredible sixth place on this ranking and should be expected to continue to rise as their group comes of age and starts to challenge again.

Playoff years:
37 || Conference Finals Losses: 7 || Challenge Cup Losses: 8 || Challenge Cup Wins: 4

The S51 Challenge Cup Champions have never been without controversy, having been led by Mikeorfei and Daco early on. They frequently had rivalries throughout the league with teams like Toronto, Manhattan, Minnesota, Edmonton and were a lightning rod in the league. That is to say what’s happened lately with them being mired in the league’s anger isn’t exactly abnormal. No matter what has happened recently, the team has won four Challenge Cups and has historically been one of the most competitive teams in the league. As an original franchise, the team has been to the playoffs the second most of any team – tying West Kendall. They also tie West Kendall for the most losses in the Challenge Cup Finals. The team is one of the most successful ever, and is on the upswing now into another extremely successful period of their franchise’s history as their team continues to develop. It should be expected to see them continue to rise in the rankings and join the next two on the list soon.

Playoff years:
37 || Conference Finals Losses: 7 || Challenge Cup Losses: 8 || Challenge Cup Wins: 5

Toonza! It’s been a cheer since the beginning, and while it’s a confusing one that no one really understood, it’s one that has been catchy at the very least. The Platoon are oddly located, in a suburb of Miami, but somewhere that has an aura to it that has driven a connection for players of the past who often demand it not to be changed. The Platoon tie the Edmonton Blizzard for the most Challenge Cup appearances with 13, but have only won 5 times in those trips. They also tie Hamilton for the second most playoff appearances. The team has faced a lot of turmoil, with history not always on their side and a lot of controversial headlines making their way through the league. However, they’ve worked through it well. The biggest detriment for the team would be that after winning the Challenge Cup in S2 and S5 it took until S41 for them to win it again at which point they won it three times in the decade, with S43 and S47 victories as well. They’re currently working through what appears to be a retool, but are historically a team that you can’t count out with JR95 as the general manager.

Playoff years:
34 || Conference Finals Losses: 11 || Challenge Cup Losses: 4 || Challenge Cup Wins: 6

What some may refer to as THE original franchise, the Jets were led by Leafs4Ever for the first 30 seasons of their history and had won the first ever Challenge Cup. They are the only team with a Challenge Cup win in every decade of the SHL, meaning they have a lot to work toward in the S50s. The team has the second most Challenge Cup victories all-time, and the most Conference Finals losses with their 11. They tie the Edmonton Blizzard for the most appearances in the Conference FInals, and are undoubtedly one of the best teams in league history. Beyond their success here, their impact is unheard of with award voting as Leafs4Ever has two awards named after him, the Ron Mexico, John McBride, Sergei Karpotsov and Jay McDonald Trophies are after legendary Jets players. In terms of history, very few teams have anything similar to what Winnipeg does which is why they rank third -- as well as their one more Challenge Cup win over West Kendall.

Playoff years:
35 || Conference Finals Losses: 8 || Challenge Cup Losses: 5 || Challenge Cup Wins: 8

Ah, my first true love. It may be a conflict of interest there, but it’s also something that I’ve never hidden having won three Challenge Cups here and been a part of a fourth. The Edmonton Blizzard are arguably the premiere franchise in SHL history. A S2 expansion founded by the aforementioned Jay McDonald, the team had controversial Challenge Cup victories in S3 and S4 before being handed off to the highly controversial Seth. Seth proceeded to take the then Edmonton Comets to the lowest of lows before a somewhat hostile takeover by Teztify who set the record for most Lance Uppercut Trophy victories, brought the team to becoming arguably the best dynasty in SHL history with three Cup wins in four seasons as mentioned earlier as well. The team had a rough stretch from S28 to S45, but with another Cup victory in S49 they found themselves passing the Calgary Dragons for the most Challenge Cup victories at the time. Their constant battle with their Albertan rival is never-ending however, and S50 they again fell behind and the STHS era ends with the two within just two points of each other.

Playoff years:
42 || Conference Finals Losses: 8 || Challenge Cup Losses: 4 || Challenge Cup Wins: 8

I am just going to remark on the most remarkable part of this – the Calgary Dragons are an original team and has existed for 52 seasons in STHS. In those 52 seasons, they have failed to make the playoffs only 10 times. Keep in mind, they only made the playoffs once in their first five seasons, and from S20 through S23 had four straight seasons of missing the playoffs. Since S24 they have only failed to make the playoffs in S34 and S45, a run so incredible it made me legitimately double back to check again. With their win in S50, Calgary tied Edmonton for the most Challenge Cup victories and giving Steelhead77 his sixth individual Cup win. The team is arguably the most successful in league history, and with just a two point difference show just how close this game of inches can be. The Calgary Dragons with this ranking system are the best franchise of the STHS era, and by the absolutely incredible numbers alone, I find it hard to dispute it. Congratulations to the Dragons.

And with that, we conclude our ranking. If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. This has been in the works since S51, but wanting to wait until the end of the STHS era and our entry into FHM6. To all the teams above, the best of luck to you going forward as we make our way in a very different realm of with the SHL.

Quote:Word Count: 3810 words.

I hope you enjoyed the ride like I did.

An old man's dream ended. A young man's vision of the future opened wide. Young men have visions, old men have dreams. But the place for old men to dream is beside the fire.
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amazing work brotha. here's to 50+ seasons of history

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What a great read and a very important thread as we move into a new era. Thanks for taking the time to do this @JayWhy

I've been STHS blessed to be apart of Calgary my career. Heart

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Love seeing articles like this!

Great work JY and much respect to all the franchises, especially Edmonton!


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Awesome read JY!

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this is amazing, well done JY!
I thought calgary would have this by a landslide, but glad to see the Albertan rival coming close.
S45 though. We snapped that skid big time haha.

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Great article, I even learned a few facts about the league history in there.

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