NHL

After the Vegas Golden Knights: These Are the 7 Most Successful Expansion Teams Ever

The Las Vegas Golden Knights impressed everyone during the team’s 2017-18 inaugural season by finishing with a regular season record of 51-24-7 before dominating in the playoffs to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The Knight’s improbable run could top the list of the most successful expansion team in the history of professional sports.

This got us thinking about other expansion teams that shocked fans everywhere and enjoyed winning seasons early on. Here are seven teams from the four major sports that also had some remarkable runs.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1995
  • Super Bowl appearances: 2

The Carolina Panthers joined the NFL in 1995. That season the team lost its first five games but then won five of its next six finishing the year with a 7-9 record. The next season, the Panthers improved to a 12-4 record and earned a trip to the NFC Championship game. However, Carolina lost that game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers led by Brett Favre.

The Panthers 7-9 record is still the best for any NFL team in an inaugural season.

Next: This team joined the NFL the same year as Carolina. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars | Donald Miralle/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1995
  • Super Bowl appearances: 0

The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the league the same year as the Panthers but could only pull out a 4-12 record in the team’s first season. Year two though proved to be much better for the Jags as they went 9-7 and made it all the way to the AFC Championship game before falling to the New England Patriots.

That began a stretch of consecutive playoff appearances for Jacksonville over the next few seasons.

Next: The playoffs were canceled during this ballclub’s second season. 

Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1993
  • World Series appearances: 1

The Colorado Rockies didn’t do too well in year one with a record of 67-95 and in year two the playoffs were a no-go because of the MLB strike. Year three though was their year. The team finished with a 77-67 record and played in the 1995 NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.

The Rockies didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about after that until 2007 when the team put together a franchise record of 90 wins. The club clinched a playoff berth as a wild card before defeating the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks on the way to the World Series. The magical season ended then though as the Rockies were swept by the Boston Red Sox.

Next: This baseball team won it all after just a few years. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1998
  • World Series wins: 1

In the Arizona Diamondbacks inaugural season, the team finished with a 65-97 record. The following year though, the club won the NL West with a record of 100-62, which made the D-backs the only MLB expansion team to make the playoffs in its first two years. But Arizona lost to the New York Mets in the 1999 NLDS.

However, in 2001, the team again went to the postseason and defeated the New York Yankees in a thrilling World Series.

Next: This major league club won more than once. 

Florida Marlins

Florida Marlins players celebrate with the World Series Trophy after defeating the New York Yankees in game six of the Major League Baseball World Series on October 25, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Marlins won 2-0.
Florida Marlins players celebrate with the World Series Trophy in 2003. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1993
  • World Series wins: 2

Before a name change in 2011, the Miami Marlins were known as the Florida Marlins and a team that didn’t have much success its first few years in the league.

Things changed though in 1997 when the team went 92-70 and secured a playoff spot. After making it through the National League playoffs, the Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians in the World Series earning the club’s first championship. The team then had some down years, but in the 2003 offseason the organization made some blockbuster deals to try and get back to winning. Those moves paid off as the Marlins won another World Series Championship that year.

Next: This NBA team won the title three years after entering the league. 

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks flies through the air for a dunk.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks | Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1968-69
  • NBA Championships: 1

The Milwaukee Bucks struggled during the team’s first season in the league finishing with a woeful 27-55 record. But that all changed by the 1970-71 season when the Bucks, led by future Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known then as Lew Alcindor), marched through the playoffs to an NBA title.

Next: Before Vegas, this team had most successful inaugural season in the NHL.

Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers | Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
  • Inaugural season: 1993-94
  • Stanley Cup Finals appearances: 1

Until the Golden Knights came along, the Florida Panthers boasted the best-ever inaugural season record of all the NHL expansion teams. In the 1993-94 season, Florida finished 33-34-17 and were just a point shy of a playoff spot.

In its third season the team made the playoffs and went to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals after beating out the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins to do so. The Panthers lost the finals in four games to the Colorado Avalanche.