Bad boys for life? New study shows NHL teams should rack up the penalty minutes

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91), head coach Jon Cooper, and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy after the team defeated the New York Rangers during Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Everyone knows that the two Florida-based National Hockey League teams have been able to have regular season and postseason success of late.

But did you know that it might be due to a strange factor?

Penalty minutes.

In a new study done by, the teams that have been nearer to the top of the league in penalty minutes– the bad boys”– have done better in the playoffs than ones that have been “nice guys”. 

Maybe bad boys do prosper ahead of nice guys.

While the teams near the top, including Tampa Bay, have been deep into the playoffs (three of the last four Stanley Cup finalists), the teams in the bottom nine of regular season penalty minutes won just one playoff series last year.

Here is an excerpt from the study:

Of the top 10 teams with the most penalty minutes, you find three of the last four Stanley Cup finalists, two of the four division winners, and a bunch of deep runs in the playoffs. While the 2022 Stanley Cup winner (and also Central Division winner) Colorado sat 12th last year, and Pacific Division winner Calgary sat 14th, both were 10 minutes or less behind 10th place Carolina.

Maybe the most interesting part of the data comes when you take a look at the teams that were at the bottom of the table, or the top of a table for least amount of penalty minutes. Of the four lowest teams, all of the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, and Washington Capitals made the playoffs, and all but the Blues lost in the first round. St. Louis then was defeated by Colorado.

The next five teams on the list all missed the playoffs completely: Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Vancouver, and New Jersey.

The findings are pretty clear: to win trophies in the NHL, you have to rack up the penalty minutes in the regular season.

The two Florida teams finished the 21-22 NHL year in the top five in accrued regular season penalty minutes, so it is no surprise that they both had very good years. Maybe the only shock is that Tampa swept the Panthers in the second round.

So if you want either Florida or Tampa Bay to once again make deep runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you should be hoping they rack up the penalties, as odd as that sounds.

“If you look at the data, it is pretty convincing,” a spokesperson for said. “It is interesting to see that the teams that made the deep runs over the last couple years are all near the top of the table for number of penalty minutes. 

“Maybe in the regular season, that might hurt a team in a specific game. But once you get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the referees let more stuff go that would be a penalty in the regular season, the teams that play more aggressively have done much better.

“Just look at Tampa Bay as a perfect example. The Lightning are the three-time finalists, have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, and sat second, only behind Nashville, in penalty minutes last year. The Panthers are right there, and the 2021 finalists Montreal are in the top six as well. 

“Maybe more importantly, only one team in the bottom nine for lowest minutes got past the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and five missed out completely. If you are looking for a team to make a run in the playoffs, the message is clear: look at their penalty minutes during the regular season.”


Nashville Predators1015
Tampa Bay Lightning879
Minnesota Wild862
Arizona Coyotes828
Florida Panthers 822
Montréal Canadiens814
Ottawa Senators808
Boston Bruins793
Anaheim Ducks745
Carolina Hurricanes730
Philadelphia Flyers725
Colorado Avalanche724
Detroit Red Wings721
Calgary Flames720
New York Islanders715
Winnipeg Jets708
San Jose Sharks703
Seattle Kraken686
Toronto Maple Leafs672
New York Rangers665
Buffalo Sabres653
Edmonton Oilers646
New Jersey Devils644
Vancouver Canucks639
Columbus Blue Jackets625
Los Angeles Kings623
Chicago Blackhawks622
Vegas Golden Knights616
Washington Capitals613
St. Louis Blues597
Pittsburgh Penguins556
Dallas Stars541