The Las Vegas Golden Knights did something few thought possible and became an established team in their first year. The Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017 and after winning their conference got to the Stanley Cup Finals, but fell short at the last hurdle. Their introduction came with a bang, and they might just be the greatest expansion team ever, even after one season, but are there others who deserve the same recognition?
The Diamondbacks didn’t have the immediate impact of the Golden Knights, but within their first three years, they won the World Series. Their first season ended with a losing record, but in their second, they made the playoffs, making them the only Major League Baseball expansion team to get there in two years. They lost to the Mets in their first playoff series, but in 2001 they took the World Series beating the New York Yankees.
There have been 11 teams to join the NFL since the ‘60s, but none have managed to taste success as quickly as the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars didn’t have a successful an inaugural season, but their second season was one to remember. They first started playing in the NFL in 1995 and had a losing record of 4-12 that season.
The following year they got things in order and managed to finish with a 9-7 record, even making an appearance at the AFC Championship game. Like the Golden Knights, they lost the championship game, but have established themselves in the league, winning their regional division in 2017.
There have been ten teams to join the NHL since it merged with the World Hockey Association and of them, only the Golden Knights made the playoffs within two seasons. The Florida Panthers ice hockey team had similar early success as Las Vegas, but took three years instead of one to get to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Although the Stanley Cup was just beyond their reach in 1996, the Panthers beat some of the league’s best teams, including the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Panthers haven’t made it to the second round of the playoffs since, and the Golden Knights will be hoping to sustain their early success, rather than go backward.
In 1995 the Carolina Panthers entered the NFL and performed miracles to come out with a respectable record. Most teams in their first year of operating are expected to lose most games, but try to make some games competitive. The Panthers did much more than just make up the numbers, they finished their first season with the best record for an expansion franchise in the league. Finishing with a losing record of 7-9, they showed the league they were no pushovers.
These teams have all exceeded expectations for expansion teams, but none have managed to do what the Golden Knights achieved. The Golden Knights will be hoping they can improve on last year and become Stanley Cup champions next season.