Why I want to see a Modern Day Dynasty NHL Team

Cover Photo by: USATSI

WOAH WOAH WOAH, put down the pitchforks and torches! I know I may have struck a nerve (I’m looking at you, San Jose Sharks fans), but hear me out. In the 97 years that the NHL has been around, there have been many legendary teams. However only few get the elusive status of “Dynasty Team”.

What is a Dynasty Team though?

“A sports dynasty is a team that dominates their sport league for an extraordinary length of time.” – Wikipedia

Well that doesn’t really give us a definitive answer. “Which end is the hockey net in?” “On the ice.” “Thanks…” For the purpose of this article, I will create a quick definition that gives us more of a precise answer.

To start, which NHL teams have achieved this status?

  • original Ottawa Senators of 1920–27 (4 championships in 8 years) 1920, 1921, 1923, 1927
  • Toronto Maple Leafs of 1947–51 (4 championships in 5 years) 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951
  • Detroit Red Wings of 1950–55 (4 championships in 6 years) 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955
  • Montreal Canadiens of 1956–60 (5 consecutive championships)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs of 1962–64 (3 consecutive championships)
  • Montreal Canadiens of 1965–69 (4 championships in 5 years) 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969
  • Montreal Canadiens of 1976–79 (4 consecutive championships)
  • New York Islanders of 1980–83 (4 consecutive championships)
  • Edmonton Oilers of 1984–90 (5 championships in 7 years) 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990

For this article’s purpose I am going to stick with two definitions for a Dynasty Team: win a championship at least 3 years consecutively (as shown by the 1961-64 Toronto Maple Leafs), or win at least 50% of championships within 5 or more years (as shown by the original Ottawa Senators from 1919-27).

So why do I want to see a dynasty team happen again? I want to see players to yet again elevate the level of play that hockey is performed at. If certain players were to start putting up the numbers like they did in the 80s and 90s, other players in the league are going to need to keep up and do the same. Case and point is the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s Dynasty with Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, and Wayne Gretzky. This team annihilated records to the point that people state that they are unbreakable. Without a doubt, this was a very exciting generation of hockey.

Last season there was only one player to break 100 points, AKA the next Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby with 104 points. That’s nothing compared to the 1992-93 season, where 21 players achieved 100 or more points in a season. To add further to the ridiculousness that was the NHL in the 80s and the 90s, since the 2004-05 salary cap, there has only been 26 players1 to break 100 or more points. If you neglect the first two years after the salary cap (which I want to since it took a few years for the full effects of the salary cap to take place), there has only been 13 players to break 100 points.

Players Over 100 points since 1969 Graph
Click on the graph for larger resolution image.

There are a lot of strong coincidences to build on my point. The last year that the 1964-69 Montreal Canadiens dynasty won the cup is the year that Phil Esposito became the first NHL player to break the 100 point mark, and Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe finished the season with 100+ points. ­­­The 1975-79 Montreal Canadiens dynasty saw an increase in the amount of players breaking the 100 point mark. The dynasties of the 1980s saw a maintained level of players breaking the 100 point mark which created a lasting effect on the early 90s. When a dynasty team won the Stanley Cup between the years of 1969 and 1990, only 26 out of 129 players (close to 20%) were a part of the Stanley Cup winning dynasty team. This shows that a dynasty team really improves the compete level of the entire league, not just their own team. The farther that the NHL has gotten from the last dynasty, there is a diminishing amount of players breaking the 100 point barrier.

However a big thing to consider is that goaltending has evolved dramatically since when Wayne Gretzky played:

Than the goalies that Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have to face:

Despite that though, things can and will change. Back in the 80s and 90s, the prevalent stand-up style of goaltending was being exposed by players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Goalies didn’t just keel over and die and accept that they will always be annihilated by the NHL’s elite, they got better.

In the modern NHL, it doesn’t matter how much of an offensive powerhouse your team is, having an elite goaltender is essential to going deep in the playoffs. Additionally, last season the NHL had to reduce the size of pads to promote more goal scoring. Goalies are now the elite, the storylines from the playoffs revolve around the goaltenders because they are seen as the most essential part of the team, opposed to the history of hockey where the players were referred to as the heroes who carry the team. Now that the goaltenders have raised their game, I want to see the players rebound, raise their game, and break Gretzky’s records. The only way that this can be done is with a Dynasty Team.

Although those records set in that 1980s and 1990s era are supposedly unbreakable, I want to see them shattered. Why? It’s exciting to see these story lines develop throughout the year. Every year I’m always excited by hot starts by players because I want to see someone do something crazy, achieve the unachievable. My favourite player to pay attention to currently is Jaromir Jagr because he continues to be a beast and climb up the NHL All-Time records charts at the age of 42. It adds more depth to the sport when there are record breaking storylines.

For example, watch this video of Teemu Selanne breaking the rookie goal record to get a sense of what I am talking about:

The fan base went nuts for Teemu Selanne. He eventually went on 76 goals that year as a rookie. Even for a veteran player in his prime, achieving that number is near impossible for me to fathom. The last person to even get close to that since the salary cap was instated was Alexander Ovechkin with 65 goals back in 2007-08 NHL Season.

However a Dynasty Team is troublesome to achieve in the modern NHL. With the current “Salary Cap Era”, the teams in the NHL are much more balanced than they were in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I like the direction that the NHL has taken with the salary cap financially because it allows for teams to be more even and not outgunned by teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs who simply have money to burn. The Salary Cap allows teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning to pick up one of the most valuable players in the league and succeed, despite being ranked as one of the 2nd least valuable team in the NHL last year. The part that isn’t good about the salary cap is that it has made the league a little too balanced with only 7 different teams winning the Stanley Cup in the 9 years since the salary cap was introduced in 2005-2006 season. The NHL isn’t about being nice and fair to everyone, it’s supposed to be hockey performed at the professional level where someone can knock you out with a good fair hit and not get a penalty for it. The sport is aggressive in its nature, and I want it to stay that way.

Obviously the Salary Cap doesn’t automatically create different winners every year, it just makes having a really strong team more difficult. However teams are starting to get around the salary cap and dominating the league for extended amounts of time, and getting ever so much closer to the Dynasty Team that I desire. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have made top-to-bottom excellent teams with the limited resources that they hav available to them. To me, having a Dynasty Team in today’s salary cap era is much more impressive than any other time in the NHL’s history due to the restrictions that modern teams face financially.

Dynasty Teams are important to creating elite players due to the fact that it elevates the competitive level in the league. If every team kept on rotating who wins the Stanley Cup each year, players would not be pushed as hard to elevate their play. However when a team starts winning the Stanley Cup most years in a short amount of time, the whole league is going to improve to topple that juggernaut. This was clearly shown at the end of the 1970s, and all of the 80s. With the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, and Edmonton Oilers winning 14 out of the 15 Stanley cups from 1976 to 1990. Most of the other teams and players in the NHL were ferocious for their chance at the Stanley Cup, which showed in the fact that nearly 80% of players in the NHL broke the 100 point mark in those years which were not a part of any of those Dynasty teams.

As I stated earlier, there are two ways that an NHL team can be considered a Dynasty Team: win a championship at least 3 years consecutively, or win at least 50% of championships within 5 or more years. Currently, the two teams closest to being a Dynasty team are the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks, winning the cup in 2010 for the first time in 49 years and then again 3 years later in 2013, at the very least need to win the Stanley Cup this year to be considered a Dynasty Team. The Kings, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history in 2012 and for a second time in 2014, would need to at least win the Stanley Cup this year to be considered a dynasty team. These two teams have a lot in common: both have solid teams from top-to-bottom, both don’t have any once-in-a-generation players like Gretzky or Crosby (c’mon man, you just put those pitch forks away), and both reside in the highly competitive Western Conference. These teams both have the tools for success, and I believe one of them will get the job done. Although the changes in player output may not come as quickly as they did in the previous Dynasty Era, I do believe that the changes have already begun. Bring on the Dynasty Era of the 2010s.

1:  Martin St. Louis was on track to get 102-103 points in the lockout shortened season of 2012-13

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