People underestimate or simply misunderstand dynasties. They think perhaps it is a culmination of good players on one team, working together year after year in their quest for their cup. Of course that is definitely part of it, but a good group of core players is just the beginning of it. The truth is, building a dynasty is the most difficult thing to do in sports.
Nowadays the definition of a dynasty has loosened, as it's just impossible for a team to win four or five Stanley Cups in a row in the cap system of the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings are about the closest anybody has come, as the Blackhawks have made it to five of the last seven Western Conference Finals, winning two Stanley Cups. This year, they have a chance to win their third championship since 2010. The Kings would've been a dangerous team had they squeaked into the postseason this year, having gone to the last three conference finals, and winning two of the last three cups.
The Red Wings are on an unbelievable streak of 24 straight playoff appearances, with four cups in there, but their dynasty is long gone, with their last championship coming in 2008.
It's so incredibly difficult to build an unbeatable force nowadays.
To build a dynasty is the most successful an organization can be in the world of sports. It's not immediate success. It's long term success. It combines the skill of the players with the prowess of the coach, the intelligence of the general manager and the decision making of a good owner, all combining perfectly to build a team that is built to find success year after year. Behind a dynasty are years of hard work, preparing, and failing, before an organization can look at the big picture and say "this is it." Here are the best dynasties in the history of the NHL.
15 Philadelphia Flyers, 1974-1975
Let’s break out the dynasty list with the Broad Street Bullies. Led by Bobby Clarke, the youngest player at the time to be named team captain, the Flyers broke out that following year from a mediocre expansion team to a force to be reckoned with. With Bernie Parent in nets, whose 47 wins proved to be an NHL record for 33 years, they would win their first Stanley Cup. Parent would also win the Conn Smythe that year, and the Flyers proved that even an expansion team could win a cup and contend.
The following year, led by the same core and the same hard hitting, nasty style that dubbed them the broadstreet bullies, Parent and the Flyers would win their second consecutive cup. Fred Shero was the Flyers coach the years they won, a big reason the Flyers found victory as well. The Flyers made it to the final for a third straight year in 1976, but were swept by the team that would build the NHL's next dynasty.
14 New Jersey Devils, 2000-2003
All Stanley Cup winning teams had great goaltending. The New Jersey Devils did not have great goaltending; they had exceptional goaltending, because Martin Brodeur was between the pipes for both Stanley Cups. With him in nets and Scott Stevens leading the way on the ice, the Devils would bring home two cups in four years (three in eight years if you want to throw in 1995).
Other star mentions would be Scott Gomez, a huge factor in their cup win in 2000. Patrick Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora would also be prominent members of this successful Devils team. But Martin Brodeur in those years was absolutely incomparable, and it would not have been the same outcome without him.
13 Los Angeles Kings, 2012-2014
Much like the Chicago Blackhawks, the L.A. Kings are a team that comes alive in the playoffs in a scary way. So much so that if they would have managed to squeak in as the eighth seed this year, a lot of people would have put them as favorite to win it all again. It’s because the L.A. Kings were built for the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have speed, big bodies that become increasingly more difficult to deal with as the games go on, they have skill up front and in the back, and they have an all-star goalie.
There’s definitely a lot of belief in the Kings dressing room that once they make the playoffs, they’re one of the hardest teams to beat. That was evident in their first Stanley Cup run, where they made minced meat out of their opponents, going on to beat the Devils for their first cup. Last year, they won their first three series in seven games, proving that they wear teams down in a long series.
12 Chicago Blackhawks, 2010-2013 ----
This generation of hockey fans sadly (or happily, depending on who you ask) have never seen the wonders of a team winning five straight cups. The Chicago Blackhawks are maybe the closest thing they’ll ever see to hockey dominance in the NHL for years to come. Winning two cups in the past five years, led by captain serious Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have become a team's nightmare in the playoffs. Filled with playoff experience, Chicago comes alive in the spring time and always prove to be one of the most difficult teams to beat. Even in the years they did lose, they never went away quietly. Down 3-0 in the opening round series against Vancouver in 2011, the Hawks clawed back to overtime of Game 7 before falling to the eventual 2011 finalist. Last year, Chicago was down 3-1 in the conference finals against L.A. and fought back to force Game 7 overtime again, before Alec Martinez ended hopes of a repeat.
Year after year, they’re somewhat of a favorite to win the cup. And although they may not have achieved everything in terms of being considered a dynasty, I think we’ll look back at this core of players and call them one of the best NHL teams in the 21st century in the NHL. Who knows when it will end?
11 Ottawa Senators, 1920-1927
We need to go back in time almost a century ago, when the NHL was at its mere beginnings as a professional sports league. Over this particular amount of time, the Senators of old managed to win four Stanley Cups in just eight years. Winning the league with just 38 points and going 19-5 on the season, the Senators, led by goalie Clint Benedict, would go on to win the cup that year.
The next few years were great for the Sens. They would win the cup the following year making it two in a row, then won in again in 1923 and 1927 to make that four cups in eight years. Of course, they were sold to St. Louis in 1935, only to be revived again in the 1990’s under the old Senators name. Still, this impressive Senators team makes up perhaps the first dynasty in the NHL’s storied history.
10 Colorado Avalanche, 1996-2001
The Colorado Avalanche were hard to beat when they were at their best. In their first year after being rebranded the Avalanche, and being moved from Quebec City to Denver, they would win the franchise's first cup. Led by Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, two future hall of famers, they also made a pivotal addition to their team that put them in the driver's seat for the next few years. That addition was Patrick Roy. Already a winner of two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, he was embarrassed after allowing nine goals on 26 shots without being pulled, and requested a trade immediately after.
He would head to Colorado and win another two cups. In 1997, 1999 and 2000, the Avs fell in the Western Conference Finals, to the Wings in 1997 and the Stars the other two times. The year 2001 showed Colorado’s true dominance in the NHL. Led by Joe Sakic with 118 points, they would clinch the President's Trophy on route to their second Stanley Cup. Ray Bourque was also a part of this team, with Sakic opting to give the veteran the cup first, a sign of respect for the veteran winning his first cup in his last NHL season.
9 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1947-1951
There was a time when the Toronto Maple Leafs, currently the most profitable team in the NHL, was actually a team that was powerful on the ice. They would form a great dynasty after World War II, winning four cups in five years under the leadership of the infamous Conn Smythe. What he did after 1946 after having missed the players, was simply rebuild. Of the 21 players on his roster, seven were traded or convinced to retire, and four were sent to the minors. It proved to be a good move from Smythe, who is still considered one of the league’s best GMs at the time.
When the rebuild began, Conn Smythe said himself “What we need is youth.” In their first Stanley Cup year, only four players on their roster passed their 30th birthdays. Led by the infamous and all time great Ted Kennedy, they would beat the Canadiens in six to claim the Stanley Cup, and that was only the beginning for the young Leafs.
8 Detroit Red Wings, 1997-2008
As we moved past the Oilers in the 80s and the Canadiens in pretty much every decade, we take a look at the Detroit Red Wings from 1996 and on. This is a team that represents what a more modern day dynasty would look like. In a league with so many more teams and the playoffs being that much harder, it’s quite impressive that the Detroit Red Wings managed to win four cups in 11 years. Their first cup in 1997 was their first in 42 years. They would win the next year as well, again led by Scotty Bowman and a strong group of core players.
They would go on to add Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to their rosters as well, leading to two more cups in ensuing years. Of course, they Red Wings have the longest streak in the NHL in terms of making the playoffs. With their superstars getting older, and Mike Babcock's future with the team still in question, there’s no saying how long that streak can last.
7 Detroit Red Wings, 1950-1955
The Red Wings at the time won four Stanley Cups in six years, led by Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. The first year was 1950. They played the Toronto Maple Leafs in the semi-final, where Howe went straight into the boards with his head after Ted Kennedy avoided his hit. The Red Wings would lose Howe for the rest of the season. Of course, this seemed to have riled up Detroit, as they would go on to win the series. Conn Smythe said this after the first game Howe was injured: “The Lord and 12 apostles couldn’t have kept the Red Wings under control tonight.” They would go on to beat the Rangers in Game 7, the first time the Stanley Cup final was decided in overtime of a seventh game.
The Red Wings would dominate for the years to come, with Gordie Howe, captain Ted Lindsey, and netminder Terry Sawchuk forming the core of the team that found so much success. In 1952, they won the cup by going undefeated in the playoffs, winning all eight games. This is where the octopus tradition (eight arms) was born. The Wings would then beat the Habs in 1954 and 1955, both seven-game series wins in the final.
In those six years, the Red Wings would finish first in the league every single time.
6 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1962-1967
"On Toronto ice, we look like we left our skates at home and came with our overshoes,” said Chicago coach Rudy Pilous, after Chicago went a dismal 0-3 north of the border in the in the 1962 Stanley Cup Final. It would prove to be the beginning of an excellent period for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who would go on to win four Stanley Cups in the next six years. Led by the captain George Armstrong and a strong group of core players, the Leafs would even win three consecutively, proving too much to handle after the Habs dominated in the late 50’s. They would win their last cup in that run under new owner Harold Ballard in 1967 in Game 6 against the favored Montreal Canadiens.
That is the last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. The next one doesn’t look like it's coming anytime soon.
5 Montreal Canadiens, 1965-1969
The Montreal Canadiens came back hungry in the mid 60s, anxious to return to the glory days where they won five straight cups and end the dynasty years of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Return they did, as Le Grand Club would go on to win four Stanley Cups in the next five years, adding to their already impressive collection. The wins included tough series wins over Chicago and Detroit in 1965 and 1966, before they lost in the '67 final to Toronto. They would storm back with two sweeps in the final over the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1968 and 1969.
In 1965, Jean Beliveau would be the first player to ever be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. It was Beliveau who perhaps described this dynasty team best.
"In the 1960s we had a very good team but we were not head and shoulders above the rest of the league as we had been in the 1950s,” said Beliveau. “The difference was that we had the very best coach (Toe Blake) in hockey and a man who could get the best out of his players at all times."
4 Montreal Canadiens, 1976-1979
Here’s another Monteal dynasty for you. Led by the legendary coach Scotty Bowman and iconic Habs netminder Ken Dryden after a year in retirement, this Montreal team would go on to win another four consecutive cups with the likes of Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt leading an unstoppable Montreal team. This era ended when Ken Dryden, Jacques Lemaire and Yvon Cournoyer all announced their retiremnts the summer after their last cup. In addition to that, Scotty Bowman left Montreal for the Sabres, as Buffalo offered him GM duties on top of being a coach. This would prove to be the last Habs dynasty, although they would go on to win two more Stanley Cups, the last one in the 1992-93 season.
3 New York Islanders, 1980 to 1983
Winning four cups in four years (and almost a fifth straight), this was a special New York Islanders team to say the least, and are still considered today one of the greatest core group of players on an NHL team. Just eight years after having entered the league as an expansion team, the Islanders were crowned Stanley Cup Champions. They would also be the first ever Americanteam to win four straight cups in the NHL. With the likes of Denis Potvin leading the team and the talent of Mike Bossy, the Islanders were simply unstoppable.
It started with an overtime cup winner in 1980 from Bob Nystrom. They would then blow away the North Stars, Canucks and Oilers in the next three finals. They made it to a fifth straight final, only to pass the torch, so to speak, to the next dynasty.
"This is a team with tremendous desire. If we keep that desire we will never lose the Cup,” said Mike Bossy.
2 Montreal Canadiens, 1956-1960
Five cups in five years. That’s what the Montreal Canadiens were in the latter half of the 50s; powerful, skilled, and completely unmatched on the ice. It was a time that changed the NHL rulebook. For one, it was during this time that the NHL decided that a player could come back on the ice after the opposing team scored on the power play. This decision comes as a direct consequence of the talent-filled Montreal Canadiens, who would quite often score more than once during a two-minute power play. During this five year period, Montreal incredibly never trailed in a playoff series, was never pushed to a Game 7, and finished every season with over 40 wins. It was a team that featured the Richard brothers, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Bernie Geoffrion and Jacques Plante. It is, to this day, the only time a team has ever won five straight cups.
In other words, it was sheer dominance for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. Today, these players are still together in spirit – their names hanging as banners on the rafters at the Bell Centre, forever legends in the city they played perhaps the best hockey we have ever seen.
1 Edmonton Oilers, 1984 to 1990
This may just be one of the most powerful teams to ever play the game of hockey. With the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier holding the reins, the Oilers would go on to win an astounding five cups in seven years. Now, of course the Canadiens managed five cups in five years, but the competition in the 1980s was much more fierce than the original six days, making the Oilers the best dynasty the NHL has ever seen. Who knows how many the Oilers could have won if Gretzky was never traded.
"We haven't won four or five in a row, but I would think we had the start of a dynasty,” said Paul Coffey in 1984. “If we continue to be dedicated, with the players and organization we have, there's no reason why we can't be a dynasty."
In my opinion, this is the last true dynasty the league has ever seen that was this dominant.