NHL: Why There's More Parity in Hockey Than in Any Other Major Sport

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14:  (L-R) Willie Mitchell #33, Dustin Brown #23, Mike Richards #10, Jeff Carter #77, Alec Martinez #27, Jarret Stoll #28 Brad Richardson #15 and Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Los Angeles Kings stand with the Stanley Cup during the rally in Staples Center after the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Victory Parade on June 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Hockey rewards teams that do it the right way.

In baseball, it seems the teams at the top usually stay there, while the teams at the bottom get stuck. Movement in the NBA is also difficult, with most teams stuck in hell while the elite teams battle it out for the championship every year.

If you think every team has a chance at winning the Super Bowl, you haven't been following the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions, two teams that have never even played for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, let alone won it.

But in the NHL it seems that if you build through the draft, make the right free-agent signings, pull the trigger on a couple of key trades and hire the right bench boss, you have a chance to skate around the ice in June with Lord Stanley's Cup.

Here's what you need to know. The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997, their first title since 1955. After they ended that long dry spell, they repeated their championship in '98. Since then, there have been no back-to-back championships in the NHL.

Eleven different teams have won the Stanley Cup in the last 14 years, with only the Wings and the New Jersey Devils winning more than once.

In the past three years, teams that had gone through miserably long dry spells or had never won the Cup found a way to break through.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings all had seemed cursed at various points in the last 25 years before they finally won. However, there was no curse involved. It was a series of outstanding management maneuvers that put each of those teams in a position to deliver championships.

In Chicago, the Blackhawks planted the seeds for the title when they drafted future stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Both were rookies in the 2007-08 season. While the team started to improve, management was not fully happy with the team's execution under former Hawk legend Denis Savard.

They made the unpopular move of firing Savard in 2008-09 and bringing in Joel Quenneville to get the most out of their players.

Quenneville was more efficient and demanding than Savard, and turned the Hawks into consistent winners. They ended a 49-year slump when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and won the Cup.

The Bruins had not won the Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr was in full flight in 1972. After the 2004-05 lockout, they were clearly a mediocre operation. However, after Peter Chiarelli was hired as general manager in 2006, good things started to happen for the Bruins.

Chiarelli signed free-agent defenseman Zdeno Chara to anchor the defense in 2006, and he picked Claude Julien to coach the team in 2007. The Bruins also discovered that they had a world-class goalie in Tim Thomas.

Chiarelli continued to tinker with the club by adding talented role players, and the Bruins shocked the hockey world by winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

Last year, the Los Angeles Kings were languishing at the start, and Dean Lombardi decided that head coach Terry Murray was not getting the job done. So he brought in hard-edged Darryl Sutter. The move worked, and the Kings played with discipline.

Lombardi knew the team needed more scoring and he brought in explosive Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the trade deadline.

That last move turned out to be the key one as the Kings, led by Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown, rolled through the playoffs and won the first Stanley Cup in their history.

Teams like the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have not won in recent years, but all appear to be good enough to bring the cup home in the foreseeable future.

In the NHL, it's an open competition that other sports wish they could claim.