It used to be easier to define an NHL dynasty. If an organization won four or more Stanley Cups over a five to seven year span, or better yet, if they were able to win three or more consecutive championships, there was no debate. Based on that criteria, the Toronto Maple Leafs (40s & 60s), Detroit Red Wings (50s), Montreal Canadiens (50s & 70s), New York Islanders (80s), and Edmonton Oilers (80s) are five qualifying clubs.
However, times have changed.
Since the early 1990s, no clubs have been able to grab Stanley Cups at this rate. League-wide parity, free agency, the salary cap, and an increase in the number of teams have mothballed ‘old time’ dynasties. Applying some new criteria leads me to believe that yes, dynasties still do exist, just not in the way we have thought of them in the past.
New guidelines should see observers measure teams in the following way. Teams that win either combination of three titles in five to seven years, or four or more Stanley Cups in ten years should qualify as dynasties.
Using that basis, I would argue that the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils qualify as dynasties since the 1991 season to the present.
The Red Wings won three cups in a six-year stretch and boasted one of the more talented rosters in the past thirty years led by their captain, Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings also added a fourth championship in 2008, although Scotty Bowman no longer coached the club, and much of the team had changed.
The only other team to meet these new criteria is the New Jersey Devils.
Between 1995 and 2003, the Devils won 3 championships as well as making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2001. Their defense-first style did not endear them to all fans but they were a dominant team in that particular period. While their case as dynasty might be slightly weaker than the Red Wings, I think they are a modern version of an NHL dynasty.
Teams that came close but did not win enough are the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche.
Pittsburgh, led by Mario Lemieux, repeated in 1991 and 1992, and then won a third championship, however that came 17 years later. Colorado won two championships in six years with a somewhat similar cast of players. But winning two championships only is not enough to qualify as a dynasty in any period.
Finally, based on the modified criteria, only the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, or Chicago Blackhawks have a bona fide chance of being the next NHL dynasty.
All of these teams have relatively youthful team cores and may be able to do it. NHL fans will have their answer in the coming seasons and it will be a lot of fun seeing them challenge for more Stanley Cups.