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NHL: Power Ranking the Top 10 Champions in Stanley Cup History

Brad KurtzbergContributor IJune 19, 2013

NHL: Power Ranking the Top 10 Champions in Stanley Cup History

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    With the Stanley Cup Final in full swing, it's time to take a look back at the top 10 champions in Stanley Cup history.

    Here are the ground rules for this list. First, no teams from the days before the NHL had exclusive control of the Stanley Cup. So, fans of the Montreal Maroons and Vancouver Millionaires are just out of luck.

    Also, I would only take one team from any given dynasty. It would be pointless to say that the best three teams on the list were all members of the Canadiens, who won five straight Stanley Cups from 1956-1960, or the Islanders, who won four straight from 1980-1983. I just took the best team from those dynasties and put them in the mix to prevent the list from getting redundant.

    Keep in mind that if I rank one team ahead of another, it doesn't mean I am ranking a particular dynasty ahead of another. I am simply ranking the most dominant single team within that dynasty.

    Feel free to comment on the list and say why a team should be on it or if you feel a particular team deserves to be higher (or lower) than where they were placed. Just indicate why you feel the way you do.

10. 1961 Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks were a deep and talented team when they won the Stanley Cup in 1961. It was their first title since 1938, and they wouldn't win another one until 2010.

    The Blackhawks beat the Red Wings in six games in the opening round of the playoffs before defeating the Canadiens in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

    Great players from those teams included Hall of Famers like goalie Glenn Hall, sniper Bobby Hull, defenseman Pierre Pilote and center Stan Mikita. Hull scored the game-winning goal in Game 1 while Mikita potted the clincher in Game 5.

    Hall registered a shutout in Game 6, a 3-0 win at Chicago Stadium. He played all 70 regular-season games and all 12 playoff games for Chicago that season.

    Other key players on this club included Bill Hay, Kenny Wharram, Eric Nesterenko and Moose Vasko.

9. 1963 Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs won three straight Stanley Cups from 1962-1964, and the best of these teams was the 1963 squad that finished in first place in the old six-team league.

    Toronto had a talented veteran roster that included Hall of Famers like Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Tim Horton and Dave Keon.

    The Maple Leafs also had some great role players like Eddie Shack, power-play specialist Billy Harris and penalty killer/defensive forward Ron Stewart. Defenseman Bob Baun was a physical player who was tough in his own zone.

    In goal, the Leafs were led by Johnny Bower, another Hall of Famer.

    The Maple Leafs also had some great coaches, assistant coach King Clancy and head coach Punch Imlach.

    Toronto had a relatively easy time of it in the playoffs, getting past the Red Wings in five games in the semifinals and the Canadiens in five games to win the Stanley Cup.

8. 1998 Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings won their second straight Stanley Cup in 1998 and remain the last team to repeat as champions in the NHL.

    The best regular-season team during this run actually came in 1995-96 when the Wings finished with 131 points in the regular season, but they failed to win the Cup that year and are not eligible for this list as a result.

    Detroit assembled a powerful team with great players like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Larry Murphy and Sergei Fedorov. The underrated Chris Osgood was between the pipes.

    The Red Wings swept the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final, but each of their first three playoff series went six games, so it wasn't an easy road to a title for the Wings.

    Still, the Wings proved themselves to be the best team in the league by beating Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas on their way to another championship.

7. 1994 New York Rangers

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    It had been 54 years since the New York Rangers had won the Stanley Cup, but that unprecedented slump ended in 1994 when Mark Messier and company beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their first championship since 1940.

    Mark Messier was the unquestioned leader of this team, and his "guarantee" helped the Rangers get past the Devils in an epic Eastern Conference Final series that went to double overtime in Game 7.

    Other great players on that team included Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mike Richter and Alexei Kovalev.

    The Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy that season but were still active at the trade deadline, dealing away future Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and high-scoring winger Tony Amonte for more size and grit. They added wingers Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan and center Craig MacTavish, and all of them played significant roles in the playoffs that season.

    Other key players on that team included Alexei Kovalev, Steve Larmer, Kevin Lowe, Sergei Zubov and Glenn Anderson.

    The Rangers won Game 7 in dramatic fashion, holding on for a 3-2 win over the gritty Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden.

6. 1972 Boston Bruins

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    The 1972 Boston Bruins were a dominant team that won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.

    The Bruins had the best record in the league that season with 119 points in 78 games, 10 games better than any other team that year.

    They also featured the league's top two scorers that season in Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. Espo led the league with 66 goals that season while Orr led the league with 80 assists.

    Other key players on these Bruins teams included Johnny Bucyk, Derek Sanderson, Wayne Cashman, Johnny "Pie" McKenzie, Ken Hodge and Dallas Smith.

    In net, the duo of Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers and Ed Johnston formed a formidable duo.

    This team had skill, size and a fun-loving personality.

    The Bruins blew past the Maple Leafs in five games in the opening round of the playoffs before sweeping the Blues in the semifinals. The Rangers lost the Final in six games, giving Boston another title.

5. 1955 Detroit Red Wings

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    The 1955 Detroit Red Wings won the last Stanley Cup in Detroit before 1997.

    This was a team featuring all-time greats like Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk.

    The Red Wings finished first that season with a 42-17-11 record and 95 points in 70 games. They edged out the Canadiens for the honor after Rocket Richard was suspended late in the season by league president Clarence Campbell.

    In the playoffs, the Wings swept Toronto before edging out the Canadiens in seven games.

    Lindsay and Howe each had record-setting performances in the final series. Lindsay scored four goals in Game 2 to become the first player in the history of the modern NHL to reach that mark in the final. Howe finished the series with a record 12 points with five goals and seven assists.

    It was the second straight championship for the Red Wings and their fourth in the past six years.

4. 1982 New York Islanders

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    The New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1983 and were one of the greatest teams ever assembled.

    Their best team of the four was the 1981-82 club, which finished with a league-best 118 points and a record of 54-16-10.

    Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith led the way for the Islanders. They also featured a strong supporting cast with Bobby Nystrom, Butch Goring, John Tonelli, Bob Bourne and Stefan Persson.

    Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour led the way, and the team was assembled by legendary GM Bill Torrey.

    The Isles nearly lost in the opening round of the playoffs, but a 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins in Game 5 saved the season. The Isles then beat the Rangers in six games and swept the Nordiques to advance to the final round, where they swept Vancouver in four straight games.

    It was all part of a record 19-series unbeaten streak for the Islanders that started in 1980 and didn't end until the 1984 finals against Edmonton.

3. 1984 Edmonton Oilers

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    The Edmonton Oilers won four Stanley Cups in five years between 1984 and 1988 with the most explosive offensive team in NHL history.

    This high-flying club featured Wayne Gretzky, the league's all-time leading scorer. That season, "The Great One" had 87 goals and 205 points to lead the league in scoring. Defenseman Paul Coffey was second in the league that year with 40 goals and 126 points.

    Other great players on those Edmonton clubs included Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe and the goaltending duo of Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog.

    The Oilers had the league's best record in 1983-84 and got past Winnipeg, Calgary and Minnesota to set up a rematch with the Islanders in the final round.

    Edmonton lost to the Islanders the previous season, but they beat the Isles in five games in the 1984 season, winning the last three games of the series by a combined score of 19-6. Messier won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for Glen Sather's club.

    The Oilers ended one dynasty that season and started another.

2. 1956 Montreal Canadiens

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    The Montreal Canadiens won a record five straight Stanley Cup titles between 1956 and 1960 to establish the longest and arguably greatest dynasty in NHL history.

    The best of those five teams was the first, the 1955-56 club that finished 45-15-10 for 100 points in just 70 regular-season games. The second-place Red Wings finished a distant second, 24 games behind Montreal.

    The Habs had three of the league's top four scorers that season with Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard and Bert Olmstead taking the honors. All three are in the Hall of Fame.

    Add Boom-Boom Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Tom Johnson and goalie Jacques Plante and you can see how loaded this team was.

    The Habs blew past the Rangers in five games in the semifinal before beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings in five games to win the Stanley Cup.

    They would win another four straight before their dynasty came to a close.

1. 1977 Montreal Canadiens

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    No team was more dominant than the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. That team went through an 80-game season losing only eight times, going 60-8-12 in the days before regular-season overtime.

    They outscored opponents 387-171 that season, finishing with the most goals scored and the fewest goals allowed. The next best team scored 64 fewer goals and the next best defensive team allowed 22 more.

    This was the second of four consecutive championships for this Montreal dynasty. Guy Lafleur led the league with 136 points and was second with 56 goals. The only player who scored more goals than Lafleur that season was teammate Steve Shutt with 60.

    Other Hall of Famers on this team included Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, goalie Ken Dryden and a trio of defensemen that were among the best of all-time: Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe.

    Peter Mahovlich, Doug Jarvis, Yvon Lambert and Pierre Bouchard were also major contributors to the Habs' success that season.

    The Canadiens continued their roll in the playoffs, going 12-2 in the postseason by sweeping St. Louis in the first round (19-4 goal differential), beating the Islanders in six games in the second round and sweeping the Bruins in the final (16-6 goal differential). Guy Lafleur won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    The Habs won again in 1978 and 1979 to win four straight championships.

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