Dynasties are extremely rare in today's NHL.
Following the Edmonton Oilers' historic run of five championships from 1984 through 1990, the closest thing we have seen to an NHL dynasty is the Detroit Red Wings' four titles from 1997 through 2008.
The creation of the salary cap after the 2004-05 lockout has played the biggest role in crushing the chances of the league ever seeing a real dynasty again. It prevents teams from keeping all of their players unless they accept outrageous discounts.
With salaries steadily increasing, general managers are unable to pay everyone fairly and keep championship teams intact, especially over a five to six-year period. As a result, there have been seven different champions in the eight years of the cap era.
One franchise that's starting to prove it is possible to build a dynasty, despite the limitations of the salary cap, is the Chicago Blackhawks, who captured their second Stanley Cup title in four years on Monday by defeating the Boston Bruins in six games.
Chicago's core group of players, highlighted by captain Jonathan Toews, 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane and No. 1 defenseman Duncan Keith, have played key roles in those victories.
These players and many of their teammates still have a lot of great years ahead of them. With the team having no major cap issues going forward and great depth, Chicago has a realistic chance of becoming what a salary cap usually prevents.
Let's look at a timeline of the draft picks, trades, free-agent signings and coaching decisions that helped turn the Blackhawks from a struggling Original Six franchise to a budding dynasty.
2002 NHL Draft: Blackhawks Select Franchise Cornerstone Duncan Keith
Every championship-caliber team needs a legitimate No. 1 defenseman who anchors the defense and brings a solid two-way game to the ice each night.
When the Blackhawks selected Duncan Keith in the second round with the 54th selection, they found a defenseman who would win a Norris Trophy (2010), play rock-solid defense every game, dominate in the playoffs and provide fantastic leadership.
Keith's offensive production and great performance in his own end were major reasons why Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010, when its goaltending was good but not great (one of two teams since 2000 to win the Cup with a GAA above 2.20). He should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but the award was given to Toews, who had 29 points in 22 games.
As an elite defenseman in the prime of his career, Keith is going to be a dominating presence on the Chicago blue line for many more years.
2003 NHL Draft: Chicago Bolsters its Defense with Two Excellent Picks
Chicago drafted another key part of its defense in 2003 with the selection of Brent Seabrook in the first round (14th overall). Seabrook is a top-tier blueliner, but rarely receives the same praise that defense partner Keith does.
This will likely change after 2013, because the 28-year-old defenseman was fantastic in the playoffs with three goals scored (including two overtime winners) and exceptional defensive play.
The Blackhawks also drafted Corey Crawford in the second round of the 2003 draft, and he has become the team's goaltender of the present and future. He went through a disappointing 2012 playoffs, highlighted by giving up some soft overtime goals in Round 1. But he bounced back brilliantly this season with a 16-7 record, then posted a 1.84 GAA and a .932 save percentage in the playoffs.
Chicago is often viewed as a high-powered offensive team because of its impressive talent and star power, but the success of this franchise is built from its defense. The 2002 and 2003 drafts laid the foundation for what has become a difficult team to score on.
2004 NHL Draft: Blackhawks Strike Out at No. 3 but Make Quality Late-Round Picks
Chicago did not choose wisely with the No. 3 pick in the 2004 draft with the selection of defenseman Cam Barker, who was taken after the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, respectively.
Barker failed to reach his potential with the Blackhawks and was traded to the Minnesota Wild during the 2009-10 season in a deal involving young defenseman Nick Leddy.
Chicago made up for its poor selection at No. 3 with two solid picks in the second round. It drafted center Dave Bolland with the 32nd pick and power forward Bryan Bickell at No. 41. Bolland played a significant role in the 2010 championship, with 16 points in 22 games. He also scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 on Monday with 59 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bickell was also a member of the 2010 team and played a huge part in the 2013 squad with 17 points in 23 games, ranking third on the team in scoring. He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but it would be surprising if Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman didn't make a strong effort to re-sign the gritty winger.
December 5, 2005: Chicago Hits a Home Run with Patrick Sharp Trade
The Blackhawks fleeced the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2005-06 season by acquiring winger Patrick Sharp and Eric Meloche in exchange for Matt Ellison and a 2006 third-round pick (which became Ryan White).
Sharp wasn't getting enough ice time on a strong Flyers roster that was loaded with offensive talent. In hindsight, this was a horrible move for the Flyers. They lost a top-six forward who plays his best when it matters most—and got no value in return.
The 31-year-old finished fourth on the Blackhawks in scoring during the playoffs with 16 points, including a postseason-leading 10 goals. He also tallied 22 points in 22 games in the team's 2010 championship run.
As a consistent 40-70 point performer who's signed for four more years, Sharp is going to be a key contributor to the Blackhawks' success for the foreseeable future.
2006 NHL Draft: Horrible Season Results in Arrival of "Captain Serious"
Chicago's transformation into a championship-caliber team started to gain steam at the 2006 NHL draft, where the team selected future captain and No. 1 center Jonathan Toews third overall.
Toews is the one player in the NHL who teams would be wise to start a franchise with, even more so than Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby. He's arguably the best two-way player in the game as a Frank J. Selke Trophy winner and is talented enough to score a point-per-game pace.
Despite struggling for most of this year's playoffs, Toews ended strongly with five points in the final three games of the Cup final against the Bruins—all Blackhawks wins. For his career, the 25-year-old center has tallied 64 points in 75 playoff games.
"He's a great player. He's played big in a lot of big games. He won the Conn Smythe our last playoffs and was awesome in that Olympic gold medal game and made some big plays tonight, a big goal, a big pass to Bickell to tie it up, and he’s just a competitor," Kane said after Game 6.
"That's really all you can say about Jonathan Toews is he's a competitor, and he leads the team in the right way, and we all follow."
Toews is well on his way to becoming one of the NHL's best players and greatest leaders of all-time. Similar to former Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers legend Mark Messier, Toews is a proven playoff performer and a spectacular captain.
2007 NHL Draft: Blackhawks Select Patrick Kane No. 1 Overall
The 2007 NHL draft was headlined by two ultra-talented American-born wingers—Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk. Chicago chose Kane with the top pick, and the Philadelphia Flyers selected JVR.
It's safe to say that the Original Six club made the right decision.
Kane has become one of the top 10 NHL players as an elite winger and is arguably the most talented and creative offensive star in the world. His combination of speed, scoring, vision, playmaking and ability to score important playoff goals is just unreal.
"Kaner has got high-end skill. He's dangerous with the puck, his anticipation without it offensively is high end," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville after Game 5 of the Cup final.
"I think reading off those guys in the offensive zone has been very effective for him. But guys that have that kind of innate skill of scoring and being a top player, they anticipate like the rest of us would like to."
He tallied 55 points in 47 games during the regular season and led the team in playoff scoring with 19 points, which helped earn him the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP. Kane now has 71 points in 74 career playoff games, including the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in 2010.
At only 24 years old, Kane hasn't even reached his full potential.
October 16, 2008: Veteran Head Coach Joel Quenneville Takes Over Team
The Blackhawks had five different head coaches from 2000 through 2008. Hiring bench boss Joel Quenneville has brought stability with a proven winner who has the respect of the veterans and is able to develop young talent.
Quenneville has a 222-106-44 record (46-29 in the playoffs) and two Stanley Cup titles as Chicago's head coach. His ability to make in-game adjustments and important changes each game during the playoffs makes him one of the top bench bosses in the NHL.
July 1, 2009: Blackhawks Sign Marian Hossa to 12-year Contract
The Blackhawks added one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle on the first day of free agency in 2009, when they signed veteran winger Marian Hossa to a monstrous 12-year, $63.3 million deal.
Chicago has greatly benefited from Hossa's clutch scoring in the postseason. The team was 6-0 in this year's playoffs when Hossa scored, and 12-1 when he tallied a point.
The 34-year-old forward added consistent top-six scoring, an impressive two-way game, leadership and reliable postseason play to the Blackhawks roster when he signed, which has resulted in two Stanley Cup titles.
With that said, his future with the club is uncertain because of his contract, which won't expire until he's in his 40s. The Blackhawks will want to keep Hossa, but it wouldn't be a shock if he was bought out this summer or next due to cap concerns.
2011 NHL Draft: Chicago Adds Important Depth After First Round
Building through the draft is the best way to develop a consistent winner in the salary-cap era, because with teams unable to spend whatever they want on player salaries, clubs must fill out their roster with young, inexpensive players.
The Blackhawks added valuable depth in the 2011 draft with the selections of Brandon Saad (second round, 43rd overall) and Andrew Shaw (fifth round, 139th overall)
On September 5, 2009, the Blackhawks traded a second-round pick in the 2010 draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs for second and third-round selections in the 2011 draft. This helped them be in a position to take Saad, who was a Calder Trophy finalist this season as a solid two-way player.
Saad and Shaw have given the Blackhawks important bottom-six depth with their scoring, grit and ability to excel on special teams. Both players made an impact in the Cup final, with Saad scoring in Game 1 and playing solid defense, while Shaw scored the winning goal in triple overtime of Game 1.
February 27, 2012: Blackhawks Acquire Johnny Oduya From Winnipeg
Finding a reliable puck-moving defenseman is a yearly goal for most general managers, and Bowman was able to find a good one in Johnny Oduya at last year's trade deadline. The price to acquire the veteran from the Winnipeg Jets was a second and third-round pick in this year's draft, which is a lot of value—but it's proven to be a good deal for Chicago.
Oduya has formed an impressive defense partnership with Niklas Hjalmarsson, and his scoring from the blue line was a valuable part of the team's success in the postseason. He scored a goal with two assists in the Cup final, including the primary helper on Bolland's Cup-winning goal in Game 6.
With a contract that will last for two more years at a team-friendly $3.83 million cap hit, Oduya will be an integral part of the Blackhawks' blue line as they defend their title.
Keeping the Team Intact
Luckily for the Blackhawks, they won't have to undergo a major roster overhaul following this Stanley Cup win. In 2010, salary-cap restrictions and some poor roster management resulted in the team trading several important players from that championship squad over the next two years.
Brian Campbell, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Antti Niemi headline the list of Blackhawks who played an enormous role on the 2010 team and have since become stars in other cities.
"I think nine or ten or 11 guys got moved, and the Blackhawks did a great job of drafting and filling in those holes" said Kane after Game 6. "You look at guys they drafted: Saad, Shaw, a big trade for Leddy who's going to be a big player in the future."
It took a few years to replace these players and replenish the team's depth, but Bowman has done a tremendous job making his late-round picks count, which is essential to building a perennial winner in the cap era—when most of a team's payroll is used up signing stars.
One part of the team that should remain intact for a long time is its core of franchise players, including Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook.
"I think there's something about our core," said Kane. "Hopefully we can stay together a long time, because that's two Cups in four years, and we seem to only be getting better and better as players as time goes on here."
The Blackhawks are set up for a period of sustained success which has the potential to eventually become a legitimate dynasty. If successful, they will provide a great model for winning championships in the cap era.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand.
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