Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards battle
Every decade from the '40s to the '80s was topped by a three-peat (or better) Stanley Cup champion. But since 1990, we've seen just two repeat winners, both in the '90s. So it's time to redefine the term "dynasty" if we plan on bringing it into the 21st century.
A dynasty is defined as a family that stays in power. Recently, only the New Jersey Devils—with three Stanley Cups, five Finals and 20 playoffs in 22 years—and the Detroit Red Wings—with four Stanley Cups, six Finals and 22 consecutive playoffs—fit that description.
So what are the hallmarks of our new NHL dynasty?
- Staying power
- Multiple championships
New Jersey and Detroit’s constant strength flows from two common places, which is also how we'll choose our next dynasty:
- General manager continuity
- Late drafting prowess
Eventually, every dynasty dies. The Devils just lost two franchise players, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, in consecutive summers; the Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are aging with no obvious help in sight. A game of thrones is being fought right now to determine the next dynasty. Who will reign supreme for next few seasons...and beyond?
Of course, the Detroit Red Wings aren't on the cusp of a dynasty, they're trying to extend their current one. After 22 consecutive years in the playoffs and four Cups, however, Detroit's streak appears to be in danger sooner rather than later.
Franchise linchpins Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are on the wrong side of 30. Recent free agent signees Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson are no spring chickens either. There isn't obvious help emerging from the minors.
That said, Jimmy Howard has blossomed into one of the league's top puck-stoppers. And more importantly, Ken Holland, who has spun team fortunes since 1997 and consistently drafted well from the backend of the first round or later (to name a few, Datsyuk in Round 6 of 1998, Zetterberg in Round 7 in 1999, Kronwall in Round 1 of 2000 and Howard in Round 2 of 2003), is still in charge. Gustav Nyquist, drafted in Round 4 of 2008, may be prove to be the magician's next rabbit.
The Edmonton Oilers are the organization with perhaps the most talented young nucleus in the league (Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz), but they are on their third GM in five years. Craig MacTavish must prove himself adept at picking talent from outside of the lottery, especially as his young guns increase their pay grade.
Beyond talent, the Oilers need to learn to play all 200 feet of ice. It's too easy for young players to rely solely on their speed and skill, and Edmonton has certainly been guilty of that in recent seasons. New head coach Dallas Eakins can make his legacy if he can tame these stallions.
Whether promising Devan Dubnyk is the keeper to lead the Oilers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 is another question that must be answered, before we seriously consider Edmonton's candidacy as a new dynasty.
Helmed since 2010 by veteran GM Doug Armstrong, the St. Louis Blues have a young, proven core of defenders headed by stud Alex Pietrangelo and a well-rounded set of forwards who have learned how to play both sides of the ice from taskmaster Ken Hitchcock. Sophomore Vladimir Tarasenko may prove to be the sniper that they've been searching for to anchor an inconsistent offense.
Of all the teams ranked on this list that haven't won a Stanley Cup recently, the Blues are probably the closest to serious contention. Whether or not they can take advantage of their window of opportunity rests largely on the shoulders of their goaltending.
But St. Louis has been undone in consecutive playoff appearances by poor goaltending from Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, and they're hoping that Jake Allen can eventually lead this very solid, still young-enough squad on many playoff returns.
Looking ahead, Armstrong still has to prove his drafting mettle with the Blues, though he did discover gems like Jamie Benn, James Neal and Loui Eriksson as Dallas Stars GM.
Veteran GM Bryan Murray, who took over the Ottawa Senators in 2007, has built an intriguing, well-rounded squad around cornerstones Bobby Ryan and 2012 Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. Tantalizing young goalie Robin Lehner and center Mika Zibanejad may well take the leap as soon as next season. And to cap it off, star Jason Spezza is still enough in his prime to crest with this wave of youth for a number of years.
Early-round playoff fodder over the last two seasons, the Sens are poised to make some serious noise in the East right now.
Ottawa's candidacy to be the next NHL dynasty is largely due to Murray's shrewdness. The Detroit Red Wings, the NHL's reigning dynasty, owe the first teams of their ongoing 22-year postseason appearance streak to him. After discovering Chris Osgood and Darren McCarty for Detroit, he had a banner draft year for the Sens in 2009, plucking both Jakob Silfverberg and Lehner from the second round.
Murray does have to deal with Ryan and Spezza's unrestricted free agency in 2015. Will the organization's self-imposed budget and owner Eugene Melnyk's financial woes turn Ottawa's aspirations into a house of cards?
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the best centermen in the world, but going forward, the Pittsburgh Penguins have serious defensive and netminding concerns.
In Simon Despres, Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maataa, the Pens have a trio of strong defensive prospects, but the latter pair are probably years away from helping a Cup contender. Young star Kris Letang is surrounded by a rapidly-aging defensive unit.
Even more pressing is if Marc-Andre Fleury can return to his 2009 Cup-winning form. After three straight first-round flameouts, the former No. 1 pick is at a crossroads in his career as he nears unrestricted free agency in 2015.
Also, Ray Shero, despite occupying the GM's seat since 2006, has yet to make an impact late pick. Despres (Round 1 of 2008) and Beau Bennett (Round 1 of 2009) may change that soon.
The Crosby-Malkin duo should keep Pittsburgh competitive for the rest of the decade, but Shero has to draft more wisely to stay in the dynasty conversation.
All in their primes, Milan Lucic, Patric Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and recently-acquired Loui Eriksson form a superb, well-rounded set of forwards. In goal, Tuukka Rask, who has the potential to be the best goalie in the league, just signed an extension that'll keep him with the Boston Bruins until 2021.
Defensively, however, the Bruins have one urgent question that may define their next few years: Can inexperienced but skilled defenders Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton progressively take the load off aging stalwart Zdeno Chara without skipping a beat? Invariably, the successful marriage of young and old makes or breaks potential dynasties.
And while Peter Chiarelli hasn't had a late hit in a while, he certainly made an unforgettable GM debut by pulling both Lucic (Round 2) and Marchand (Round 3) in the same 2006 Draft. The 2011 Cup champions look locked and loaded to contend for the years to come.
The 2012 Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings are perhaps the most-balanced of the dynasty contenders with in their prime or younger forwards (Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown), defensemen (Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov) and goaltender (Jonathan Quick). Remarkably, everyone mentioned, except Kopitar, is locked up until at least 2019. Nonetheless, the Slovenian playmaker won't become an unrestricted free agent until 2016.
So with a little health (Richards's concussion history is of concern) and ingenuity filling support roles around these stars, Los Angeles is set up for a dynasty-making run.
Speaking of ingenuity, Dean Lombardi is the master of the second-round draft pick. Astonishingly, since Lombardi took over the Kings in 2006, his second-round picks have played 300-plus more NHL games than any other team's. A few of those choices include Wayne Simmonds (2007), Voynov (2008) and Tyler Toffoli (2010), who has been compared favorably to franchise goal-scoring leader, Luc Robitaille.
My choice for the next modern NHL dynasty, the Chicago Blackhawks impressively retooled around Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook from 2010 to 2013 Cup wins, despite having to swap out their starting goalie and entire bottom halves of their offense and defense.
Stan Bowman, GM since 2009, deserves all acclaim for building two different championship teams. Besides Ken Holland, no other GM on this list has had that experience. And with a banner draft year in 2011, uncovering both Brandon Saad (Round 2) and Andrew Shaw (Round 5), Bowman seems very able to keep the Hawks flying.
Toews and Kane are approaching unrestricted free agency together in 2015. While Bowman recently stated that both would play for Chicago "forever," there's no telling the cost and how that would affect the makeup of the rest of the roster. Also, older running mates Patrick Shaw and Marian Hossa may start to show their age sooner than later.
On defense, both Seabrook and Keith appear set to handle the blueline for the Blackhawks for a long time, but the organization will need a blue-chip defensive prospect soon. Though he owns a championship on his resume, goalie Corey Crawford's recent six-year extension was somewhat controversial.
The Los Angeles Kings may be better built in the long term at first glance, but I gave Chicago the edge because Bowman is one well-earned Cup ahead of Dean Lombardi.