Ranking the Greatest Repeat Stanley Cup Champions in NHL History
The Original Six is a phrase that all hockey fans know and connote with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Of those Original Six teams, only the Canadiens, Leafs and Red Wings have ever won consecutive titles. The Blackhawks will try to join that group this season.
There have been 16 teams that have won the Stanley Cup two or more times in a row since 1918.
In this piece, we rank the eight best teams that have won back-to-back titles.
Note: Any team that won three consecutive titles or more is only counted once. For example, the New York Islanders team that won four straight titles between 1980 and 1983 is looked at as one team, and we subjectively picked the two best back-to-back years in that period.
8. Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)
Winning back-to-back titles cannot be minimized, and there was nothing minimal about these two Red Wings teams.
Detroit swept its opponent in the Stanley Cup Final in both years. The Wings victimized the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997 and then the Washington Capitals in '98.
The Red Wings rolled to a 16-4 playoff record in '97 and were 16-6 the following year. The team was coached by hard-driving Scotty Bowman (a familiar theme in this piece), and once the Wings had a whiff of the title, there was no way they were going to let it slip through their grasp.
The Red Wings were led by a trio of superstars in Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom. However, the supporting cast that included Brendan Shanahan, Larry Murphy, Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood often came through in dramatic fashion.
While the Red Wings had a relatively easy time of it in the finals, the Colorado Avalanche pushed them to six games in the Western Conference Final in '97, while the Dallas Stars extended their series with Detroit to six games in the same series the following year.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (1974, 1975)
The Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years in 1974 and '75 and became the first expansion team to win the NHL championship.
The Flyers should be remembered as one of the NHL's greatest teams, but they are remembered as much for their thuggery and goon-like behavior as they are for their on-ice performance.
While the Flyers were a pugnacious lot that enjoyed dropping the gloves and laying down beatings, the team included skilled players like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish and goaltender Bernie Parent.
Parent won back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies in those two championship seasons. He was nearly heroic in the Flyers' six-game triumph over the legendary Big, Bad Boston Bruins in '74, while he was thoroughly professional in shutting down the high-scoring Buffalo Sabres in '75.
The '74 Flyers became part of Philadelphia sports lore. In the semifinal series, they defeated the New York Rangers in seven games and became the first expansion team to win a playoff series against an established team.
In the Stanley Cup Final, MacLeish tipped home the lone goal of the game and Parent made it stand up despite weathering a barrage of shots from Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the rest of the Bruins.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (1962, 1963)
The Toronto Maple Leafs won three straight Stanley Cups between 1962 and '64, and the '63 team was their best. That team finished in first place in the regular season, and neither of the other teams did. The 1962 team finished in second, while the '64 team finished third before capturing the Stanley Cup.
The 1963 team defeated the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the semifinal series before defeating the Detroit Red Wings in five games for the Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs were led by Dave Keon and Norm Ullman in that playoff year. Keon had seven goals and 12 points, while Ullman had four goals and 16 points.
Johnny Bower's play in net was the big difference-maker for the Leafs, as he gave up just 1.60 goals per game in the postseason.
In '62, the Leafs defeated the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks in back-to-back six-game triumphs. The Leafs put on an offensive show in those 12 games, scoring 40 goals.
Bob Pulford and George Armstrong each had seven goals, while Frank "Big M" Mahovlich had six goals. Defenseman Tim Horton had three goals and 13 assists to finish as the playoffs' second-leading scorer behind Chicago's Stan Mikita (21 points).
5. Montreal Canadiens (1956, 1957)
In the late 1950s and into 1960, the Montreal Canadiens rut together the longest-running dynasty in NHL history when they won five straight Stanley Cups.
It's hard to split hairs by picking out the best of the bunch. The 1955-56 team recorded a 45-15-10 record and was the best team in the league by a wide margin. The Detroit Red Wings finished second in the league with 76 points.
The Canadiens rolled past the New York Rangers in five games in the semifinals and did the same to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Canadiens had a treasure trove of talent, as they were led by Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard, Bert Olmstead, Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion and Doug Harvey.
The following year, the Canadiens finished second in the regular season to the Red Wings. However, they were once again in top form in the playoffs, as they defeated the Rangers in five games in the semifinals and the Boston Bruins in five in the Stanley Cup Final.
Geoffrion was magnificent in those playoffs, as he stole the spotlight from Richard and Beliveau by scoring 11 goals in 10 games. Jacques Plante backstopped the Canadiens to the title with his solid goaltending, as he had done the previous year.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (1991, 1992)
The 1991 and '92 Pittsburgh Penguins were an offensive juggernaut of a team that got hot at the right time and ran roughshod in the playoffs.
They were led by Mario Lemieux, who rivaled Wayne Gretzky as perhaps the most talented offensive player in the game's history. While Gretzky was healthy throughout his career and would run away with the league's all-time scoring records, Lemieux was not. A healthy Lemieux might have given him a run for his money.
When Lemieux was healthy, as he was in those two championship seasons, he was a sight to behold.
In 1991, the Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and Minnesota North Stars to win their first Stanley Cup. It took the Pens seven games to shake the pesky Devils in the first round, and they trailed the Bruins 2-0 after the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final. However, the series turned around in Pittsburgh, and the Pens won the next four games.
The Pens handled the North Stars in six games, with the final game of the series resulting in an 8-0 runaway at Minnesota that saw Lemieux score a goal and three assists.
Throughout that playoff run, Lemieux was unstoppable, scoring 16 goals and 44 points in 24 games.
The following year saw another offensive explosion by the Penguins. They defeated the Capitals, New York Rangers, Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks to win the title. It took Pittsburgh seven games to get through the opening round, and they were trailing the Rangers 2-1 after three games. They did not lose again in the rest of the playoffs, as they took the last three games from the Rangers and swept Boston and Chicago.
Lemieux led the way with 16 goals and 34 points, while teammate Kevin Stevens had 13 goals and 28 points.
Bob Johnson coached the 1991 team to the title, but he was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in the offseason, so Scotty Bowman took over as head coach for the 1991-92 team. Johnson died of brain cancer in November, 1991.
3. Edmonton Oilers (1987, 1988)
The Edmonton Oilers were a magnificent dynasty, winning back-to-back titles in 1984 and '85, then again in 1987 and '88. They also won a fifth title in seven years when they raised the Stanley Cup in 1990.
The Oilers were led by Wayne Gretzky in all but the 1990 triumph. The 1987 and '88 teams featured Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr in goal.
In 1987, the Oilers reeled off victories over the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Stanley Cup Final victory over the Flyers took seven games, and Kurri led the way with 15 goals, while Glenn Anderson was right behind with 14. Gretzky had five goals and 34 points.
In '88, the Oilers were dominant in rolling to wins over the Jets, Calgary Flames, Red Wings and Boston Bruins. The Oilers lost one game to the Jets and Red Wings while sweeping the Flames and Bruins.
Gretzky had 12 goals and 43 points, while Messier had 11 goals and 34 points. Kurri was also magnificent with 14 goals.
2. New York Islanders (1981, 1982)
While many would rate the Edmonton Oiler juggernaut teams that came directly after the New York Islanders dynasty as the superior team because of their overwhelming offensive talent, the edge goes to the Islanders because of their physicality and skill on the defensive end.
But make no mistake about it, the Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983 were a magnificent offensive team. Led by Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, John Tonelli and high-scoring defenseman Denis Potvin, these Islanders could win any type of game.
While the 1980 Stanley Cup may have been the most exciting because it was the team's first and it came against the archrival Philadelphia Flyers, this team reached full maturity in '81. The Islanders defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers, the New York Rangers and the Minnesota North Stars. They were led by Bossy, who had 17 goals and 35 points, while Trottier trailed close behind with 11 goals and 29 points.
Battling Billy Smith led all goaltenders that year with a 2.54 goals-against average, and he made key saves leading up to the Stanley Cup triumph.
The following year, the Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers, Quebec Nordiques and the Vancouver Canucks to win their third straight Stanley Cup.
After losing twice to the Pens and Rangers, the Isles swept the Nordiques and Canucks. Bossy scored 17 more playoff goals in '82, while speedy Bobby Bourne was second on the team with nine. Smith had a 2.52 GAA and one shutout.
1. Montreal Canadiens (1977, 1978)
The Montreal Canadiens reeled off four straight championships between 1976 and 1979, and this was almost certainly the greatest NHL team of all time.
The 1976 team is often looked at heroically because they took the Stanley Cup from the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Flyers. Many in the NHL's leadership, including commissioner Clarence Campbell, despised the Broad Street Bullies and were glad to see the Canadiens sweep them.
While that team was brilliant, the Canadiens were remarkable the following year. The 1977 Canadiens were 60-8-12, and their 132 points was 20 points better than the runner-up Flyers. The Canadiens swept the St. Louis Blues, beat the emerging New York Islanders in six games and then swept the Boston Bruins in the finals.
The following year, the Canadiens were nearly as good. They finished with a record of 59-10-11 for 129 points, 16 points better than the runner-up Bruins. Montreal beat the Detroit Red Wings in five games, swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and beat the Bruins in six games to win the Stanley Cup for the third straight time.
Scotty Bowman coached a magnificent team. They were led offensively by Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Steve Shutt and Yvan Cournoyer. Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard keyed the defense while Ken Dryden was in goal.
The four-year run by the Canadiens in the late 1970s was perhaps the best exhibition of hockey the game has ever seen.