NHL Dynasties: Which One Is The Best?

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IJune 29, 2008

According to many historians, their are five dynasties to ever be assembled in the NHL. These teams include the original Ottawa Senators (1903-06, 1920-23 Cup Champs), the 1950s Montreal Canadiens (1956-60 Cup Champs), the 1970s Montreal Canadiens (1976-79 Cup Champs), the 1980s New York Islanders (1980-83 Cup Champs) and the 1980s Edmonton Oilers (1984, '85, '87, '88, '90 Cup Champs).

The original Ottawa Senators were led by many interesting players, including Hall of Famers Clint Benedict, Sprague Cleghorn, King Clancy, Cy Denneny, Frank "One Eyed" McGee, Frank Nighbor, Art Ross, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor, and many others.

To have that many Hall of Famers in such a short period of existence is a big indication of just how good of a dynasty the Senators actually were. Perhaps their most famous Cup win came in 1905 against the Dawson City Nuggets. The series was to start in January, but the Nuggets actually left Dawson City on December 19, 1904 and travelled on a month-long journey by dog sled (Dawson to Whitehorse), ship (Skagway to Vancouver), and train (Whitehorse to Skagway, and Vancouver to Ottawa).

This took a lot out of them, but the Silver Seven refused to push back the series. Keeping this in mind, Ottawa won Game One by a 9-2 score, and later pummelled the Nuggets in game two, 23-2. Frank "One-eyed" McGee scored 14 goals in the final game.  The Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s were the first NHL-only team to have a true dynasty. They won a record five Stanley cups in a row, a record that now appears to be unbreakable. With the help of legendary coach Toe Blake and Hall of Famers Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, and Maurice Richard and his brother Henri, the Canadiens were the most dominant team in the '50s by a landslide.  The only relatively close Stanley Cup Final they had was in 1958, when the Boston Bruins took them to six games. Their run was ended by the Bobby Hull-led Chicago Blackhawks after Maurice Richard's retirement in 1960.  With already one dynasty in franchise history, the Montreal Canadiens of the late 1970's looked to add another. With the best goalie in the NHL in Ken Dryden, and the "big three'' on defence in Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard, the Montreal Canadiens were nearly impossible to score against.

Add that to forwards such as Guy Lafleur (100+ points in each Cup-winning season), Steve Shutt (most goals in a season by a left winger at the time), Jacques Lemaire (at least 20 goals in each of his 12 seasons), Bob Gainey (winner of four Franke J. Selke trophies), Yvan Cournoyer (fastest skater in the league), and many other greats, such as Doug Jarvis, Rejean Houle, and Pierre Bouchard and you can see why they were so dominant.  Their closest series during this span was also a 4-2 win against Don Cherry's Boston Bruins. They also defeated the Bruins the year prior. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers were sent down in the Habs' other Cup wins.  The Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the 1970s was followed the year after their last Cup win by the New York Islanders. With stars such as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Clark Gillies, Butch Goring, and role players such as Ken Morrow, Bob Nystrom and Bob Bourne leading the team, the Islanders were another unstoppable force in the mould of the Montreal Canadiens.  Their closest series was the first Cup they won, a series in which the Flyers took them to six games—and which, if not for the heroics of Bob Nystrom in overtime, would have gone seven.

Ironically, the Islanders' dynasty would be ended by the next one, as the Edmonton Oilers defeated them 4-1 in 1984. Out of all the dynasties to be assembled, there is no doubt that the Oilers had the most offensive power in NHL history.

The Oilers were saddled up with a player that definitely had the best career ever—Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky would end up with the most points in NHL history, leaving the game with more assists then anyone had points.

With the Great One centering the first line, and second all-time leading scorer Mike Messier centering the second, the Oilers were consistently putting up 400+ goals a season.

However, Messier and Gretzky didn't do all the work. On the Wings were Jarri Jurri (600 career goals) and Glenn Anderson (two goals shy of 500). They also possessed the best offensive defenseman in NHL history, Paul Coffey, who had over 1500 career points.  Perhaps the most important player on the team however was goaltender Grant Fuhr. He consistently put up with barrages of shots nightly, and although he never put up great stats, he saved the Oilers on numerous occasions. Also helping the cause were role players Kevin Lowe, Randy Gregg, Steve Smith, Dave Semenko, Esa Tikkanen, and Jeff Beukeboom.  Now, after looking at these dynasties, it's not hard to see why they were all so good. They all had numerous All-Stars, great goalies, and some of the best role players to ever play in the NHL.   However, to me, choosing the best dynasty is easy. The 1970s Montreal Canadiens seem like clear winners to me. They boasted a goalie with the highest winning percentage ever, and won seven Cups in nine years.

Their big three on defense are all Hall of Famers and were the most feared of all time. With forwards such as Guy Lafluer, Steve Shutt, and Yvan Cournoyer their offensive attack was unparalleled. They were the most balanced team in the history of the NHL, and will likely never be matched in the future.