The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals has the looks of another classic series for the history of the sport. However, will either the Vancouver Canucks or Boston Bruins be able to join the ranks as one of the greatest teams to ever lace up the skates?
The salary cap era has certainly put a stop to dynasties and the stacking of talent on a single team. Gone are the days of the Islanders or Oilers of the 1980s, the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s and 1950s, and even the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 1990s.
Teams these days are lucky to have a handful of All-Stars, while teams back in the day had lines full of Hall of Famers.
The standards for greatest have certainly changed, and modern era teams certainly have trouble stacking up to these dynamos.
With so many impressive teams over the years, it was nearly impossible to pinpoint an order for the 50 Greatest Stanley Cup Champions of All Time, but I gave it a go.
I look forward to your feedback and discussing some of the great teams in the history of the NHL. Thanks for reading.
The third of five Stanley Cup Championships for the Edmonton Oilers of the '80s is never considered to be the most impressive of the bunch.
It may have taken the Edmonton Oilers seven games to dismantle the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the championship was impressive in its own right.
For starters, the third Cup came a season after their consecutive Championships streak was cut short at two. Despite that, Edmonton was able to collect itself and take get another run going.
Overcoming adversity is the sign of great team.
Detroit's Stanley Cup victory in 1937 marked history for hockey in the United States. The Cup made the Red Wings the first American-based team to win consecutive championships in league history.
The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs would go on to dominate the league during later decades, but Detroit had made its presence felt.
After their prolific early history, the Detroit Red Wings put themselves back on the map with their sweep of the Flyers in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals.
Scotty Bowman and company made the red Wings who they are today. Oh, and they created quite the rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche as well.
Even when the Edmonton Oilers were struggling to hold the roster together, the team came out on top with the Stanley Cup.
Without Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers rolled over the Boston Bruins in five games in the Finals.
The 1990 Stanley Cup was the fifth in seven years for the Oilers.
The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins team is one that may be remembered as a team that started something beautiful.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins has lost a year earlier to the Detroit Red Wings, but came back with a vengeance to capture the Cup the very next season.
Much of the team is still intact, and we could see Crosby and the gang make multiple runs at the Stanley Cup before his career is over.
This excellent version of the Detroit Red Wings came within a win of repeating this Stanley Cup the following season.
The current Detroit Red Wings are in a slight decline, but the 2008 Stanley Cup marked their height as a group.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens had won alternating Stanley Cups for three seasons heading into their meeting in the 1947 Stanley Cup Finals.
The first ever Stanley Cup meeting between the Leafs in the Canadiens resulted in Toronto on top. The Leafs' victory would allow them to take control of the decade and Eastern Canada bragging rights.
The 1928 New York Rangers were an average regular season team that rose to the occasion when it mattered most, capturing the Stanley Cup.
The roster that included six Hall of Famers surely marks one of the greatest in Rangers' history.
The 1929 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins defined old-time hockey.
With eight Hall of Famers, including Eddie Shore and Art Ross, the Bruins were able to bring the Stanley Cup to Boston for the first time in history.
Looking back in a few years will shed some light on just how stacked the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks were.
The Hawks could roll three lines with ease and had as much star power up front as they did on the backend.
Chicago was unable to keep the team together, but while it was assembled, that team was one of the best of the decade.
The Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup victory was monumental and still holds some ground today.
The championship is the last time a team has won back to back Stanley Cups and is also the most recent sweep of a Stanley Cup Finals.
Some tend to forget just how impressive those two clubs were in the mid to late '90s.
The game-winning goal is still argued to this day, but the Dallas Stars will always go down in history as the 1999 Stanley Cup Champions.
The Stars were anchored by shut-down defensemen Derian Hatcher and Sergei Zubov, along with stud goaltender Eddy Belfour, but Dallas had plenty of weapons up front.
Hall of Famer Brett Hull, who scored the game-winning goal, along with potential inductees Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jere Lehtinen made the Stars quite the potent offense.
Led by the gritty Lanny McDonald, the Calgary Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in the existence of the franchise.
The front office put together a roster that included McDonald, Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmore and Thoeren Fleury.
Some of them may have been on the tail end of fantastic careers, but the Flames pulled it together for one magical run.
In '74, the Flyers took the league by surprise.
Philly was a tough, physical team that wore down opponents game after game, culminating in an upset of the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Every year the Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the MVP of the postseason.
Smythe was one of the key pieces to the puzzle for the '32 Maple Leafs, who took their game to a new level in the postseason, setting the precedent for award winners for years to come.
Art Ross was not messing around when he put this roster together.
The '41 Boston Bruins were loaded with talent on the ice, including seven Hall of Famers, and had a Hall of Fame coach conducting the ship behind the bench.
To think, this isn't even the most talented Bruins team of all time.
The 1980 New York Islanders won the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
The Isles had help from the officials, who blew an offsides call in the Finals, but this is essentially the team that laid the groundwork for one of the best dynasties in sports history.
In 1949 the Toronto Maple Leafs won their third straight Stanley Cup and did so with their second consecutive sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Leafs became one of just two teams in the history of the league to win the Stanley Cup with a losing record, while also becoming the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups.
Very comparable to the Stanley Cup the Leafs won just a year later, the '48 Cup was supposed to be Gordie Howe's coming out party. Instead, the Maple Leafs shut him down to capture their second straight title.
The roster may not have been as prolific as some of the others on this list, but winning the way this team won warrants high praise.
Truthfully, the 2007 Anaheim Ducks could have been a lot higher on this list, and looking back in a decade may shed some light on just how great this team was.
In addition to two Hall of Fame defensemen, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, the Ducks had Teemu Selanne and a young rising Ryan Getzlaf, along with many other offensive weapons. The Pahlsson line served as the perfect shut-down line.
Anaheim lost just five games en route to the Stanley Cup.
Sometimes it's not all about a Hall of Fame happy roster, but rather the makeup of the team.
The '96 Avs had Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, but beyond that were just a team full of players that bought into a system to capture a ring.
A championship team does not take what the other team gives them, they take what they want.
The Pittsburgh Penguins of the early '90s are a perfect example. They couldn't play defense, but the Penguins were dominant enough on offense that they could dictate the pace of the game and take it to their opponents.
Having Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito says it all.
As if that wasn't enough, Hall of Fame coach Harry Sinden was behind the bench and Gerry Cheevers was in goal. Oh, Johny Bucyk was on the roster as well. Wow.
Mark Messier brought some of his old Oiler buddies with him to the Empire State to capture the Stanley Cup along with six or seven other potential Hall of Famers.
Messier was able to separate himself from Wayne Gretzky and still lead teams to championships.
The 1944 Stanley Cup Champions had Hall of Famers at every position, including Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and dominant backstop Bill Durnan.
This roster won two Stanley Cups in three seasons during the 1940s.
Many will argue that the 2000 Devils were the best team of the decade.
However, the team relied heavily on a system. They were certainly talented. Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski and Martin Brodeur could certainly attest to that fact, but the roster just doesn't stack up to some others on this list.
The most dominant team of the '50s, the Canadiens won the cup in '58 with a roster that included 11 Hall of Famers. Just the thought of that many Hall of Famers on one team is unheard of these days.
The Canadiens scored over 50 goals more than any other team in the league and allowed 30 fewer than any other club. Pure dominance.
The Broad Street Bullies were more than a bunch of grinders and fighters.
Bobby Clarke was the MVP of the NHL in'75 and Bernie Parent won the Vezina Trophy.
Philly's roster may not have been graced by a ton of Hall of Famers (they did have six), but they played a physical brand of hockey that nobody in the history has been able to match.
I mentioned it earlier in regards to the 1940-41 Boston Bruins, but this club embodied Old Time Hockey. Eddie Shore and Bill Cowley could intimidate an opponent just as easily as they could blow by them.
In addition to their impressive offense, the Bruins allowed an average of 1.56 goals per game.
Brace yourselves folks, a run on terrific Montreal Canadiens teams is about to begin.
The 1945-46 Canadien team was a more experienced version of the team that dominated the league in the 1944 playoffs.
Six Hall of Famers were a part of this club.
The 1924 Stanley Cup was Montreal's first ever.
Throughout the prolific playoff run, the Canadiens did not record a single loss.
Reading through the 1960 Montreal Canadiens' roster makes it easy to mistake it for a list of awards.
Richard (Henri) and Selke were equally effective for a team that defined a decade of excellence.
Many will argue that the '01 Avs were the best team of the decade, and those folks certainly have a case.
In addition to the Hall of Fame trifecta of Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, Colorado had Hall of Fame defensemen Rob Blake and Ray Bourque to add to their dominance.
It's somewhat shocking that this team didn't win more.
The Islanders of the early '80s may have been the most dominant team in the history of sports.
Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy struck fear into opponents in all three zones of the ice and displayed all of the characteristics of a champion: leadership, talent and guts.
This championship was the Oilers' last with Wayne Gretzky in the fold.
Edmonton failed to win the division but was able to ride Grant Fuhr along with five other Hall of Famers to capture their fourth Stanley Cup.
Once Gordie Howe finally broke through in postseason play in combination with Terry Sawchuk's outstanding play in net, the Detroit Red Wings were one hell of a tough out in the playoffs.
They simply wore teams down physically and mentally.
The last decade in which the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup included multiple championships for Ontario's team.
The Leafs were the best team in the NHL throughout the regular season and made quick work of teams in the postseason.
The Montreal Canadiens had 13 Hall of Famers on their roster in 1973.
The league will likely never see anything close to what the Canadiens were able to accomplish in the '70s.
I admit it, I have a soft spot for incredible defensive play.
The Detroit Red Wings may have had a very ordinary offense, but the defense was anything but.
The Red Wings had the best defense in the entire NHL and Terry Sawchuk between the pipes. Not sure how anyone ever scored on these guys.
The 2002 Stanley Cup Champions are my pick for the best team of the 2000s.
Detroit had it all that season. Dominik Hasek was in his prime between the pipes, the offensive fire power was second to none and some of the team's defensive superstars were just beginning to hit their stride.
As long a salary cap is in place, we will never see a team like this again.
The Ottawa Senators of the '20s were the first true dynasty in NHL history. They had the best defense in the league and one of the best offenses in the league.
Unfortunately, the Senators have not captured a Stanley Cup since these glory days.
If I could go back in time, watching the Edmonton Oilers of the '80s would be high on my list of things to do.
Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were the ideal complements to one another, and the presence of Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey on the back end was ideal to say the very least.
The Oilers made some dominant teams look silly with the talent and grit they had on both ends of the ice
Remember when we were talking about the marvelously complete Detroit Red Wings teams of the '50s?
Yeah, the Montreal Canadiens dominated that team.
The Canadiens blended offense and defense brilliantly, making quick work of the Wings in five games.
The second team I would go back and watch if I could time travel is the Penguins of the early '90s.
Who needs defense?
With Mario Lemeiux, Jaromir Jagr, Bryan Trottier, Ron Francis and Paul Coffey, the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly did not need defense. That offense was more than enough to compensate.
I would love to see a team like the Red Wings of the '50s try and contain this offense. That battle of defense vs. offense would be quite compelling.
With 359 total goals and 11 players with more than 40 points, the Montreal Canadiens may have had the best offense the game has ever seen during the late '70s.
To put it in perspective, the Detroit Red Wings were second in the league that season with 252 goals.
Yeah, the Habs were that good.
The Montreal Canadiens of the '70s were the best teams the franchise has ever put on the ice.
The team that won the Cup in '76 was not the best of the four consecutive Stanley Cups, but they got the ball rolling on one of the greatest dynasties in hockey history.
The Bruins only needed four Hall of Famers to roll through the postseason with just two losses, including a sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.
Phil Esposito was piling up points in front of the net while Bobby Orr continued to revolutionize the game of hockey.
Oh, Bobby Orr score "the goal" as well.
It's not easy to pick the most dominant squad from the four straight New York Islanders Stanley Cups in the early '80s, but this team makes quite the compelling case.
The Isles scored a whopping 4.8 goals per game and swept the Vancouver Canucks in the Finals.
Mike Bossy shone more in this season than any other, collecting seven goals in the four-game sweep of the Nucks.
When the New York Islanders were seemingly invincible and Wayne Gretzky was just 23 years old, the Edmonton Oilers made their mark on the NHL and started one of the league's greatest dynasties.
Edmonton's victory in '84 was the first in a stretch in which the team managed to capture five Stanley Cups in seven years.
Messier, Gretzky, Coffey and others all deserve credit as one of the greatest collections of talent in the history of the league.
Ten players had 50 or more points while the Montreal Canadiens were running wild on the NHL on the way to best record in league history.
Meanwhile, Montreal dropped just a pair of games the entire postseason.
With a dozen Hall of Famers on the ice and on the bench, the Montreal Canadiens stack up against any hockey team in the history of the sport.