Clash of NHL Dynasties: 1970s Montreal Canadiens vs. 1980s Edmonton Oilers

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Clash of NHL Dynasties: 1970s Montreal Canadiens vs. 1980s Edmonton Oilers
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

These two NHL dynasties separated by a decade seem more alike than different. They were two of the most offensively talented teams ever.

Yet despite their similarities and their closeness in time, they still represent two different eras of NHL hockey and two different types of teams. 

The Canadiens dominated a smaller 18-team NHL. However, that league was a North American league, with the majority of players coming from Canada. The 1972 Summit series with the Soviet Union and the subsequent arrival of Borje Salming in Toronto to play for the Maple Leafs in the 1973-74 season marked the beginning of European players and their influence in the NHL.      

The Oilers played in a 21-team league where European players made a significant contribution. By 1980, over eight percent of all NHL players came from Europe. The Oilers featured Esa Tikkanen and Jarri Kurri on their championship teams. 

The Canadiens dominated the 1970s, winning seven cups in 10 years. They enjoyed seasons during which they lost only 11, 10 and eight games out of 80 in a season.

The Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL when the WHA folded. They were the second dynasty of the 1980s, taking over from the New York Islanders half way through the decade. They won five cups in seven years from 1984 until 1990.

Both teams were known for unprecedented skill and offensive talent. Both teams featured Hall of Fame goaltenders in Ken Dryden and Grant Fuhr. Both teams boasted the premier offensive talent of their day in Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur. If the Canadiens had more depth, especially on defense, the Oilers had much better creative offensive talent.  

Which team would have won if they had played each other, in their prime, for the Stanley Cup? For the purposes of this comparison, I'm looking at the dynasty years in general (1976 to 1979 for Montreal and 1984 to 1988 for Edmonton). I'm also focusing on the rosters from the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens versus the 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers.

The 1975-76 Montreal team was the one that won the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups. The roster at the start of the run was mostly unchanged when they won their fourth Cup in 1978-79.

The 1985-86 Oilers were the team that missed winning the Cup in between two wins in '84 and '85 and two in '87 and '88. Their regular-season performance featured career seasons from a number of their players. They had a roster that had yet to lose players to the economic distress of their owner Peter Pocklington, who would eventually dismantle the dynasty.   

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