Whatever Happened to Dynasties in the NHL?

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer IFebruary 6, 2009

With the NHL's trade deadline only weeks away, many teams are willing to deal their future superstars and gain more firepower for that one shot at getting the Stanley Cup.

What ever happened to building a team with the same players year in and year out?

It seems that the true age of NHL dynasties has died.

The last, true dynasty could be either the Detroit Red Wings of the late '90s or the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early '90s, yet the only last, true, purely dominant dynasty would be that of the Edmonton Oilers of the mid-to-late '80s.

The Oilers managed to keep Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, and Paul Coffery together from their entrance into the NHL until the team fully disbanded in the early '90s.

Five Stanley Cups in seven years with players who would clean up at the NHL Awards.

Yet, the demise of the '80s Oilers dynasty has given rise to not only the modern day wheeling and dealing of players to bolster lineups but to the overall demise of any possibly dynasties.

With 30 teams in the NHL, it would make it ever more difficult to win year after year.

Since the Oilers dynasty, only Pittsburgh and Detroit have been able to repeat, while other teams such as the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche have managed to win multiple times over a few years.

Yet, with the rumours of so many players coming and going, from Vincent Lecavalier to Jay Bouwmeester, what goes through the minds of NHL GMs in today's post-dynastic NHL?

In the days of the legendary Montreal Canadiens GM Sam Pollock, there were numerous Hall of Famers such as Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden.  Not only did Pollock keep his big stars, but he made keen and prudent deals, sometimes at the deadline to get the players he needed.

Never did Pollock ever deal away any of his big stars at the deadline.  He made shred moves, such as trading away Ernie Hicke and the Canadiens first pick for Francois Lacombe and the California Golden Seals first pick, where Pollock took the Canadiens all-time leading scorer.

During Pollock's tenure in Montreal, he would capture 12 Stanley Cups, nine of those as the GM.

Glen Sather, another legendary GM of the Edmonton Oilers in the '80s, brought a young, talented team from the obscurity of the NHL to the dynasty of all dynasties in the '80s. Yet, due to financial troubles in Edmonton, Sather had to deal away those players.

With the financial situation of the NHL currently, many players have the freedom to pick and chose which suitor seems best.  Fewer and fewer players care to play their entire careers with one team.

And if they do, there is always those times where rumours are out that the team could dealt them for a bigger, better, brighter future.

This season, life-long Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier is on the supposed trading block.  He's got a contract that is going to take him to his 40th birthday in a Lightning uniform, with a "C" on his shoulder.

So why trade him?  Isn't he the No. 1 pick in 1998 that you wanted to build this team around?

He has won a Stanley Cup in Tampa, but if they want to win again, shouldn't they keep him?

Across the sunshine state, Florida Panthers top pick defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has also been rumoured to be on the trading block this season.

Why would the Florida Panthers, who have turned their fortunes around since drafting Bouwmeester in 2002, give such a valuable commodity up when they are in the midst of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000?

Simple.  Because they fear that Bouwmeester will go where the money goes, not where a loyalty may lie in the team that selected him third overall.

Unlike Lecavalier, who opted to sign long-term to stay with the Lightning the rest of his career, Bouwmeester may take an alternate route and choose to go elsewhere in hopes for more money and a chance of winning.  

Yet, the Panthers now have a shot to make the playoffs with the lineup consisting of Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, David Booth, and Tomas Vokoun.

But why is it that players may never play their entire career with one team?

Is there politics that are behind the NHL curtain that fans are not obliged to see?

Take Steve Yzerman for example.

Played all 1,514 games of his career in a Detroit Red Wings jersey amassing 1,755 points. Nineteen of those seasons Yzerman wore the "C" on his shoulder and pretty much bled Red Wings out of his veins.

One of the greatest captains in NHL history, he was rumoured to be on the move to the expansion Ottawa Senators in 1993 after Scotty Bowman became head coach in Detroit.  

This shows that even the legends of the NHL were expendable.  Yet, Yzerman improved his defensive game and finished out his career with three Stanley Cups in Detroit.

Other legendary players, such as Joe Sakic (Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche) and Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins) played their entire careers with the team that took them in the draft and build their team around.  Both became champions within those franchises and both are now the figureheads, the one player that signifies those franchises.

Lemieux was part of what I will call a "mini-dynasty" in Pittsburgh that was brought down far too soon and was dismantled far too quickly.  With the likes of Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Kevin Stevens, Tom Barrasso, and Larry Murphy, the Penguins captured two consecutive Stanley Cups.

Yet, after a hard-fought and heart-breaking dismissal in Game Seven of the Wales Division Finals to the upstart New York Islanders in overtime, the two-time champions seemed to fade back into a team that would have hopes and aspirations that they would never live up to again.

By the 1997-98 season, the Penguins were without Lemieux and have only recently made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

It's hard as a fan to cheer for a player knowing full well that he could be on the move at any time.

It seems anyone is expendable.  Even the superstars.

But my question to NHL GM's is this: Why trade away a good player who can make your team great for players who can only make your team good?

Sure, every team needs role players, checkers, and enforcers.

But for those teams who have picked the Lecavalier's, the Bouwmeester's, and the Crosby's to be the cornerstones of their franchises—is it really worth trading that one franchise player?

As it was with the Edmonton Oilers of the '80s, they had a great cast of role players such as Messier, Kurri, and Lowe, but at the center of it all was Gretzky.  The franchise player.

In Pittsburgh in the early '90s, there was a great cast, with Lemieux at the center.  The franchise player.

In Detroit in the late '90s, there was a great cast, with Yzerman at the center.  The franchise player.

To become a dynasty, you need that player.  But you also need those around them to compliment them.

So my challenge to NHL GM's is—think twice about trading your Lecavalier's and Bouwmeester's.  Maybe it's not them that is the trouble, maybe it's the team around them.

If this trading of superstars continues from team to team, year to year, then so much for the dynasties of the NHL.


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