Can the Kings become an NHL “dynasty”?

The Los Angeles Kings are poised to win their first Stanley Cup, sparking suggestions they could become the first NHL dynasty team in years. Several factors, however, could work against them.

Sportsnet.ca’s Mike Brophy recently published an article suggesting the Los Angeles Kings could be a “dynasty in the making”, citing their depth in young talent as a key factor which could have them competing for the Stanley Cup for several seasons to come.

Brophy also acknowledged the difficulty of achieving that goal in today’s NHL, with its interminably long seasons and salary cap making it difficult to maintain healthy and competitive rosters, let alone perennial Cup contenders.

The last time a team won consecutive Stanley Cups was in the late-1990s, when the Detroit Red Wings turned the trick in 1997 and 1998.

Since then, only the Red Wings, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh Penguins have made consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. None won consecutive championships.

Last year at this time, I stated my belief the 2011 Cup Finalist Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks had the depth in talent and sufficient cap space to repeat as Cup Finalists, suggesting the Bruins could be the first team since those Red Wings of the late-’90s to win consecutive championships.

We all know how that turned out. While the Canucks won the President’s Trophy for the second straight year, and the Boston Bruins finished second overall in the Eastern Conference, both were bounced from the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

As Brophy pointed out, not even depth in talented youth is a guarantee of consecutive Cup contention.

The Penguins made consecutive trips to the Finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the big mug the second time around. Despite being built around a youthful core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, they’ve since failed to get within sniffing distance of the Final.

In 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks ended their 49-year Cup drought, with a roster built around young stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but salary cap constraints gutted their championship roster, leaving them a shell of their brief greatness.

Looking at the Kings salary cap hit for 2012-13, they’re in good shape to maintain their current roster.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick, defensemen Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, and Slava Voynov, and forwards Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams are under contract for next season.

Their notable free agents include Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King, all of whom should be affordable re-signings if Kings management decides to keep them onboard.

It would therefore fall upon management and the coaching staff to keep their roster motivated for another six-month slog through the 82-game regular season, followed by another nearly two-month march through the playoffs.

That certainly appeared the problem for the Bruins this past season. They lurched from the gate in the opening months of this season, caught fire midway through the season, including a nearly two month stretch where they were almost unbeatable, followed by an inconsistent final two months of the regular season, and their first round playoff elimination.

It’s understandable why it’s so difficult for players in today’s NHL to maintain their focus and desire after winning the Cup. During the 1970s and 80s when it was financially feasible to maintain dynasties, regular seasons typically began in mid-October, finished in early April, with the playoffs wrapping up by mid-to late-May.

That allowed championship teams nearly an extra month and a half of time off to rest and recharge, taking a necessary mental break away from not just the game, but also the rigorous off-ice physical training.

For me, the first true telling sign of the recent difficulty for teams to repeat as Cup champions came at the end of the 1998 Stanley Cup Final.

During a post-game interview, a happy – but also visibly exhausted – Steve Yzerman, respected captain of the Cup champion Red Wings, was asked if he felt his club could “three-peat.” A weary Yzerman said the only thing he cared about at that point was getting out of his gear and forgetting about hockey for a while.

Brophy also suggested parity plays a part in the lack of repeat champions.

In the days when the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers were regularly winning consecutive championships, there wasn’t the kind of parity in the league as we see today.

Since the early 1990s, expansion has led to considerably more parity throughout the NHL, increasing the competitiveness around the league, making the path to Cup contention much more difficult.

A mentally and physically draining regular season and playoff schedule, league parity, and the tight constraints of the salary cap have made it considerably more difficult for Stanley Cup champions to repeat.

The Kings have the components to be Cup contenders for several years. It remains to be seen, however, if they can overcome the aforementioned factors which have waylaid other teams which once seemed bound for perennial championship greatness.

6 Comments

  1. Glad to see you are not part of the media elite that ignores those West Coast Sunbelt teams, Spec.

    My opinion is parity has killed the chance for dynasties. A hot goaltender or streaking scorer can absolutely win a series against any team in the league. It may still happen, I hope for the Kings, but it’s not like it used to be for the Oilers, Isle, or even the Wings.

  2. I spent five years in Victoria, BC; four years in Calgary, Alberta, four years in Anchorage, Alaska, plus a summer in Manitoba. That’s one reason I follow the Western Conference as closely as the East.

  3. Once a team wins a Stanley cup all the players seem to want to be paid more. Hard to do in the salary cap era so teams end up having to make tough decisions on who to keep and who to let go. In today’s NHL it seems unlikely that one team would be able to stockpile a large number of young prospects while also keeping a large contingent of proven skill players. In the modern era Detroit would probably would come the closest to be called a ‘dynasty’ however that really would only refer to their consistently good regular season records and ability to make the playoff’s. Hardly a ‘dynasty’ in the way it was interpreted in the past.

  4. I can see where a case could be made for LA to become a dynasty but all the stars, both on the ice and in the heavens, would need to be aligned for them to do so. The LA Kings are a complete team and more than just Jonathan Quick but that being said, if not for Quick playing out of this world hockey there would not be talk of a dynasty. Do I think Quick can maintain his stingy goaltending numbers? Yes. Do I think that the Kings can keep their team together for next year salary wise? Yes. Does this mean that they will be able to repeat? No! There are so many intangibles such as injuries, flukie goals, bad bounces etc., along with all the other things that must go in the teams favour to repeat and that is why no team in the modern era, except as you point out the Wings in 97/98, have been able to raise the silver chalice over their heads.
    Do they have a chance? Absolutely, and it will be fun watching as now the east must take notice of the west and acknowledge them as rightful contenders, no matter how much it irks others.

  5. Extremely unlikely. If the Wings, Penguins and Bruins couldn’t do it, then the Kings won’t be able to. I’d say the Kings compare more to the Hurricanes of 2006. Keep in mind, this team is basically on a hot streak – they barely made the playoffs and still have scoring issues and a thin defense. It would not surprise me in the least to see them miss the playoffs next year given they play in one of the most competitive divisions.

  6. i would doubt that LA is able to play to this level again next season, several LA players had career playoff years that they will likely never repeat. when you look at players like Penner, Brown, Mitchell and compare it to the rest of their careers they obviously overachieved. in Brown’s case he’ll spend next year paying for some of the questionable hits he got away with. the most ironic part of their playoff run was how big a part Fraser played after LA complained bitterly about taking him in a trade for Ryan Smyth citing a foot injury and filing a grievance with the NHL.