Redefining the NHL’s Definition Of Dynasty.


First off, congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on winning their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. They certainly didn’t have an easy road, playing in three straight Game 7s against the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, then downing the New York Rangers in a five-game series which was more closely contested than expected.

I read somewhere the Kings are now the closest thing to a dynasty in today’s NHL salary cap world, having marched to three straight Conference Finals and winning two championships in three years. That’s probably an apt description. The Blackhawks (Three Conference Finals, two Cups in four years) also belong in this category. Should the Boston Bruins (Two Conference Finals, one Cup in three years) win the Cup next season, they could also be included.

Are the LA Kings a true NHL dynasty?

Are the LA Kings a true NHL dynasty?

The original measurement of an NHL dynasty was winning three consecutive championships. It used to happen frequently (Toronto Maple Leafs in the late-40s and early-60s, Montreal Canadiens in the late-50s and late-70s, New York Islanders in the early-80s) every decade. While the Oilers never won three in a row, they were such a dominant team for so long (five championships in eight years) that they are now considered a dynasty.

Establishing a Stanley Cup dynasty is now very difficult. The last team to win consecutive titles was the Detroit Red Wings (1997 and 1998). Between 1994-95 and 2003-04 (the first CBA under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman), the Wings and New Jersey Devils went to the Final four times, winning the Cup three times. They were as near to dynastic during that period as it was possible to be.

Parity was spreading throughout the NHL long before the salary cap came along. Smart general managers learn to work within whatever system is employed. The Wings had the cash during their glory years to retain their best players and bid competitively for free agent talent, but they also built from within and via the trade market. The Devils weren’t usually among the league’s biggest spenders but their management compensated with savvy draft picks and shrewd trades.

It took a few years for teams to adjust to the implementation of a salary cap back in 2005, but since then few clubs have done it better than the Kings, Blackhawks and Bruins. Their secret is one which long predates salary caps and free agency. They simply draft and develop young talent better than most, and tend to win more trades than they lose. Sure, they’ll augment their talent with free agents, but most of their core was built with draft picks and trades.

While the Kings, Blackhawks and Bruins have dominated the first half of this decade, they could be soon challenged by the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, which have employed the same roster-building methods.

It’s not just the salary cap which led to the parity that made consecutive championships harder to come by. The expansion of the NHL since the early 1990s saw the league grow from 21 to 30 teams. As a result, talent is more widely spread throughout the league. The managements of those clubs also tend to be much savvier than those of early expansion teams from 1967 through 1979. The days of a handful of experienced general managers fleecing desperate counterparts on struggling new teams are now ancient history. Some teams in today’s NHL are badly managed but they’re not as prevalent as in the past.

While there is only a handful of teams which can be considered true Cup contenders, such teams remain among the league’s elite for only a few years. The salary cap has not only made it difficult for teams to spend their way toward a championship, it’s also made it tough to keep a winning roster together.

The days of winning three-or-more consecutive championships are long past, while winning two-in-a-row is increasingly difficult. We now consider a team which goes to three straight conference finals and wins two Cups in three years a near- dynasty.

Had the Blackhawks repeated as Cup champions this year they would’ve been anointed as a dynasty, as not only would they have won consecutive championships, but also three in five seasons. If they rally back and win it next season, that’ll be three Cups in six years.

If the Kings manage to repeat next season, it will mark the third time in four years they hoist the Stanley Cup, making them a salary cap dynasty club.



  1. It was actually 5 Cups in 7 years for the Oilers (1984-1990 inclusive). If a team could win 3 of 5 years and make at least to the 2nd round in 2 other years then I would be OK with that, but watering the definition down to include 2-Cup teams I think is too far. There is nothing wrong with a dynasty being rare in a 30 team league. Being a dynasty team means being the clear #1 contender (or at worst 2nd in maybe a year or two) over a 5-6 year period, not just being an annual contender among 3-5 other contenders.

    • Actually, David, It’s 5 Cups in 8 years (1983 – 1990 inclusive). You’re forgetting the Oilers went to the Cup Final in 1983. That’s has to be taken into account.

      • I was actually referring to Cup wins, not final appearances. For wins it was 5 in 7 as I said. For Oiler Stanley Cup final appearances it was 6 in 8 years…1983 loss to the Isles, then Cup wins in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, & 1990, and two years 1986 & 1989 in between where they lost before the final).

        • The Oilers appeared in six Stanley Cup Finals in eight years, winning five of them. Therefore, it’s still five championships in eight years, not five in seven. You just don’t ignore the one they lost.

          • One can ignore it or not. With personal opinion there is room for different choices, but historical context is also critical (which points to the heart of your article). In today’s salary cap era a final appearance means more. However among Oiler fans during the glory years (which included me until the core was traded or sold), the frame of reference that I heard over and over again was 5 Cup wins in 7 years, not 6 appearances in 8 years. Once they got their 2nd Cup win in 1985, 1983 was just a lesson the young upstarts needed to learn, not a cause for celebration. In an era when Hab & Isles fans didn’t even want to acknowledge the Oilers as a dynasty because they didn’t win at least 3-4 Cups in a row like the Habs & Isles did (and I heard that criticism many times), final appearances didn’t carry much weight.

            Now that multiple Cup wins in 5-6 years has become rare or impossible because of the salary cap, I almost never hear the criticism that the Oilers didn’t win 3 or 4 in a row. It’s pretty much unanimously accepted that the Oilers were a dynasty. While it’s logical that the comparison of modern teams should now include Cup final or even Conference final appearances, I still rarely hear that criteria being applied to the big 1970s & 80s teams.

  2. Perhaps it is unfortunate that we don’t see the kind of dominance we used to see in the past. But I think to call these teams a “Dynasty” cheapens what the Leafs, Habs, Isles and Oilers accomplished. The game may have changed a little, and free agency is a big part of the game, but the 4 clubs mentioned above were able to do what is being done today.

    I know the history of the Islanders as a big fan of the team since the early years. Bill Torrey drafted extremely well, and not just with the first round. He found some critical pieces to the Islander puzzle in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th round and beyond (Nystrom – 3rd round 1972; Trottier – 2nd round, Dave Langevin – 7th round, Stefan Persson – 14th round 1974; Ken Morrow – 4th round 1976) There were other picks too from later rounds like Thomas Jonsson, Roland Mellanson and John Tonelli — all of these players were very important to the teams success.

    This method has been duplicated many times and it tends to be the best way to build a long lasting dominant franchise. It was a Torrey assistant, Jim Devellano who experienced the Islanders build first hand and brought that to the Red Wings. Others have followed in the same method. The Hawks, Kings, Bruins all have build through some tough years via the draft and development method.

    But calling these teams a “Dynasty?” Im not so sure. Not even the super stacked Heat could muster 3 titles. 19 playoff series wins in a row is an unmatched accomplishment. Perhaps that is asking too much of any franchise in any sport these days. Goes to show how lucky I was to be a fan of such an amazing team. (Sad to see them struggle as they have the last 25 years) But I think it is far to early to call the Kings a “dynasty” just yet. Lets see how things unfold over the next several seasons. Can they win 2 or 3 more times in the next 4-5 seasons? If so, then yes — I would say that is a dynasty.