In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, led by their 21-year-old captain, Sidney Crosby, and a 22-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin.
At the time, the Pens seemed like a dynasty in the making. They have not been back to the Stanley Cup Final since.
Because also at the time, there were some young guys in Chicago by the names of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith, and some other young guys in Los Angeles by the names of Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.
Today, it’s the Blackhawks and Kings that are garnering the dynasty talk. No surprise there, given they’ve won four of the last five Stanley Cups, two for each franchise, and both clubs, among other things, have an elite two-way center and an elite defenseman.
And if you go back in time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a champion that didn’t have at least one of those types of players. The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011, had/still have Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. The 2008 Red Wings had Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. The 2007 Ducks had two elite d-men in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, plus a young center in Ryan Getzlaf. And even the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, though their blue line was relatively lacking, had a two-time Selke Trophy winner in Rod Brind’Amour and a young center in Eric Staal.
If that’s the blue print, there are teams today, besides L.A. and Chicago, with the makings of a champion. Look at Columbus, with Ryan Johansen, 21, and Ryan Murray, 20. There’s Tampa Bay, with Steven Stamkos, 24, and Victor Hedman, 23. The Blue Jackets and Lightning also have highly rated prospects in Alexander Wennberg and Jonathan Drouin, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars may need to upgrade their blue lines, but they’re led by young stars up front. The Florida Panthers are loaded with young talent. Ditto for the Buffalo Sabres.
And what about the players that haven’t even been drafted yet? In five years, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, draft-eligible next summer, will be 22 years old, i.e. around the same age Crosby, Toews and Doughty won their first Stanley Cups.
Now, could the Kings become a dynasty? Absolutely. So could the Blackhawks. But let’s also remember how quickly things can change in a young man’s league like the NHL.
Five years ago, Los Angeles finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Five years ago, Chicago finally made the playoffs after missing five straight times.
Look at them now.