“They’re on the verge of a dynasty.”
That’s Steven Stamkos talking about the Chicago Blackhawks, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. It’s high praise to be sure, but words that also have to be taken with a grain of salt given the source. These next few days will likely involve each team praising their adversary, in part to put more pressure on the opposing side.
That being said, Stamkos is hardly the first person to link the words Chicago and dynasty, even if many bring up the topic to shoot down the concept. Some would say a dynasty needs to have more consistent success, like the New York Islanders’ four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83 and also involve less turnover. After all, it’s true that this is Chicago’s third trip to the Stanley Cup Final in six years, but the team that got there in 2010 has substantial differences to the one that eliminated the Anaheim Ducks.
At the same time, it’s worth considering the context. Often it seems like in sports there’s a desire to throw context out the window in favor of raw numbers, but of course, that’s misleading. A goal scored in 1990 isn’t the equivalent of a goal scored today even if they both count equally on the all-time leaderboard. Similarly, what it takes to win the Stanley Cup today isn’t identical to what it was in 1980. So should it be held to the same standard?
The fact that Chicago has had substantial turnover is unavoidable in the salary cap era. The Blackhawks have been forced to make hard decisions that some franchises in the past might not have had to make. The cap has also increased parity so that the degree of competition Chicago has to face each year is greater than it would have been even 15 years ago. To say nothing of the fact that there’s 30 teams now, compared to just 30 years ago when there were 21.
The bottom line is that if you hold modern NHL squads to the highest qualifications for a dynasty, you may never see one fit that bill. Even seeing a team win back-to-back championships in this era would be huge. The last team to do that was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. The Kings, with largely the same team that won them the Stanley Cup in 2014, couldn’t even make the playoffs this year.
At the end of the day, where you want to draw the line or whether or not you want to indulge the idea that its a line that changes with the era, there’s no getting around the fact that what Chicago has accomplished is remarkable.