NHL Column: The Death of Dynasties

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Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) attacks on New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (1) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Despite dominating the league over the course of the last decade, some of the league’s biggest modern dynasties are finally dying. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angele Kings sit 24th, 27th and last in the league respectively. These franchises have combined to win eight of the last 10 Stanley Cups, including six straight from 2012-2017.

Fans sick and tired of these same teams winning the cup each year have finally gotten their wish. These big hockey markets will now get to experience the struggle of losing, as some new teams begin to get a crack at gunning for the championship.

These three teams appear to be going nowhere this season, as the cores that led them to their cups are aging and the supporting casts surrounding them are dwindling. While stars like Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar keep these historic franchises afloat, they are not enough to allow them to continue to contend.

The rough starts for the former powerhouses have led to some major changes already in the young season. The Kings and Blackhawks replaced their coaches last week. To follow that up, Los Angeles traded Tanner Pearson to Pittsburgh in exchange for Carl Hagelin yesterday.

While the trade could inject some temporary life into each lineup, neither player will have enough impact to entirely alter their fortunes. The Kings hope to take rise as the year progresses onward, with talent on their roster that projected them to be a bubble playoff team this year. The forecast was certainly not for them to be in dead last at this point, but if the current trend continues, they will be checking their draft lottery odds come April.

Pittsburgh has more reason to believe they could contend this year, not being too far removed from capturing the Cup in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017. Their tendency to start slow gives reason to think they still might turn it around. Although the depth is not as great as it was when Pittsburgh won the cup, they still have Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang to keep them in the conversation.

Regardless of where the Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins finish this year, it is clear that the windows on their dynasties have closed. While their reign is ending, it is easy to marvel at how they built such a tradition of winning over the last ten years. In the salary cap era, repeating success is very difficult, as retaining all of the fundamental parts of a winning team is nearly impossible.

Only these three teams have been able to uncover the recipe to sustain long-term success under the cap. From 2004-2008, a different team won the cup each year, with no organization able to repeat the winning formula.

But even for Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, who were able to make winning last, the glory ends eventually. Now, teams like the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning look poised to take over as the league leaders.

But even if they are able put up a string of winning seasons, replicating the dominance of the past 10 years will be a mighty challenge. What is truly amazing about what the Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins did is that they went beyond having remarkable seasons. They won the Cup each opportunity they had.

Teams, more times than not, will have spectacular years but still fall short of the top prize. Look at the Capitals for example. They finished near the top of the standings every year over the past decade, but did not win a Cup until last year.

The Nashville Predators, as strong as they have been, are still searching for their first championship. They had an opportunity to win it in all in 2017, but fell to Pittsburgh who, as usual, took care of business. Last season, they won the Presidents’ trophy as the regular season’s best team, but lost in the second round of playoffs to the Jets.

The New York Rangers also missed multiple opportunities to win the Cup, coming away empty handed despite contending for numerous years. In 2014, they lost the Final against the Kings. In 2012 and 2015, their season ended in the Conference Final. Now, the Rangers’ window has closed, as they have embarked on a rebuild.

Chances to win the Cup are so rare that teams must take advantage when they have one. While there is still time for Nashville, if they do not want to end up like the Rangers, they better win a Cup soon. Time is ticking.


Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.

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