On May 19, 1984, the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup. And it was the beginning of the end of the last dynasty the National Hockey League will ever see. Salaries, free agency and greedy players have guaranteed that we will never see the likes of the Montréal Canadiens’, New York Islanders’ or Oilers’ dynasties again. And that stinks.
Over the years there have been about half-a-dozen NHL dynasties. Beginning in 1947, Hap Day’s Toronto Maple Leafs won four Stanley Cups in five years – led by Teeder Kennedy. Dynasty. As that Maple Leafs’ domination was ending, another was beginning on Grand River Avenue in Detroit.
Over nine years, Gordie Howe’s Red Wings played in seven Stanley Cup Finals, winning four of them. Dynasty. And that was directly followed by a team that many consider to be the greatest ever. Only one club has ever won five Stanley Cups in a row. That would be the 1956-60 Montréal Canadiens. Jacques Plante. Captain Maurice “Rocket” Richard. Head coach “Toe” Blake. Doug Harvey. Maybe the dynasty of all dynasties.
In the early 1960s, Punch Imlach’s Toronto Maple Leafs won three Stanley Cups in a row. Not sure they were a dynasty, but they were a damned good team. So were Scotty Bowman’s Canadiens of the late 1970s. They had everything. Incredible scoring talent in Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt and Jacques Lemaire. Maybe the NHL’s best-ever defence – Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson and netminder Ken Dryden. And the best head coach in the history of the game. That’s not even up for debate.
What makes the New York Islanders’ dynasty most amazing is that GM Bill Torrey built it just eight years following expansion. Guess it helped that they drafted Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy. Yes, that helped. And, to add to the drama, the Oilers’ dynasty actually vanquished the Islanders in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final.
Glen “Slats” Sather’s (clearly, dynasty coaches require catchy nicknames) Oilers had an incredible core group of players – Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog and Kevin Lowe. But that’s the key to a dynasty – the core group must stay together. Grow up together. Learn together. Build a winner – together. And that simply can’t happen anymore.
Egos get in the way. Agents get in the way. Guys think the grass is greener here or there. The current Chicago Blackhawks are a lot like those Oilers. Young forwards learning as they go – Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp. And a rock-solid defence. And – this is pretty important – a great head coach. Joel Quenneville’s boys have a chance to start something big in Chicago this year. Hmmm, Quenneville has no catchy nickname.
They might win. It would be Chicago’s first Stanley Cup since 1961. But they won’t be a dynasty. If you were lucky enough to watch those Oilers, you saw the very last one.