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Top 5 NHL Dynasties of All-Time

With the Chicago Blackhawks winning their third Stanley Cup in 6 years, many are quick to dub them a modern day dynasty. While the argument can easily be made in favor of these Blackhawks being a modern-day dynasty (due to a salary-capped NHL that is supposed to promote parity), we will review the greatest dynasties in the history of the NHL.

Just what is a dynasty? A dynasty is a team that has enjoyed continuous, sustainable success. Instead of being one-off teams like the Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes, or a team that was quickly decimated by injuries, retirements, or picked clean in an off-season, these teams saw extended cup streaks, and are the gold standard to what teams want to achieve today. The NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame officially recognize 9 dynasties, which heavily feature into the following countdown

#5: 1959-1967 Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs fans hope to see such a scene once again, preferably sometime soon. (NHL.com)
Leafs fans hope to see such a scene once again, preferably sometime soon. (SI)

Arguably the last great outing of the Toronto Maple Leafs; though officially recognized by the HHoF from 1962, the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1959 to 1967 managed to make the Stanley Cup Finals a grand total of six times in that nine-year span, winning four (1962, 1963, 1964, 1967). Coached by the legendary Punch Imlach, the first two trips saw the Leafs be quickly dispatched by the Montreal Canadiens. It is noteworthy that Imlach took the Leafs to the Finals on his first two seasons as head coach. Boasting talents such as Tim Horton, Dick Duff, Frank Mahovlich and Johnny Bower in the first two Stanley Cup trips; they added Dave Keon from the Chicago Blackhawks and Al Arbour from the minors in order to take them to the promised land. Johnny Bower would eventually make way to the legendary Terry Sawchuk when the Leafs last lifted the cup. The Leafs would go on to be absolutely dismantled in the expansion draft the following season, and would not lift the cup again; a streak that continues unbroken today.

#4: 1964-1969 Montreal Canadiens

Henri Richard with Lord Stanley. (SI)
Henri Richard with Lord Stanley. (SI)

The last great dynasty of the pre-expansion era, and the first of the post-expansion era; the Montreal Canadiens of this time period would have been a continuation of the 1955-1960 Dynasty (more on that later) were it not for the Toronto Maple Leafs sudden dominance over their Quebecois counterparts. This dynasty was the last of the long-tenured coaching career of Toe Blake, having led the Canadiens to 9 top finishes in the NHL and 8 Stanley Cups overall before retiring after the 1967-68 season. On the backs of a blossoming Jean Beliveau, and Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard, the Canadiens were able to capture the first post-expansion Stanley Cups in convincing fashion (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969). With Bobby Rousseau and Claude Provost, this Canadiens team went down in history as part of the golden era of hockey in Montreal.

#3: 1980-1983 New York Islanders

Denis Potvin - Greatest New York Islanders  (ESPN)
Denis Potvin – Greatest New York Islanders (ESPN)

Four consecutive Stanley Cup wins put the New York Islanders on the map as one of the more storied franchises in NHL history, at the time surpassing the Rangers for Stanley Cup wins (a record that was tied after 1994). Coached by former Toronto Maple Leaf dynasty member Al Arbour, the Islanders saw the resignation of their Captain Clark Gillies and the “C” reassigned to Denis Potvin; both integral parts of the four consecutive cups. Of course, there was one more key piece in the Islanders’ dynasty: Mike Bossy. This franchise amassed a 183-85-49 regular season record, and a staggering 60-18 record in the playoffs, which included a Stanley Cup Finals victory in 1983 over the Edmonton Oilers, and a rematch the following season before being deposed by the next great dynasty, and next entry in our countdown:

#2: 1983-1990 Edmonton Oilers

Wayne Gretzky is all smiles as Bill Ranford, Esa Tikkanen, Mark Messier, and Kevin Lowe look on after Edmonton defeated Boston in five games to claim the 1988 Stanley Cup. (David E. Klutho/SI)
Wayne Gretzky is all smiles as Bill Ranford, Esa Tikkanen, Mark Messier, and Kevin Lowe look on after Edmonton defeated Boston in five games to claim the 1988 Stanley Cup. (David E. Klutho/SI)

Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, oh, and did I mention Wayne Gretzky? The Edmonton Oilers of the 80s were truly a spectacle to behold. With Gretzky just in the beginning of his prime, and his uncanny ability to make everyone around him better (though, to be fair, how much can someone really improve Mark Messier?). The Gretzky-led Oilers were unstoppable, with Gretzky posting career-high points and assists in 1985-86, notably, the only season the Oilers didn’t win the cup during their 4 cups in 5 years. This dynasty is a stand-out dynasty, though, as the Oilers were able to recapture Lord Stanley’s mug a season after “The Trade” that saw Wayne Gretzky shipped off to Los Angeles, proving that even without the best player in the world, the Oilers were a team to contend with, making their current state of affairs a tragic irony.

#1: 1955-1960 Montreal Canadiens

Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau (SI)
Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau (SI)

Think of legendary Montreal Canadiens players; chances are, you have mentioned at least one member of this team. With Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, coached by Dick Irvin and assembled by Frank J. Selke, with other players later joining such as Dickie Moore, Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard, and Claude Provost; this dynasty captured five consecutive Stanley Cups, a record that still stands today. Kick-started by an infamous riot that saw Montreal burn due to a suspension to Maurice Richard in 1955, this dynasty has countless books, a movie, and an entire room in the HHoF dedicated to it, making it hands-down the absolute best dynasty of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

1919-1927 Ottawa Senators (4 Cups in 8 years) – Pre-Original Six era dynasty (and very first dynasty ever) placed in Canada’s capital before running into financial troubles that saw it become defunct in 1939. The franchise was then revived in 1990 to form the Ottawa Senators we know today.

2010-present Chicago Blackhawks (3 cups in 6 years, not officially recognized as a dynasty by HHoF) – Though they haven’t won consecutive Stanley Cups, this off-season will be crucial in seeing whether this fringe dynasty will continue with their current core, or re-tool to try to find continued success and cement their legacy as the first post-lockout era dynasty.

1997-2002 Detroit Red Wings (3 cups in 6 years, not officially recognized as a dynasty by HHoF) – The crowning achievement of the Scotty Bowman era in Detroit, with two consecutive cups in 1997 and 1998, both of which were sweeps of the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.

Pedro Rengel

Pedro Rengel

Originally hailing from the tropical paradise of Venezuela, I moved to Canada at age 11 for the sole reason of falling in love with hockey as a self-proclaimed Pittsburgh Penguins fan. Now a Canadian citizen, my mad love affair with hockey represents a statistical contribution as opposed to an anomaly. Being able to write this well despite having Spanish as a first language is enough of an anomaly (I'm occasionally biased).
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