So are the Chicago Blackhawks are a dynasty? Well, I’m not going to tiptoe around it. Hell yes they are. In fact, they’re not just a dynasty. They’re one of the greatest NHL dynasties of all time.
Of course, there is no official definition of what it means to be a dynasty. Moreover, major historical developments like free agency, expansion, and the salary cap have made it much more difficult to compare NHL teams across eras.
That said, taking the evolution of the league into account, I do think it’s possible to come up with a reasonable starting point. So let’s go with this: in order for a team to be consider a dynasty, they need to (1) have won at least three Stanley Cups, (2) have done it with the same core of players, and (3) have won at least two Cups in a span of three years.
Sound good? Then let’s take a stab at ranking the greatest NHL dynasties of all time to see where the current Blackhawks squad fits in…
4 Championships in 5 Years (1965-66, 1968-69)Core Players: Jean Beliveau*, Henri Richard*, Ralph Backstrom*, Dick Duff*, Jacques Laperriere*, Yvan Cournoyer*, Gump Worsley*, John Ferguson, Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Claude Provost, Bobby Rousseau, J.C. Tremblay* indicates member of Hockey Hall of Fame
The Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the 1960s actually overlapped with the Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty of the 1960s, which is extremely rare. The only knock against this group is that the last two of their four championships came in the first two years of the expansion era, right when the talent pool was watered down the most.
9. 1964-69 Montreal Canadiens
4 Championships in 6 Seasons (1950, 1952, 1954-55)Core Players:Gordie Howe*, Red Kelly*, Ted Lindsay*, Marcel Pronovost*, Marty Pavelich, Johnny Wilson
With 801 career goals, fourteen 40-goal seasons, and a nickname name like Mr. Hockey, it's actually kind of surprising that Gordie Howe's Red Wings "only" won the Stanley Cup four times.
Of course, three of those four wins came in thrilling seven-game series. Two of those seven-game series were decided in overtime. And one of those two overtime Game 7s actually went to double overtime. So this Red Wings dynasty was pretty clutch.
8. 1949-55 Detroit Red Wings
4 Championships in 6 Seasons (1962-64, 1967)
Core Players: George Armstrong*, Johnny Bower*, Tim Horton*, Red Kelly*, Dave Keon*, Frank Mahovlich*, Bob Pulford*, Allan Stanley*, Bob Baun, Carl Brewer, Billy Harris, Larry Hillman, Eddie Shack, Don Simmons, Ron Stewart
Today it's hard to see the words "Toronto Maple Leafs" and "dynasty" and not either laugh or cry, depending on where you live. But it is true. Back in the day, the Maple Leafs were a hockey powerhouse. They pulled off an extremely rare three-peat from '62 to '64, then interrupted the emerging Canadiens dynasty to win one more in '67, the last Cup before the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams.
7. 1961-67 Toronto Maple Leafs
4 Championships in 5 Seasons (1947-49, 1951)Core Players: Turk Broda*, Ted Kennedy*, Howie Meeker*, Harry Watson*, Bill Barilko, Joe Klukay, Gus Mortson, Jimmy Thomson,
There have only been five three-peats in NHL history. The Toronto Maple Leafs own two of them, and the only thing that kept the first from being a five-peat was a Game 7 loss to Gordie Howe and the Red Wings in the 1950 semifinals.
Of course, the competition was incredibly stiff back in the Original 6 days, seeing as how there were only six teams among which to divide the best players in the world. However, statistically speaking, each team had a pretty good chance of winning the Stanley Cup every year, which is why there were so many overlapping dynasties back then. As time went on, it got a lot harder to put together and maintain a dynasty.
6. 1946-51 Toronto Maple Leafs
3 Championships in 6 Seasons (2010, 2013, 2015)Core Players: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews
At first glance, it might seem crazy to call the Blackhawks a dynasty when they haven't even won back-to-back championships. But you have to take the context into account.
Over the past 20 years, of the four major North American sports leagues, the NHL has had the fewest repeat winners. The only team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups during that period were the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
The reasons for the decline in repeat champions? Expansion and salary cap.
The league doubled in size in 1967, then added 10 more teams from 1970-80, and another nine from 1991-2000. All those extra teams made it statistically more difficult to run the grueling playoff gauntlet. Then the NHL instituted a strict salary cap following the 2004-05 lockout, making it all but impossible to keep a championship core together for more than three years.
That's what makes the Blackhawks so special. It has literally never been harder to win the Stanley Cup, but they have now won it three times in six seasons.
If anything, ranking them the fifth-greatest NHL dynasty of all-time might be understating it. If they manage to win another one in the next few years, they'll probably jump to number one.
(The math geniuses over at FiveThirtyEight did a great piece about the difficulty of winning the Cup in the salary cap era. You should read it.)
5. 2009-2015 Chicago Blackhawks
4 Consecutive Championships (1980-83)Core Players: Mike Bossy*, Clark Gillies*, Denis Potvin*, Billy Smith*, Bryan Trottier*, Bob Bourne, Butch Goring, Anders Kallur, Gord Lane, Dave Langevin, Wayne Merrick, Ken Morrow, Bob Nystrom, Stefan Persson, Duane Sutter, John Tonelli
From 1975 to 1990, the NHL was dominated by three distinct dynasties. The middle period belonged to the New York Islanders. Led by Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, and Bryan Trottier, they defeated all comers for four straight years.
Their last championship? That came against the Edmonton Oilers and some kid named Wayne Gretzky.
4. 1979-83 New York Islanders
4 Consecutive Championships (1976-79)Core Players: Yvan Cournoyer*, Ken Dryden*, Bob Gainey*, Guy Lafleur*, Guy Lapointe*, Jacques Lemaire*, Larry Robinson*, Serge Savard*, Steve Shutt*, Rick Chartraw, Doug Jarvis, Yvon Lambert, Michel Larocque, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay
The first of those three NHL dynasties that ruled the league from 1975 to 1990? That belonged to the Montreal Canadiens.
How the hell did the they pull it off? They had a roster full of Hall of Famers and no salary cap.
In fact, if Ken Dryden hadn't retired at the age of 31 to pursue a career in law and politics, the Habs might have won the Stanley Cup another two or three times.
3. 1975-79 Montreal Canadiens
5 Consecutive Championships (1956-60)Core Players: Jean Beliveau*, Bernie Geoffrion*, Doug Harvey*, Tom Johnson*, Dickie Moore*, Jacques Plante*, Henri Richard*, Maurice Richard*, Don Marshall, Claude Provost, Jean-Guy Talbot, Bob Turner
Dynasties were easier to establish in the Original 6 days. However, because all the teams were good, it was very difficult to win the Stanley Cup more than two years in a row. The fact that the Canadiens won it five years in a row from 1955 to 1960—the only five-peat in NHL history—is a testament to the greatness of Maurice "Rocket" Richard...and all those other Hall of Famers.
2. 1955-60 Montreal Canadiens
5 Championships in 7 Seasons (1984-85, 1987-88, 1990)Core Players: Glenn Anderson*, Grant Fuhr*, Jari Kurri*, Mark Messier*, Randy Gregg, Charlie Huddy, Kevin Lowe
The top spot on this list could very easily have gone to any of the top five teams, and especially the '55-'60 Canadiens. However, there are two things that really set the Oilers apart.
The first is longevity. At seven years, the Oilers dynasty lasted longer than that of any other team, which was no easy feat to pull off in the free agency era.
The second, well, did you happen to notice anyone missing from the list of core players? That's right. There's no WAYNE GRETZKY. He's not listed there because he wasn't with the Oilers for all five championships. The Great One was traded to the Kings in 1988. Then, incredibly, the Oilerswon another Stanley without him in 1990.
It's hard to imagine any of the other dynastic teams on this list losing their best player—Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Ken Dryden, Jonathan Toews—and still winning another championship. Hell, the '75-'79 Canadiens did lose their best player and they promptly fell apart.
In my book, the loss of Gretzky makes the Oilers dynasty is just a bit more interesting.