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It has been 25 years, give or take a year or two since we last saw an honest to goodness Stanley Cup dynasty, but there is a distinct possibility that with the Kings winning their second Stanley Cup in three years, we could be on the verge of a brand new dynasty. But do the Kings qualify as a dynasty? To figure out the answer we should first look at a few of the most recent dynasties to understand what they have in common.
First we will examine the Montreal Canadiens teams that won the Stanley Cup four times between 1976 and 1979. There were fourteen players who were members of all four of those championship teams including star players like Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden, as well as support and role players like Rick Chartraw, Doug Jarvis and Doug Risebrough. In that four-year span Montreal was a dominant team, finishing in first place during the regular season in 1976, 1977 and 1978 and finishing in second place to the up and coming New York Islanders in 1979, over those four years their regular season winning percentage was an incredible .786. The team was equally dominant in the playoffs, winning forty-eight games and losing only ten during their dynastyfor a winning percentage of .828. The Canadiens' main competition during their Cup-winning period were the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, two teams that were consistently near the top of the league standings in the late seventies. Montreal had .711 regular season winning percentage and a .705 playoff winning percentage over Boston in those four years; while the Flyers did no better than Boston as Montreal's winning percentage against Philadelphia was .750 during the regular season and 1.000 in four playoff games. Put quite simply the Montreal Canadiens during this span were a dominant team that was able to maintain a consistent roster, with no realistic rival to challenge them with the possible exception of the 1979 Bruins.
The Canadiens' dynasty of the seventies was followed up by four straight Stanley Cup wins by the New York Islanders from 1980 through 1983. There were an incredible 16 players that played for all four of those Stanley Cup teams, a roster which included the likes of Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith supported by role players like Bob Nystrom, Duane Sutter, and Ken Morrow. The Islanders were also a dominant team in the regular season, finishing in first place in 1981 and 1982 and sporting an impressive .648 winning percentage over the four years. During the playoffs they were even more dominant winning 60 of 78 playoff games for a winning percentage of .769 between 1980 and 1983. The Islanders even made it to the final in 1984, setting a NHL record by winning nineteen consecutive playoff series before losing the Stanley Cup to the Oilers in 1984. The Islanders, like Montreal before them, were missing a dominant rival as they played four different teams in the Stanley Cup final series and it wasn't until the Oilers began challenging them in 1983 that they had any real significant competition.
For the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty that followed on the heels of the Islanders', let us examine only the four Stanley Cups won between 1984 and 1988, i.e., "the Gretzky years", and omit the 1990 dynasty extension, won by "Messier's team". The Oilers were a bit different than the Islanders and the Canadiens in that there were only 9 players who played for all four of the cup teams. The holdover players included the goalie: Grant Fuhr; three core defensemen: Kevin Lowe, Randy Gregg and Charlie Huddy; and four star forwards: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. The only support player that stuck with the team through the four Cup wins was Kevin McClelland, the rest were turned over regularly. Like the other teams though the Oilers were dominant during the regular season finishing in first place in 1984, 1986 and 1987, second place in 1985 and third place in 1988, over that span the Oilers had a .691 winning percentage. In the playoffs however their winning percentage jumped to an impressive .815 in the four Stanley Cup years and even when 1986, when they lost in round 2, is included their winning percentage is still .790 in the playoffs. As for competition, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins were their main rivals from the eastern conference, but to most these were the prime years of the "Battle of Alberta" against the Calgary Flames. Of these rivals the Oilers had a .700 winning percentage against the Flames in the regular season between 1984 and 1988 and .611 in the playoffs. Against the Bruins during the regular season the Oilers winning percentage was .567, but the Oilers won all four playoff games they played against Boston. The Flyers were the one team that seemed to have the Oilers number during the regular season as Edmonton's winning percentage against Philadelphia was a mere .367, but in the playoffs the Oilers dominated, winning 75% of the 12 games they played in two Stanley Cup final series against the Flyers.
The consistent themes in these three dynasties are, first and foremost multiple Stanley Cup wins in a short time frame, but also a stable roster (at least of the key players in the case of the Edmonton Oilers), dominant regular season play and for the most part no team that could realistically compete against them.
Since the end of the Oilers' dynasty the landscape of the NHL has changed considerably. Expansion, dramatic increases in salaries, changes to free agency rules and the introduction of a salary cap have all conspired to make it more difficult to hold a successful team together over the long term. These changes have also led to a greater degree of parity among teams. There is now a level playing field when it comes to how much a team can spend to build their rosters and when the cap is put in place in conjunction with less restrictive free agency rules there is a much more even distribution of star players around the league, as it is more difficult for a team to stock up on star players and still remain under the cap. These are some of the contributing factors which have made it more difficult to have a dynasty in recent years.
The Los Angeles Kings, with Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014, and a Western Conference final loss in 2013, are off to a good start to become the first dynasty of the new millennium, but how do they stack up against the dynasty criteria set by past teams?
Fully sixteen members of the Kings 2012 championship team were also members of the 2014 team, showing remarkable stability. Unlike the earlier dynasties however, the Kings have not been dominant during the regular season, they finished in thirteenth place during 2012, seventh in 2013 and were ninth in 2014, and even in the era of overtime "bonus points" the Kings winning percentage in those three years was only .599. During the playoffs including their non cup year, the Kings had a mere .650 winning percentage which is much lower than the numbers put up by the Canadiens, Islanders and Oilers. The Kings were dominant in the 2012 playoffs, losing only four of twenty games, but in 2013 they won nine and lost nine, beforebeing eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks, the eventual Stanley Cup champions, and in 2014 they had to battle for the championship as their first three series all went to the limit before they managed to beat the Rangers in fave games in the final. As for stiff competition during the regular season, the Kings had a lot, certainly more than the three dynasties examined above. The strength and parity in the Western Conference has been unparalleled in recent history, Anaheim, St. Louis, Chicago and San Jose have all presented strong competition for the championship, while in the Eastern Conference Boston and Pittsburgh have also been strong.
So are the Kings a dynasty in the making? If they can win another Stanley Cup in 2015 they would have won three times in four years which would be the best run any team has put together since the Oilers won five Cups ending in 1990. They also have the roster stability of a dynasty team, in fact of the sixteen players that won with the Kings in 2012 and 2014, thirteen are under contract to the Kings for 2015. The only thing that separates the Kings from the previous dynasties is the fact that they weren't a dominating team, but in a thirty team NHL with remarkable parity, putting together a string of Stanley Cup wins is harder than ever and for that reason I believe that if the Kings can add one more Cup in 2015, they will become the first dynastic team of the twenty-first century.
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