Since the National Hockey League became a society of twelve teams in launch of the 1967-68 season, only three franchises have won the Stanley Cup thrice in five years. The teams with more than a couple championships in half a decade are widely considered the best hockey clubs of all time. With a Cup victory in 2014 the Chicago Blackhawks can join the 3 in 5 group and etch their name into hockey history as one of the most dominant teams of the post expansion era.
Post Expansion NHL Dynasties
From 1968 to 1979 the Montreal Canadiens hoisted hockey’s cherished chalice eight times. I know. The Hawks would need to win six Cups over the next nine years to duplicate the Habs’ dominance. They’re a great team, Chicago is, but that’s not happening.
As ridiculous as it seems for any team to win eight Cups in twelve seasons like the Canadiens did spanning the late 60’s to late 70’s, it’s worth noting the league was much different then. That was dynasty era. A few teams were absolutely stacked with talent, while the rest, kind of had no chance. Similar to how baseball and basketball are right now. Not to mention, the Stanley Cup playoffs wasn’t a gut wrenching four rounds of best-of-seven back then, either. Oh, and the salary cap never forced the Canadiens’ to trade Serge Savard, or Guy Lapointe, or Steve Shutt to meet the Cap ceiling. Those Habs teams were great, but they played by more lenient rules.
The Canadiens’ passed the dynasty torch over to the New York Islanders in 1980. Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, you know the names. From 1980 to 1983 the Islanders won the Cup, every single time, but you already knew that too. What you may not have known is that the Isles hold an NHL record for most consecutive best-of-seven series’ wins at nineteen. The accomplishment is unheard of by today’s standards. To put it in perspective, the most successful playoff team over the last twenty years is the Detroit Red Wings, who have seized four championship titles since 1997. The most consecutive playoff series’ they’ve triumphantly claimed is ten. Ditto for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 90’s.
Something tells me you also know that the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup five times in seven years from 1984 to 1990. Gretzky, Messier, battle of Alberta, etc. They won three in five years and then some. The current core of the Chicago Blackhawks would need to win every Stanley Cup tournament for the next three years to mimic the Oilers’ 5 in 7.
The above mentioned dynasty teams are common knowledge because their dominance is memorable and time transcending. You can even argue the two-time Cup streaks earn similar staying power as years go by.
The Two-Time Club of Stanley Cup Champions
A bunch of teams have won Lord Stanley’s Gift twice in five years. The Bruins 70’ and 72’, Flyers 74’ and 75’, Penguins 91’ and 92’, Red Wings 97’ and 98’, Red Wings again, 98’ and 02’, plus the Devils 00’ and 03’, and the current version of the Chicago Blackhawks who of course have rode floats in two parades over the last four years.
Existing within the 2 in 5 club is enough to ensure this current core of Blackhawks will go down in NHL history as one of hockey’s best championship outfits. Bobby Orr’s Bruins, Bobby Clarke’s Flyers, Mario Lemieux’s Penguins, Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings, and Martin Brodeur’s Devils are as praised and pedestaled as any team for their ability to win more than once. Jonathan Toews’ Blackhawks have earned the right to belong to this esteemed group. Time will reveal their place among the most legendary teams in hockey even if they never touch Cup again. BUT, a championship victory this season, well, that changes everything – raises an entirely different debate about the Toews/Kane/Keith/Seabrook Hawks’ place in NHL folklore.
The drive for 3 in 5
3 in 5 is a whole different puck game. If the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this season, they become exclusive member to a much rarer group of iconic NHL teams. When you factor in the era, the thirty team league, the salary cap, the incredible parity in the NHL, the undeniable depth at the goaltending position around the league, Crosby’s Pens, Chara’s Bruins, Zetterberg’s Red Wings, unrestricted free agency and the grueling nature and speed of today’s game – winning three Cups in five years is not only Dominant with a capital D, it’s downright preposterous. But it may happen this year if you can believe it. And no one is talking about it, nor should they until Gary Bettman hands hockey’s holy grail to Jonathan Toews in late June, if they can do it again.
Thinking about all the greats that played on the Bruins back in the early 70’s it’s hard to compare these Hawks to such legends. Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito who scored 76 goals in a single season when scoring 50 was as rare as a solar eclipse. It’s fool’s talk to compare these Hawks to those Bruins, right? Maybe it isn’t. History views Orr’s Bruins as a full book, written to perfection, occupying a spot on the best sellers list for four decades and counting. The Blackhawks story is still a rough draft saved to the author’s hard drive, many chapters unwritten to this point. Unless they don’t win another Cup, then the story is over, a shorter one than the loyal supporters at the Madhouse on Madison care to know.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ quest for three Cups in five years would even trump the achievements of bitter rivals, the Red Wings. It took Yzerman‘s side six years to win thrice. They had stiff competition in their way. The Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils fought valiantly to prevent the golden era Red Wings from winning every year. And they succeeded, each franchise taking their turn at Cup glory in the midst of the Red Wings’ reign.
The Hawks face similar threats. We all know the Boston Bruins can do it. They’ve played in the Stanley Cup playoffs’ final showdown twice in the last three years.
The Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and this season’s surprise team provide many scary threats to the Hawks’ on their journey toward 3 in 5. There are obstacles all around.
And perhaps the biggest threat of all, a reinvigorated Pittsburgh Penguins with a healthy Sidney Crosby and refocused Marc-Andre Fleury. Am I the only one who gets the feeling they got at least one more Cup in them?
The current version of the Blackhawks already belongs in modern history as one of the greatest teams of the last 25 years – the 2013 Cup propelled them into that conversation. However, another championship this season, becoming the first team to accomplish three Cups in five years since the 1980’s, will launch this group beyond the realm of great team and push them directly into true dynasty status.