Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Arguably Still Definition Of Modern-Day Dynasty

By Tim Martens
The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 15, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 15, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 15, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated from the postseason, and it leaves a strong debate about who should be considered the model franchise of the post-lockout NHL. Perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks?

The Washington Capitals exorcised their Pittsburgh demons last night in a thrilling overtime Game 6 win that has the Capitals in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1998. For reference, that is six years before Washington selected Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in 2004.

With Washington’s win, it guarantees the NHL will have a Stanley Cup champion that (at the very least) has not won a Stanley Cup since the lockout season of 2004-05 and a 75 percent chance it is a franchise that has never won a Stanley Cup at all.

But enough about those teams that get to actually keep playing this postseason. The questions that are now sitting with Chicago Blackhawks fans this morning after the Capitals dethroned the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins are where their team stacks up in the history books. Between the Penguins and the Blackhawks, which team should be considered the most successful of the salary cap era? Which team is a better example of modern dynasty in the new NHL?

I do not claim to have an answer to what is a very debatable subject. There are many similarities in the two franchises that has them at the top of the list above the rest of the league, the most obvious being they are the only two franchises to win three Stanley Cups in the post-lockout NHL. But let’s make a case for each team and why they should be considered the epitome of a modern day NHL franchise.

Pittsburgh: Consistency with success

The last time the Penguins did not make the playoffs was the spring of the 2005-06 NHL season, the first season after the lockout of 2004-05. With Detroit missing the playoffs again this season, the Penguins and San Jose Sharks now stand alone as the only two teams to miss the playoffs once in the salary cap era of the NHL.

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In this 12-year span of playoff appearances, the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup three times, been to four Stanley Cup Finals and five conference finals, and have a 92-72 overall record, good enough for a .561 winning percentage in the postseason.

Pittsburgh’s three Stanley Cup victories came nine years apart, but even more impressive was their back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017. Becoming the first team to go back-to-back since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins proved that even with salary cap restrictions, a franchise can become a champion in consecutive years, something many believed wouldn’t happen in the modern NHL.

The Penguins have been a consistent franchise the last 12 seasons, not only making the playoffs every year, but only being eliminated in the first round four times. No team has seen more Stanley Cup Final appearances during this span, and it will take an immense turnaround by the crumbling Blackhawks to match Pittsburgh with another Stanley Cup Final appearance in the next three seasons.

While there may be a wider spread in championships and Stanley Cup Final appearances compared to Chicago, Pittsburgh has shown it is always a threat in every single Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins may not win every year, but they are a matchup every team dreads in the postseason. This consistency is something even the Blackhawks couldn’t maintain over an extended stretch of time, but Pittsburgh has found the formula to have them competing every single year.

Chicago: Immense success in a small window

The Chicago Blackhawks ended a lackluster 2017-18 campaign earlier than they had in recent memory. After a run of nine straight postseason births, the Blackhawks missed the playoffs and have themselves questioning the direction the franchise is moving in.

But the main reason these questions are surrounding the team and their fans after one missed Stanley Cup Playoffs is specifically to do with the fact that, for a number of years, the Blackhawks looked like the absolute powerhouse of the NHL.

Not that you need reminding, but in a run of six seasons, the Blackhawks raised the Stanley Cup three times. They appeared in the Western Conference finals in five out of seven seasons. In those seven seasons, the Blackhawks had a .629 winning percentage, and even if you add in the two most recent disappointing playoff campaigns, the team still sits above Pittsburgh in the modern era with a .598 winning percentage overall.

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Not only are the Blackhawks’ three Cup victories in six years a more dominant period of winning than the Penguins’ three Cup wins in nine years, the Blackhawks have a better three-year stretch than the Penguins.

Even with Pittsburgh winning back-to-back titles, the loss to the Capitals in the second round leaves the franchise at a three-year total of 38 playoff wins the last three seasons. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 Blackhawks teams combined for 43 playoff wins. No team has had more posteseason wins in a three-year stretch since the 1981, 1982 and 1983 New York Islanders (their second, third and fourth straight Stanley Cup victories, for a total of 45 playoff wins in three years).

That kind of dominance in a short period of time is what many define as a dynasty. While, yes, none of the championships came in back-to-back seasons, a 64-35 playoff record in six seasons, four conference finals and three Stanley Cup wins is the best dynasty window any franchise has had since the lockout. Blackhawks fans will argue that Pittsburgh will need to win another Stanley Cup in the next two seasons to be considered a more dominant franchise in a short window and their point is valid.

Even if the Blackhawks’ playoff run lasted at least three years less than that of the Penguins, a dynasty is not necessarily defined by moderate success over a long period of time. A dynasty is typically seen as success at the highest level over multiple seasons closely packed together. The late-1970s had the Montreal Canadiens winning four straight championships. Four straight titles for the New York Islanders followed suit in the early 1980s. Then the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup four times in five seasons right after the Islanders’ run.

In the salary cap era, no other team had such success in a short period of time as the Chicago Blackhawks did. The Penguins still have a few years to match or break that mark set by the ‘Hawks, but as far as a modern dynasty, the Blackhawks probably fit the bill better than Pittsburgh.

Summary

This argument could go back and forth endlessly and both sides would still have a fairly strong case. The real point is, what is the question being asked?

If we are asking which franchise best represents a modern-day dynasty, the likely answer is the 2010-15 Chicago Blackhawks. But if we are asking what has been the most successful franchise in the salary cap era, the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be the appropriate choice.

There is no denying that both teams are extremely successful and will both be talked about in this era of hockey history. Just as the Islanders and Oilers are both mentioned when talking about the 1980s, the Blackhawks and Penguins will both be etched in the memories of every hockey fan in the 2010s.

There may not ever be a straight answer of which was the “better” franchise in this era — not at the moment anyway. Perhaps it will just be if either team can get that fourth title in the next few years.

Next: Blackhawks Not On Top Of NHL Draft World

What do you think? What franchise would you say is the most successful in the modern NHL? Which team (if either) would you say was a modern NHL dynasty? At this point, which franchise would you call the team of the modern NHL?

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