Dynasty is a term that isn’t used much any more in professional sports. All four major pro leagues, the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL, have put in systems that make it harder for teams to dominate for a stretch of time. While it’s true that there are modern teams that experience success for long periods of time, the era of great dynasties is over.
Only two teams have ever won as many as seven consecutive league or conference titles: the Boston Celtics who won ten straight from 1956-57 to 1965-66, and the Detroit Red Wings from 1948-49 to 1954-55.
Both teams finished first every year during their streak, emerging as champions of their leagues for the regular season. No such parallel has occurred in baseball or football. The longest streak in baseball is five years by the New York Yankees from 1949 to 1953. In the NFL the Cleveland Browns appeared in six straight championship games from 1950 to 1955.
The Wings streak coincided with the emergence of Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay in the late 1940s as two of the toughest and most skilled players in hockey. They teamed with veteran Sid Abel to form the famed “Production Line.” That trio led Detroit to the best record in the NHL in seven straight seasons, and in the 1950-51 season they became the first team in league history to top 100 points. During their streak, the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals five times and won it four times. They followed the Maple Leafs in the succession of dynasties in hockey. The Wings had a host of characters and great players on those teams, including Hall of Famers Howe, Abel, Lindsay, Red Kelly, and goalie Harry Lumley. Head coach Tommy Ivan would also one day earn election to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Detroit was one-third of a classic NHL rivalry in the late 1940s and 1950s along with the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Three times in the seven-year stretch of being the best team in the league, the Wings met and defeated Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals. They met the Maple Leafs five times in the postseason, losing only once. This was the era of the “Original Six,” when the NHL was dominated by a few great teams who took turns holding dynasties.
The current NHL environment makes it much harder for teams to stay dominant, even as dominant as they could be in the 1990s. The 1990s Red Wings were the last of the true dynastic teams, following after the vaunted Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s led by Wayne Gretzky.
NHL teams have to work with a “hard” salary cap, meaning they cannot exceed the limits set by the cap. That restriction and rules governing the signing and drafting of European players make it more difficult for one team to load their roster with great players and keep them.
Is it better for the NHL and sports in general to not have dynasties? Or do you miss the era of great teams? Let me hear your opinion in the comments section below.