When it comes to major hockey moments a bit of time to gain perspective is often required. So it was a little surprising to hear a unanimous rush to grant the 2014 – 15 Chicago Blackhawks the elite status of dynasty, a term afforded to only 9 teams (six franchises) over 95 years in the NHL’s lengthy history. To be clear what makes a dynasty, definition can be drawn from the small number of teams recognized as such by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Based on the franchises that have been awarded this lofty status there are a few standout criteria items.
-Need to have one two cups back to back over the dynastic period.
-Must have won a minimum of four Stanley cups.
-Clearly have dominated other opposition during their period of greatness.
When matching this criteria to Chicago Blackhawks that one it’s first cup in 2009, the windy city franchise clearly does not match up. They haven’t won back to back cups, they haven’t won four Stanley cups, and they really haven’t been the clear dominant franchise during their dynastic period. So why is media, NHL executives and hordes of fans rushing to declare them a dynasty? The reasons have less to do with facts and more to do with marketing and a desire by all to feel they are watching hockey that is truly special.
Gary Bettman Says So . . .
When the cup was awarded, the NHL Hockey boss said he believed the Chicago Blackhawks were a dynasty and took advantage of one of those rare moments when he wasn’t showered with boos. It must have made Gary feel warm and fuzzy to be the good guy on this occasion, however, that good feeling was likely a far distance from his true motivation. Bettman’s real motive, the one he holds near near and dear to his heart, is selling the sport of hockey in the U,S, and making as much money for the league and himself in the process.. Chicago is one of the top markets in the US and while he doesn’t need to sell hard to this storied franchise, it doesn’t hurt. Additionally, while the spot light was in Chicago all the U.S. could bask in the afterglow. Do you think that may help sell some tickets? It certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The issue I have with Bettman’s statement is that I don’t believe he is equipped to make any blanket statements with respect to the sacred sport of hockey. I honestly believe if he was hooked to a lie detector and and asked to recount his top ten hockey memories he might get to 7 before machine went beserk as he went into the fabrication zone. So to believe Bettman’s cheerleading legitimizes a Blackhawk dynasty is pure folly.
What About The Media?
Somewhat surprisingly the hockey media generally rushed to support the notion that Chicago should be crowned a dynasty. Even established vets like Bob Mckenzie agreed that the cup victory legitimized a new dynasty. The real question that needs to be asked is why? Especially when the Hawks’ victory totals clearly did not stack up to any previous dynasties. The straight answer to that is the media was really just doing it’s job and spinning the most interesting angle following the Stanley cup victory. To some degree that perspective of the media can be appreciated albeit the claim remains inaccurate. Especially when you couple the media’s natural drive for the biggest story out there with a push for something to make our hockey time that much more significant. This push isn’t new. As long ago as 2000 the HHOF had been feeling pressure to recognize something truly elite comparable to other great hockey eras. Elite players have arrived but no real elite teams, at least no dynasties.
But They Did It Under The Salary Cap so . . .
A very valid point all those who support the Hawks’ claim to dynasty status is that the salary cap that has been in place since 2005 – 06 has made it all but impossible to assemble a four cup team, so a three cup one spread out over five years should suffice. But is that really the biggest obstacle to another dynasty team? As challenging as the cap is the continuing influx of teams over the past 20 years that have diluted the talent available as well as competition from other leagues for high level players have sapped the talent pool.
Based on that ongoing challenge, a team like the Detroit Red Wings of the mid to late 90’s that won three cups over five years should have received equal consideration for dynasty status, but never did. The reason the push is on now has less to do with the Blackhawks actually being a dynasty and more to do with all parties associated with the NHL wanting something that special to happen during their time watching hockey. As for Blackhawks actually being a dynasty there is one last significant reason that disqualifies them: During their ostensibly dynastic period they did not dominate from start to finish.
When you look at past dynasties, specifically ones like the 1920’s Senators or 1950’s Detroit Red Wings that did not win their cups consecutively, they were still clearly the dominant team of their dynastic period. The Chicago Blackhawks by comparison only have one more cup than dynasty rival, the Los Angeles Kings. Indeed, if the Kings were to somehow rebound next year they would have won as many cups as Chicago and would also incorrectly challenge for dynasty status. So would that be realistic? No, it would all be high level wishful thinking.
Now, what if the Blackhawks were to pull off yet one more win in the 2015 – 2016 season? Would that be enough to do it? Well, actually I would have to say yes. They would have won four cups over a relatively short period of time including back to back wins and would clearly have been the best team during their dynastic period. So until that happens, lets not rush to make any excessive claims of grandeur but simply label the Blackhawks for what they are: an excellent team of their era comparable to the Detroit Red Wings or Colorado Avalanche of the 90’s. But are they a dynasty? Not quite yet.
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