On Dynasties and Droughts

I guess I have been lurking around here long enough. Yesterday's news discussing whether the Chicago Blackhawks comprise a dynasty serves as a nice launching point. I've been watching the Wings for 46 years and have had my share of joy and disappointment. As a person who does analysis for a living, I can't help but take an analytical view on questions of dynasties.

As a fan, I want the Red Wings to make it to the Finals and to win the Stanley Cup. Having experienced the prolonged agony of the 70s and 80s, I also want them to do it regularly. I expect fans in other places want the same thing from their teams. But to compare today's NHL teams poses a problem because they have widely varying tenure in the league. I think it is unfair simply to count Cups because it biases the analysis in favor of teams that have been around a long time. For this discussion I have quantified regularity as the average years between Cup wins (and also between Finals appearances). Inconsistency is measured by the longest interval between those events divided by the length of existence of the team. The two measures are independent but there is a lower bound to inconsistency; the best a team could do is to space each event equally over time. Both variables include the current length of time since the last event and the time span from team inception to first event.

To compare today's teams I choose to start when the Original Six had finally all appeared: 1927. Since that time many places have acquired teams, and once a place got a team the clock started ticking. It doesn't matter that Winnipeg and Denver lost teams and got them back later, what concerns me is how fans feel about their representation. (And sorry San Jose, I count the original team in Oakland as your first NHL representation; I have lived in the Bay Area for 20 years so I feel entitled to do that).

Here is the graph of teams according to the evidence of their appearances in Stanley Cup Finals:


The teams have been color coded: original six in black, expansion teams from the middle wave starting in the late sixties are in blue and the most recent wave are in green. A team with a red dot marking its performance has never appeared in the Finals or has never won the Cup. The dotted lines represent the line of maximum consistency based on the era the team entered the league. The closer a team is to its respective line, the more consistent it has been (even if it has been consistently bad!) The outlier in the original six is the Maple Leafs; they have made a lot of appearances but have had a very long gap. The Blackhawks have been more consistent at making regular Finals appearances, albeit somewhat less frequently. Of the first wave of expansion teams Philadelphia comes out on top for Finals appearances, while Carolina and Anaheim are tops among the most recent additions.

But the question of the Blackhawks as a dynasty in the cited article was based on Cup wins and here is the analysis for that:


According to this graph, Chicago is in the middle of the pack. Although it has been fairly consistent, it has taken an average of fifteen years to win a Cup, while New Jersey, Detroit and Toronto have taken half as long. Of those three, New Jersey is much closer to the ideal line given the age of the team, so its fans have been treated to exceptional results. In contrast, Edmonton has won the Cup more frequently than all other teams except one, but it has tormented its fans with the current lapse. Of course, all other teams take a back seat to Montreal; not only has it won a lot of Cups, it has not subjected its fans to excessively long droughts (though I suspect a few people in Montreal may feel that the current one qualifies).

Maybe I'm quibbling about semantics, but I think a dynasty is meant to refer to a succession of rulers, not just the act of ruling. The Blackhawks have enjoyed recent success, but only a prolonged future period of consistently appearing in Finals and winning Cups should qualify it for the title.

This is a fanpost written by a WIIM community member. The views and opinions expressed here are that member's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the site itself.

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