A few days ago, my Winging It In Motown colleague Graham openly wondered what the true definition of a dynasty was and, with his new, more modern definition, declared the Red Wings' current 20 year stretch of greatness a dynasty. Despite this being a feel-good idea that I would love to agree with, I cannot. To put it bluntly, the current Red Wings are most definitely not a dynasty. They are the closest thing to a dynasty that the league has seen since the Gretzky-Messier led Oilers of the 80's, but are not a dynasty themselves.
As a Red Wings blogger, I am immeasurably biased. So biased that any mention of the name Sergei Fedorov will automatically result in the head image being of that Russian piece of perfection. However, even I cannot agree with this notion that the Wings are a "modern dynasty." After the jump, we will examine how this team, despite its numerous successes and mild domination, is not a dynasty, and perhaps slip in a few references to my favorite Russian.
The Red Wings have achieved one of the most successful and impressive runs of all time and of any sport over the last two decades. Twenty straight seasons appearing in the playoffs is a feat that only six other NHL teams have accomplished, the most recent being a twenty five year run by the St. Louis Blues that ended in 2004. In those twenty seasons, the Wings have done much more than just make the playoffs, though, unlike that Blues team. Stealing from Graham, this list includes: "14 division titles; 11-straight 100 point seasons; 8 Conference Finals appearances; 6 Stanley Cup Finals appearances, with 4 of those teams skating that beautiful trophy around the ice". Other than a Canadiens team or seven, I cannot think of any other team that has done such a thing in this league. However, that is not what a dynasty is.
As I pointed out in the comments of Graham's article, when I think of a dynasty, I immediately jump to the Mongol empire. Excuse the brief history lesson, but I want to paint a picture for you. In the 13th century, the Mongols, led by the great Ghengis Khan, managed to conquer half the known world. In the twenty years (the same amount of time the Wings have made the playoffs) that Ghengis Khan led this people, they managed to take control of everything north of India, south of Russia, and east of the Caspian Sea with a few dabblings in China. After Ghengis Khan's death in 1227, his descendants went on to conquer all of Asia south of Siberia and north of India, most of China, half of the Middle East, and nearly all of western Europe before the Empire began to fall in roughly 1280. Just think about that. The Mongols managed to control most of Asia and half of Europe and did so in roughly 80 years.
The Mongol Empire, in my opinion, is a dynasty. A sustained period of dominance with few losses where few stood any chance of succeeding against their force. When applied to sports, there is one key ingredient to a dynasty that must be added: successive championships. Below is a list taken from NHL.com via a comment from TheMetalChick that lists each dynasty officially recognized by the NHL:
Ottawa Senators of 1919–27 (4 championships in 8 years) 1920, 1921, 1923, 1927
Toronto Maple Leafs of 1947–51 (4 championships in 5 years) 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951
Detroit Red Wings of 1950–55 (4 championships in 6 years) 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955
Montreal Canadiens of 1956–60 (5 consecutive championships) 1956–1960
Toronto Maple Leafs of 1962–67 (4 championships in 6 years) 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967
Montreal Canadiens of 1965–69 (4 championships in 5 years) 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969
Montreal Canadiens of 1975–79 (4 consecutive championships) 1976–1979
New York Islanders of 1980–84 (4 consecutive championships) 1980–1983
Edmonton Oilers of 1984–90 (5 championships in 7 years) 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990
In our twenty year run, the Wings have managed four Stanley Cups. If you really wanted to trim that down, we have won four Stanley Cups in twelve years. A great feat and one that fans like myself enjoy thoroughly, but far from a dynasty. Every single team in that list won at least that many championships in eight years or less, with all but two doing so in less than six years, exactly half as long as it took the Wings to do.
Now, Graham's article was more about determining the modern definition of a dynasty than fitting the Wings into the old one. However, I believe there can only be the one definition. To apply it to a team such as the current Red Wings or to the Devils run that just ended would tarnish the dynasties of old, make them into lesser accomplishments. No matter how good the competition or how many other teams there were, those nine teams dominated the league in extraordinary ways.
What I propose is simple - a new term applied to teams led by Fedorov and the Devils that don't dominate the league but do have prolonged success. I used the term "powerhouse" in the comments of Graham's article, but it could really be anything at all. This new term would be used just as we use the terms "Superstars" and "All Avalanche, etc. don't have and, to be frank, that is domination."; both are fantastic players but a Superstar has something that an All Star does not. Those nine official dynasties have something that powerhouses like the Wings, Devils, Roy/Sakic/Forsberg era
While Graham's intentions are noble, the idea that the Wings are a dynasty is false. The Wings have been a great team for the last 20 years and has been home to many all time greats such as Yzerman, Shanahan, Coffey, Lidstrom, Chelios, so on and so forth. They have accomplished a great many things from winning four Stanley Cups to being the recipient of the most President's Trophies in history to countless division titles. But these things do not make a dynasty, and only one thing does: sheer domination of the league for a period of time. The Wings, despite their many successes, have never been that dominant of a force and, in my mind at least, are a powerhouse but not a dynasty.