The Red Wings will take to the ice looking for back-to-back Stanley Cups against the Penguins Saturday night. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
If in two weeks or so the Detroit Red Wings win their fifth Stanley Cup in 12 seasons, we’ll have had the privilege of being witnesses to a remarkable period in hockey history.
Not only will the Wings have cemented “dynasty” status, but a case could be made it’s the NHL’s greatest sustained franchise achievement ever.
Comparisons to past dynasties are perilous, but Detroit’s enduring brilliance is underscored by two unique factors with which other long-reigning champs haven’t had to contend: a 30-team league and a delicate salary cap. Both components are designed to foster parity and discourage dominance.
In a 30-team league, each club has a three percent chance of capturing Stanley, all else being equal. The very nature of winning, meanwhile, puts increased pressure on team payrolls – everyone thinks they deserve more – making it increasingly difficult to keep a good thing going.
Toss in a draft founded on Robin Hood principles – one in which the season’s big winner now has to wait 30 picks to get its first reinforcement, compared to 12 or 14 or 21 in bygone times – and it’s clear Detroit has had to swim upstream in rapids with more white water than past big fish.
Another tentacle to this octopi-embracing juggernaut is the number of Hall of Famers who may be in their midst. By our count, we could be seeing as many as eight. Here’s the breakdown:
The John Cusack Club (the sure things)
Ken Holland: The master builder of this generation, Holland would earn his fourth ring as GM if Detroit defeats Pittsburgh; his fifth came in 1997, when he was technically assistant GM. The Hall of Fame isn’t a question of “if” any longer with Holland, but “when.”
Nicklas Lidstrom: Bobby Orr. Doug Harvey. Ray Bourque. Where do you slot Lidstrom?
Chris Chelios: He would have been in a few years ago if he’d retired when most mortals do.
The GPS Gang (on course)
Pavel Datsyuk: Has won three Lady Byngs, one Selke and the respect of the hockey community as a Hart Trophy finalist this season. At 30, if he keeps on keepin’ on, he looks like a decent bet.
Henrik Zetterberg: With one Conn Smythe and several consistently starry seasons in his back pocket, the 28-year-old Zetterberg is capable of becoming a prime Hall candidate.
Mike Babcock: How many rings does it take for a coach to get in? Babcock is going for No. 2 in his third finals appearance. If the Wings are as well-positioned as they look for future years, his rarefied reputation will continue to grow.
The Teeter-Totter Troop (could go either way)
Chris Osgood: He’ll finish his career with more than 400 regular season wins; the only other stoppers with that many victories not in the Hall are Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph. ‘The Eagle’ will land in the Hall; ‘CuJo’ is more of a dark horse. But you could make a case that Osgood has outshone both when it comes to post-season performance, particularly if he gets his fourth ring this year.
Marian Hossa: A truly wonderful player, Hossa has more work to do than anyone on this list, but Cup No. 1 would be a good starting point. At 30, he still has time on his side.
Expecting all eight to get in is a longshot, but the Wings have defied the odds for the past dozen seasons, so we’re not counting them out.
Host Ryan Dixon sits down with editor-in-chief Jason Kay and senior writer Ken Campbell to discuss what has changed for each team and their predictions for the series.
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper | The THN.com Shootout will appear regularly throughout the playoffs.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.