When Jonathan Toews hoisted his third Stanley Cup in six seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, the dynasty talk began immediately. It was inevitable. With this particular outcome, it was always going to be inevitable. Some have immediately dismissed the notion. "Some", oddly enough, includes many within the organization flat out denying it, with Patrick Kane going so far as to say that "I don't know what that means."
But the dynasty label is fitting for this organization. In today's NHL climate, with the salary cap being so restrictive, maintaining consistent success is easier said than done. There have been 10 Stanley Cup champions crowned since the hard salary cap was implemented. Over that span, seven different teams have won the Stanley Cup. The only other repeat team in that group is obviously the Los Angeles Kings. The Hawks have won a third of the Stanley Cup titles in what is considered the "Salary Cap Era."
Five of the last seven years have featured the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. In 2013-14, they came within an overtime bounce of reaching what would have been a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. Instead, they had to wait the extra year and did the deed this year, amid all of the challenges that they faced as the '14-'15 campaign wore on.
What's most impressive about these Blackhawks is obviously how they've managed to rebuild themselves and reinvent themselves throughout these recent years of success. The 2010 team looks frighteningly different from the team that won the Cup in 2013 which, subsequently, looks quite different from these 2014-15 Hawks. While the supporting cast has obviously changed throughout the last six seasons, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been right in the middle of it all.
It's that same core that immediately allows for grounds to label this team a dynasty. Sure, the Hawks have lost some key cogs (Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell) and picked up some new friends along the way (Brandon Saad, Corey Crawford, Johnny Oduya, Andrew Shaw), but it's that core that has essentially allowed the Blackhawks to repeatedly return to what Pierre McGuire constantly and obsessively refers to as the "top of the NHL mountain."
The even better fact about that core? Of the seven members of this team that were around for all three Stanley Cups, each of which would be considered a part of the "core", five were drafted by the team. The only ones that were not were Sharp, acquired via trade from the Philadelphia Flyers, and Hossa, who was an offseason prize in free agency before the 2009-10 campaign. This team's commitment to drafting and development is what has allowed them to maintain this type of success, even with the dark cloud of a salary cap looming large over their heads.
For the better part of the last six seasons, the road to the Stanley Cup has gone through Chicago. They have firmly established themselves as the class of the National Hockey League, not only through their consistency in winning games and accolades, but primarily developing from within and concentrating on outside additions primarily as a supplement. Which is what will continue to make them a threat moving forward.
And it is likely what will allow the Hawks to continue this type of success on into the future. This summer may see the departure of a guy like Patrick Sharp from the present core. But he'll be replaced within that group by the likes of Brandon Saad, Corey Crawford, Marcus Kruger, and Andrew Shaw (assuming all four are back next year), each of which were drafted by this organization.
So how do we ultimately determine whether or not this team is, in fact, a dynasty? The term itself obviously has some flexibility in the sporting world. The immediate definition may lend itself to a team winning consecutive championships, or even several consecutive championships. But we're far past the years of the New York Islanders rattling off four consecutive Stanley Cup wins. This is a new era and a new age, where money proves to be the largest factor working both for and against teams, time and time again. So the very definition of dynasty doesn't necessarily mean what it may have used to.
Which is why we can look directly at these Chicago Blackhawks and declare them to be what could be classified as a modern day dynasty. They've managed to take the same core group of players and ensure a type of sustained success that is virtually unheard of in today's NHL landscape. The Boston Bruins and LA Kings both missed the playoffs this year. This isn't an easy league in which to win. And the Blackhawks have done it three times in six seasons, with what could have very well been another in 2013-14.
The Blackhawks are the class of the NHL. When the playoffs get underway, they're the matchup teams want to get in order to measure themselves up against to really prove their mettle as an elite NHL team. That isn't a fluke. Nor are three Cups in six seasons. Just as the game has changed, stylistically and financially, the definition of a dynasty should change along with it.
And in the case of the Chicago Blackhawks, what we have on our hands is absolutely a modern version of an NHL dynasty.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.