The Big Three
I was 11 when I watched the Montreal Canadiens win the fifth of five consecutive Stanley Cups in 1960.
The National Hockey League came to St. Louis in 1967 and I watched the Canadiens beat the Blues to win two more championships.
In 1973, those same "Flying Frenchmen" from Montreal won the second of six Cups in that decade.
The Colorado Avalanche made significant late-February and early-March trades in 2000 and 2001 to capture their second championship in six years.
The common denominator in each of these success stories is that each of these teams were able to rotate three star defensemen into their offense and defense.
For Montreal, it was defensemen Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson and Jean-Guy Talbot in the 1950s. It was Jacques Laperriere, J.C. Tremblay and young Serge Savard in the 1960s. And Savard was joined by Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe in the 1970s.
The acquisition of Ray Bourque in 2000 and Rob Blake in 2001 to join standout Adam Foote made the Avalanche comparable to those great Montreal teams.
Since everyone knows winning Stanley Cups starts with great defense, this season, everyone will be watching the Detroit Red Wings, who have added 6-foot-5, 235-pound former Dallas Stars captain Derian Hatcher to a defense that already included standouts Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios.
It's clear that a lot of experts feel that this defensive superiority -- to go along with future Hall of Fame forwards Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan -- might help the Red Wings rally from a first-round playoff elimination to win their fourth Cup in seven years.
''I see the Red Wings bring back Dominik Hasek in goal and that is significant,'' rival Dallas center Mike Modano said recently. ''But seeing Derian back there on defense with Lidstrom and Chelios along with Jiri Fischer, Mathieu Schneider, Jason Woolley and Mathieu Dandenault makes for a line of defense you might say is impenetrable.''
Hours after the Colorado Avalanche chose to renew themselves as a Stanley Cup threat by signing high-powered offensive free agents Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland went in a very different direction -- not that Detroit's championship reign didn't include Scotty Bowman's dreaded left-wing lock defense.
''There are obviously different ways to build your team,'' Holland said. ''Our way here has always been to have a high-powered, high-octane offense. But ...''
With high-scoring free-agent center Sergei Fedorov telling the Red Wings he was going to choose a different destination for his career and later signing with Anaheim, Detroit immediately set to improve its overall defensive game as a priority.
''Maybe we've got to try to have the best defense in the League,'' said Holland. ''Maybe we won't score quite as many goals, but you've got to be flexible.
''All I know is that it's been 40 or 50 years since the Red Wings have had a player like Derian Hatcher in the lineup. If I sound excited about what we can do here ... it's because I'm very excited.''
Hatcher, a native of the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, captained Dallas to the 1999 Stanley Cup. He has played in 827 regular-season and 100 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his 12-year career, all with the Stars. That includes 23 postseason games in Dallas' Cup run in '99.