What constitutes a dynasty? Is it a team that wins the Stanley Cup at least three-straight years? I'm not so sure. If it is, you have to immediately eliminate from consideration teams like the Montreal Canadiens of the 1960's and the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980's. Both of those great teams won the Cup four times in a five year period. Out also are the Detroit Red Wings of the 1950's, who had seven straight first place finishes and won four Stanley Cups in a six year stretch.
You certainly can make a strong argument for any of those teams, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs of the late-1940's and early-1960's. Each one of those teams dominated in those years! They were all great teams and I believe could be considered a dynasty in their own right. So lets look a bit closer and come up with a list of the "Best of the Best."
Right at the Top of the list we again point to Montreal and the Canadiens teams of the mid to late-1950's. Those Montreal teams from 1956 through 1960 won five-straight Stanley Cups. I should point out in those years it might have been a bit easier to win the Stanley Cup as there were only six teams in the NHL and a team only needed to win two rounds to hoist the Cup. But make no mistake, with the likes of Hall of Famers Maurice "Rocket" Richard, his brother, Henri the "Pocket Rocket", Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, Bernie Geoffrion and Dickie Moore, not to mention their great coach Toe Blake, they would have had no problem winning the four series it takes to win a Stanley Cup in this era.
Montreal again would dominate the National Hockey League in the late-1970's, winning the Stanley Cup four-straight years from 1976 to 1979. I had the good fortune of spending my early years in the NHL watching that dynasty up close as the pre- and post-game host of Canadiens radio broadcasts. Those outstanding teams amazingly lost just 56 of 378 regular season and playoff games. In fact, in one Cup year, the Habs lost only eight games in the regular season!
The more I think about it....this is the dynasty I would rate above the others. In the four Championship years they finished first overall each time. In the middle two seasons, they lost only 18 of 160 games… the eight I spoke of earlier and just 10 the following season. They then won 12 playoff series in winning the four Cups. Of those 12 series, Montreal swept its opponents six times! Count 'em, 10 future Hall of Famers were on those teams… the likes of Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lafleur and Bob Gainey just to name a few. They were coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman. Why they stand above the rest is the fact that no other NHL team as dominated both the regular season and the playoffs the way those teams did!
So with the Canadiens of the late-1970's my first overall choice as the NHL's greatest dynasty, lets now look at the honorable mentions (with no disrespect to these teams).
The New York Islanders dynasty of the early-1980's deserves some recognition. In fact, the Islanders set a standard likely never to be duplicated! Those Stanley Cup teams won 19-consecutive playoff series and many of those series wins were won after the team rallied from behind to win. Like the Canadiens before them, the Islanders roster was full of Hall of Famers. The Likes of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Billy Smith and my former broadcast partner in Florida, Denis Potvin. Those Islander teams were terrific playoff performers, but what hurts them in this debate is that they did not dominate during the regular season. They won their division only twice in the four years they won the Cup.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980's. Those Edmonton teams won four Cups in a five year period, including 1990 when they won a championship after "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky was traded. The Hockey News "fan poll" actually picked those Edmonton teams as the all-time greatest dynasty ahead of the Montreal teams of the late-1970's.
Aside from that Cup win in 1990, Gretzky was the headliner on those teams with the likes of goaltender Grant Fuhr, defensemen Paul Coffey and Kevn Lowe and the high-scoring Jari Kurri and Mark Messier up front. Their championship team of 1983-84 set what likely will be the all-time record for goals scored in a regular season with a staggering 446. So there you have it… another great debate.