TELANDER: Modern-day NHL dynasties just won’t happen
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org June 4, 2013 11:56PM
Updated: June 5, 2013 12:24AM
LOS ANGELES — Dynasties are hard to create, hard to sustain.
Just ask the Mings.
No, I didn’t say Kings, though you could ask them, too.
Or ask the Blackhawks after Kings forward Justin Williams slapped in a wide-open shot with barely three minutes gone in the first period Tuesday of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, leading the way for a 3-1 Kings victory.
The spanking wiped out a lot of the Hawks’ feel-good from Games 1 and 2 at the United Center.
Williams’ puck, for instance, sailed over goalie Corey Crawford’s right shoulder like an arrow over a hay bale.
This was unusual because the Hawks and Crawford had pretty much owned the Kings during the first two games in Chicago, both Hawks wins, by a combined 6-3 score.
Yes, the last goal was an easy empty-netter by the Kings’ King — Dwight King, that is — but L.A. outplayed the Hawks in all phases.
As Hawks winger Bryan Bickell said, ‘‘We didn’t deserve it.’’ Of the Kings’ intensity, he said, ‘‘We didn’t match it.’’
The Kings had more shots, hits and goals than the Hawks and fewer giveaways (11 to the Hawks’ 15).
‘‘They’re alive, and they’re at home,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. True.
But the Hawks’ early dominance had brought up long-buried ideas about things such as dynasties in sport, about maybe even the Hawks being in the early stages of one. That is kind of nonsensical because it could be argued that no NHL team is going to win like some did back in the old days.
We won’t go back to Original Six days, but from 1968 to 1990, you had the Canadiens winning eight Stanley Cups in 12 years, the Islanders winning four Cups in a row, the Oilers winning five in seven years. Then the dynasties — if those runs are long enough for you — stopped.
More teams poured into the league, things such as salary caps and teams moving to new cities became major issues. Great players got injured more often it seemed, perhaps because of the increasing size and speed of the men they skated against.
Indeed, if you look at Patrick Kane on the ice with some of these Kings defensemen — such as Matt Greene (6-3, 232) and Robyn Regehr (6-3, 225) — he seems like a frail waif amid brutes. Yet 40 years ago, he would have been — at 5-10, 180 — almost normal.
It’s possible right now that any of the four teams left in the playoffs — the Hawks, Kings, Penguins and Bruins — may be starting mini-dynasties. That’s because they’re the last four Stanley Cup champions. Win this one, and, well, at least you could make a claim for something special starting.
In the last 23 years, those four teams plus the Red Wings, Ducks, Hurricanes, Lightning, Devils, Avalanche, Stars, Rangers, Canadiens, Oilers and Flames have all won the Cup. There’s not enough room anywhere in there for a team to call itself something unique. Detroit has been Hockeytown, a solid franchise. But there are no overwhelming Cup streaks for the Wings, either.
The Hawks have built a core around Kane, Toews and, seemingly, Crawford that gives the team an identity that it will need to go forward and become a dynasty.
But the salary cap drops from over $70 million to a little above $64 million next season because of the new collective-bargaining agreement — remember there was a lockout this season? — so the Hawks, like most teams, will have to shed some good players. Viktor Stalberg and excellent backup goalie Ray Emery likely will be gone.
That’s how it goes. And when you feel you’re suddenly getting derailed en route to dominance, it can sting.
That’s likely why Hawks winger Patrick Sharp and Williams went at it briefly with gloves dropped just after a faceoff in the first period. Not long after, Sharp whacked Brad Richardson hard across the legs as the two skated off the ice. Chippy, chippy, and into the penalty box went Sharp for slashing. This is not Sharpie’s style.
But the quest for greatness can get under you skin, especially against the Kings — big guys who also are reaching for it all.
‘‘We gotta play a little better, a little harder,’’ Crawford said.
Dynasties start with great talent. Then you need power and will. To get to the peak and stay there.