One of the major benefits of the salary cap system instituted during the ’04-05 lockout has been the semblance of parity in the NHL. While many of the playoff teams have remained the same, we have not seen a repeat Stanley Cup champion since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
The closest we have come to a dynasty in the post-lockout NHL is the Chicago Blackhawks winning two Stanley Cups in the span of four years. If the Los Angeles Kings win on Wednesday night, they will win their second Cup in three years. While it shows that teams are still capable of dominating the rest of the league, it’s a far cry from the Islanders and Oilers dynasties of the 1980s.
While eight different teams won the Cup in the 1990s (as opposed to four in the 80s), the series were often one-sided affairs. with five Stanley Cups awarded to teams that swept the final in four games. This includes a stretch from 1995 to 1998, where the Stanley Cup Final ended in a sweep every time.
A team has not finished a final in four games since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals. Since then, the losing team has won at least two wins all but twice (Carolina lost 4-1 to Detroit in 2002 and Ottawa lost 4-1 to Anaheim in 2007).
It still remains to be seen if the Kings can complete the first Stanley Cup Final sweep in 16 years, but the fact that it’s been that long shows that parity does exist in the NHL. Not only has a different team raised the Cup each year since 1998, but nearly every series has been competitive.
We may remember the Islanders, Canadiens, and Oilers dynasties of the past, but parity is essential for the NHL to gain new fans. A dynasty is a tremendous marketing opportunity for a sports league, but fans want parity. At the start of a new NHL season, we celebrate the fact that history has shown a new team (IE: “My Team”) can and will raise the Stanley Cup the following June.