Tuesday, June 16, 2015


So I've been thinking about dynasties this morning, as Jonathan Toews parades the Stanley Cup around the United Center and Chicago reacts in some perfectly awesome ways. I've been thinking about how we keep moving the bar for what constitutes a dynasty ... or what used to ... or what might constitute one in the near future.

Once upon a time the Boston Celtics won 10 NBA titles in 11 years, and that, friends and neighbors, was a dynasty.

Now the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups in six years, and suddenly people are using the "D" word to describe that.

One of these things, as they say, is not like the other. Except it is.

Largely that's because the landscape of professional sports is so profoundly different now, which means our concept of a dynasty is different. The Celtics of the 1960s were a dynasty because they won 10 in 11 years, but that wouldn't have happened at any other time in history because player movement in the '60s was so restricted that Red Auerbach essentially could put the same lineup on the floor not just night after night, but year after year. And that was true in baseball and football and hockey as well.

Which is why the Packers won three straight NFL titles in the '60s. And the Yankees won all those World Series in the '50s. And the Canadiens bench-pressed the Cup so often in the '50s they could have slapped the word "Nautilus" on it and installed it in their weight room.

Free agency (and expansion) knocked all of that into a cocked hat, however, because with free agency came salary caps, and with salary caps came the necessity to shift the chess pieces around far more frequently. Not just spare parts but established stars get moved now, and not just occasionally. And so teams find themselves in what amounts to a constant state of rebuilding.

It requires a nimble front office -- I've often wondered why teams even needed a front office back in the non-free agency days -- and the front offices that prove most nimble produce the teams that most often succeed. And yet no one succeeds completely all the time these days.

Which is why you hardly ever see back-to-back champions in any of the major sports, and almost never do you see back-to-back-to-back champs. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers of the NBA were the last team to pull that off, and that was 13 years ago. No one has so much as gone back-to-back in baseball or hockey since the Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000 and the Red Wings won back-to-back Cups in 1997-98, and the last back-to-back Super Bowl champs were the Patriots in 2004-05.

A full decade has passed since.

And so, yes, three Cups in six years is what amounts to a dynasty these days. As do the three World Series in five years by the Giants. As do the four NBA titles and five Finals appearance in the 2000s by the Spurs, and the four Super Bowls by the Patriots.

Dynasties used to be teams that won every year. Now they're teams, like the Spurs and Patriots, that go deep into the playoffs every year, and win every so often.

It's not quite as sexy as 10 titles in 11 years, admittedly. But it'll have to do.      

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