Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Success By Generations

Tonight saw the most successful team in terms of wins and losses over the last decade set a new mark for their hometown fans. The Detroit Red Wings downed the Dallas Stars to win their 21st consecutive game on home ice, breaking the mark set by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers. For three months, the Red Wings have not given up two points at Joe Louis Arena. Overlooking the three shootout wins to preserve the winning streak, the fact that any team in today's parity-based NHL can put together a streak like the Wings have shows just how good this version of the Detroit Red Wings are.

There have always been teams that have been better than everyone else for a vast period of time in the NHL. The Red Wings have been the model franchise when it comes to winning for the last decade, and have kept winning despite changing personnel a number of times. Gone are former Red Wing greats in Yzerman, Hull, Robitaille, Fedorov, Kozlov, Osgood, Vernon, and Hasek. In their places are future greats such as Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Holstrom, Stuart, and Howard. One man links the past to the present on the ice in Nicklas Lidstrom, and one man in the press box is responsible for the talent on the ice in GM Ken Holland.

That led to me to question which teams have been the most successful per decade starting from 1942 when the NHL dropped to six teams. The Original Six teams seem to rotate in strength and weakness, but the Canadiens and Leafs always seemed to find their way to the top of the pile when the Stanley Cup was on the line. But the regular season seems to have its winners and losers, so which teams dominated by decade?

Here are the lists, and a few of the teams surprised me. You won't find any of the expansion teams from the 1990s on these lists, but there are some names and records that are quite impressive.

1942-1952
1. Detroit Red Wings - 313-176-101 - three Stanley Cups.
2. Montreal Canadiens - 293-195-102 - two Stanley Cups.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs - 274-215-101 - five Stanley Cups.

1952-1962
1. Montreal Canadiens - 389-189-122 - six Stanley Cups.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs - 287-282-111 - one Stanley Cup.
3. Detroit Red Wings - 275-237-118 - two Stanley Cups.

1962-1972
1. Montreal Canadiens - 387-211-134 - five Stanley Cups.
2. Chicago Blackhawks - 386-231-115 - no Stanley Cups.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs - 331-281-120 - three Stanley Cups.

1972-1982
1. Montreal Canadiens - 511-153-132 - five Stanley Cups.
2. Boston Bruins - 460-222-114 - no Stanley Cups.
3. Philadelphia Flyers - 449-205-142 - two Stanley Cups.

1982-1992
1. Edmonton Oilers - 452-258-90 - five Stanley Cups.
2. Montreal Canadiens - 418-279-103 - one Stanley Cup.
3. Boston Bruins - 418-284-98 - no Stanley Cups.

1992-2002*
1. Detroit Red Wings - 461-222-107 - three Stanley Cups.
2. Quebec/Colorado - 429-257-104 - two Stanley Cups.
3. New Jersey Devils - 420-254-116 - two Stanley Cups.
* denotes ties = OTL/SOL.

If you go by these five generations, you can see that there is always one team from the previous generation still having success in the next generation. Of course, it helps when Montreal was a dominant team for so many years, but Detroit has had success in the past, and they jumped back to the forefront again in the 1990s with good drafting, shrewd signings, and a commitment to winning.

I didn't run up a total for the current generation as there is still a season going on in this current decade, but I'm fairly certain that the Detroit Red Wings will be one of those top-three teams again for this decade after winning a few more Stanley Cups and continuing to be at or near the top of their division. The fact that there has been little turnover in Detroit's franchise plays a big factor in this, just as it did in Montreal for so many years.

By keeping the same successful people in their positions, Detroit has built a winning tradition through their own means. It didn't come from expensive free agent signings. It wasn't done by stockpiling draft picks for a number of years. Instead, it comes from having an owner who demands the best and provides the means to achieve that goal, quality people in the management role making shrewd business decisions, intelligent and adaptive coaches, and players who want to win based on the traditions laid out by the teams before them.

That, readers, is most likely why the Detroit Red Wings will be able to ride into another generation starting in 2012 with the same expectations that they challenge each year for the Stanley Cup while being an ultra-competitive team in their division, conference, and in the NHL. 21-game home winning streaks are evidence that while the cogs may change in the machine, the machine just keeps winning.

In short, Detroit appears be the new Montreal when it comes to the longevity of their success. Good teams don't just happen overnight; they arrive, and stay for a long, long time in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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