Now that the L.A. Kings are parading and celebrating in the streets, after finally winning the toughest trophy in all of sports to claim, consider how long it took them. The Kings entered the League at a time so long ago that the Beatles were still 3 years away from dissolution. It is great that a west coast team is on top, moreover one composed of hard working dedicated players that showed grit in grinding it out just to get in the playoffs then seemingly caught most every team unprepared as they virtually swept their way to the cup.
With just one win to get, the Kings had gone 15 and 2, a truly incredible feat, especially in this day and age of parity plus in the NHL. Can they possibly repeat? Not likely since nobody has in recent times with every recent Cup winner emanating from a different city. We have to go all the way back to the late 90’s when Detroit did it once back to back. Here is a full list of Cup winners going all the way back to 1893 and pre NHL. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stanley_Cup_champions
The pattern has changed over the last several decades. At one time the Cup winner was the foregone favourite to repeat while today in the parity NHL, the Kings proved that if you can get in, even as a team just over .500, with a strong defensive style replete with stellar goaltending, any team can go all the way.
As a point of comparison, in the 21-year period spanning 1968 through 1988 inclusive, just five different teams won the Cup with several streaks including Montreal, the Islander and Oilers all with 4 in a row. The other teams that touched the Cup in that period where the Bruins and Flyers with 2 Cup wins each. Over the 21-year period then, three teams dominated and claimed the Cup 17 of 21 times as it was awarded to either Montreal, the Islanders or Oilers.
With salary caps, excellent goal tending and even better coaching with the use of technology to pick apart other teams weaknesses, those dynasty days and even back to back Cup wins are gone, unlikely ever to return. Still though, there must be some commonality among recent winners, something at least worth debating?
The last three Cup winners, L.A., Boston and Chicago did have one thing in common; they were well stocked with Canadian and U.S. born players. Maybe it is a coincidence or perhaps an intangible that the majority of North American born players innately possess the rest don’t. If there is, I would term it “the willingness to pay the price, regardless of the cost.”
This point was noted both this and last year by game commentators during the finals. Last year on NBC Millbury got much press when Boston physically manhandled the highly skilled Canuck Swedes that he termed Thelma and Louise, aka the Sedin sisters. Why? They got physically assaulted at every turn and rather than fight back or though it, they really did nothing in response. This year during game one of the finals an on-air commentator noted that the Devils were just blindly throwing the puck up the boards to avoid getting hit by a very physical Kings team.
Last year Boston had 22 names engraved on the Cup of which 16 (72%) were Canadian players, with one American and the other five from outside North America. Overall 77% were North American. Yes I know Chara was captain but anybody 8 feet tall can play any sport anywhere they want.
The year before in 2010, Chicago had over 60% Canadian born players and 77% of North American origin. This year’s Kings roster had roughly 58% Canadian born and 89% North American born players. In contrast the Devils had just 28% Canadian and 56% North American born. I don’t know if this is just coincidence, although I doubt it is, but next year, don’t bet against a team if over 75% of their roster is from North America.
Take a good look at the photos from post-game, lots of players with missing teeth, a visual testament perhaps to what paying the price really means. Next year the Kings will have a shot, no question about it but with the Cup hangover, a few player retention issues, staying healthy, getting on a roll all with crazy good net minding it seems like a lot to have happen in perfect synchronicity twice in a row. One more thing, as Cup champs, they won’t be taking any team by surprise for some time.
In days gone by those Islander, Montreal and Oiler teams were just that much better than the rest and couldn’t be touched. In 76-77 the Habs amassed 132 points in 80 games not 82, lost eight games, only one at home and finished 49 points ahead of the L.A. Kings in the old Norris Division. My how times have changed. It is good the city of L.A. is embracing the win as who knows how long it may take for Lord Stanley to return.