The Pittsburgh Penguins are the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions, taking home the Cup in the decisive Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings. It was a rematch from the previous year’s NHL Finals and bears striking similarity to the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s.
In the 1983-1984 season a pair of 23 year olds named Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier led the Oilers over the New York Islanders to win their first Stanley Cup. It was a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals from the year before, when the Islanders dominated a still too young Oilers team.
The 2008-2009 NHL campaign saw a 21 year old named Sidney Crosby and a 22 year old named Evgeni Malkin dominate the regular season and postseason en route to enjoying the sweetest of revenge, winning the Cup on Detroit’s home ice.
That Oilers team would go on to repeat the next season as Stanley Cup Champions, and then win two of the next three, for a total of four championships in five seasons. Gretzky was then traded away from the club, and after a down year the Oilers regrouped with the rest of their cast and won the Cup once again.
Finally, the 1993-1994 New York Rangers featured seven prominent players from that Oilers team, including The Captain Mark Messier, when they won the Stanley Cup that season.
For the core pairing of Gretzky and Messier that was four Stanley Cup Championships. For Messier and the rest of the cast, including the Rangers Stanley Cup win, that made six championships.
The Oilers of course had other key components for their championships. This included Jari Kurri who was only 24 years old at the time of their first Cup, goaltender Grant Fuhr and defensemen Paul Coffey and Kevin Lowe. Crosby and Malkin were not without help either, from goaltender Marc Andre Fleury to 20 year old center Jordan Staal.
So what does the future have in store for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins? How many Cups can they win together on the Penguins, and even without one another down the line?
The main obstacle to a dynasty in the NHL today is the salary cap. However, Detroit has shown that it is possible to pull off, by drafting wisely, signing players to long deals so their average salary is lower against the cap and attracting free agents at bargain prices for the chance to play for a winner. (Although Marian Hossa certainly regrets his decision to sign with the Wings after turning down an opportunity to sign a long term deal with the Penguins).
Pittsburgh’s approach isn’t all too different from Detroit’s. Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal were all drafted by the club and the team already has their key components locked in for the foreseeable future.
Sidney Crosby is under contract through the 2012-2013 season. Evgeni Malkin is locked in one season past that, through 2013-2014. Net minder Fleury is locked up even farther, through the 2014-2015 season. Meanwhile, other key players such as Staal and Maxime Talbot are also secured for the coming years.
To top that off, Crosby and Malkin are younger than Gretzky and Messier were at the beginning of their dominant stretch in the mid 80s. More good news for the club is that the opening of their new arena in the coming years will provide more revenue, giving them more opportunity to keep their big names and lure other free agents (as if playing with Malkin and Crosby wasn’t enough).
The opposition standing in the way of a Penguins dynasty is, however, quite strong. The Red Wings aren’t going anywhere, thanks to their skilled management. As mentioned they have a penchant for long term deals. Pavel Datsyuk is signed on through 2013-2014, Johan Franzen through 2019-2020 and Henrik Zetterberg through 2020-2021 (!!).
The Washington Capitals are building a strong team around superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Other clubs such as the Chicago Blackhawks are also emerging with skilled, young rosters.
So where does that leave Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins? They have a minimum of four more seasons together. The young stars on the team will only continue to get better and evolve into even more complete players. The experience they’ve gained will also pay dividends. While they may not go on a stretch of four championships in five years, bringing home a total of four or more Stanley Cups before all is said and done isn’t out of the picture. Certainly Gretzky and Messier will be with the rest of us, watching to see how it all plays out.
Sources: www.hockeydb.com, Sports Illustrated “So same time next year?”