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Will the Chicago Blackhawks Be Remembered as a Dynasty

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 17 Jun 2015

CHICAGOAt the table to my left in a suburban Chicago restaurant, three older guys discuss whether the Blackhawks are a dynasty.At the table to my right, a mom and dad tell their three young children, who actually seem partly interested, about how dominant Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 90s were. It's a pretty good bet that conversation started with the Blackhawks, too.It's unavoidably the talk of the townand the sports worldright now. What is a dynasty' What is not'We know the Bulls were. They won six titles in eight years, ending in 1998. The Boston Celtics won 11 in 13 years, ending in 1969. The Montreal Canadians won 10 in 14 years, ending in 1979. We're lucky that baseball hasn't renamed the World Series after the New York Yankees.But what about the Blackhawks' Does three championships in six years do it' Who gets to decide'If it's up to the highest authorities of the game, it's already decided. After the Blackhawks clinched the title Monday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pronounced, "I'd say you have a dynasty."But Bettman has ulterior motives. He's a commissioner setting up a conversation about his league for the offseason. He doesn't get to decide. He isn't the official arbiter.Dynasties seem more like a club than an appointment. So maybe the best arbiters would be those in the dynasty club. The members surely deserve some say over who's let in."I was actually thinking about it this morning," said Brent Jones, tight end for three Super Bowl-winning teams in the San Francisco 49ers dynasty. The 49ers won a total of five over a 13-year stretch.Jones also was a former board member for the San Jose Sharks, so he has some ulterior motives, too."The Blackhawks were always our nemesis. I was rooting for Tampa. It's like rooting against LeBron," he said. "When you're part of a dynasty, you don't want to admit there are other dynasties. Guys always begrudgingly admit it."But I do believe the Blackhawks are. Begrudgingly, they are."Will Perdue, part of the Jordan-Scottie Pippen Bulls dynasty, wasn't fighting it."Personally, I do think the Blackhawks are a dynasty," said Perdue, who is now a Bulls and NBA analyst for Comcast Sports in Chicago. "But it's kind of interesting. It used to be a discussion about the San Antonio Spurs and whether they were a dynasty because they couldn't win [the NBA championship] back-to-back. They'd win every other year, kind of like the Blackhawks, who won in '10, '13 and '15."I think people don't realize just how difficult it is. When you look at the big picture, to do what the Bulls did, do what the Lakers did and actually win three in a rowif that's what someone wants to label a dynasty, then dynasties are almost impossible now."That's what makes the New England Patriots' run so amazing. They won three out of four Super Bowls and now have added another Super Bowl win and loss in the past 10 years. Another way of looking at that is that they've won just one Super Bowl in the past 10 years. But still, this past season's Super Bowl win feels like part of the same dynasty.That's partly because the Patriots still have Tom Brady at quarterback tying it all together. But it's also partly because Bill Belichick has re-tooled and rebuilt. He kicks out star players and develops cheap stars to fit under the salary cap. Even Brady will go soon enough."Player movement has changed all of our leagues," Jones said. "It's not just about drafting and developing anymore, like it was for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the '70s or the Cincinnati Reds in '70s. Players come up and you have to replace them and deal with salary caps and free agency. It's an art."Not just free agency and salary caps, but drafts, revenue sharing, contract structures, trade deadlines, increased focus on player health: A modern dynasty has to deal with all these things.On the ice at the United Center after the Blackhawks won the Cup, team chairman and owner Rocky Wirtz said, "I'm not sure if this is a dynasty, because it's like three different teams. I think a dynasty is the same team coming back. But the nice thing here is that [general manager] Stan [Bowman] keeps reinventing this team."After the team won the Cup in 2010, Bowman was criticized heavily in Chicago for unloading several key players from the team. It turned out to be necessary for keeping under the salary cap as some players already on the team were going to require bigger salaries.The art was in figuring out which top players could be replaced and which young players could do it. And the Blackhawks are going to have to do it again this offseason, too. It's been widely speculated that that could mean losing star Patrick Sharpa staple on all three Cup teamsamong others."The system is different, obviously," Bowman said of the salary-cap era. "It's tough to keep your group together, and every team changes from year to year now. You have to put a lot of different things in place, a lot of backup plans. And a lot of things have to go your way."We might just need a new definition for dynasty.Long runs over long stretches have defined past dynasties, but those might never happen again.So we either have to accept that dynasties are dinosaurs in sports, or we have to look at three titles in six years for what it is: just as difficult, maybe more so, as winning 10 used to be.At its most basic level, a dynasty is a team that dominates an era. Maybe today's eras last only five or six years. Maybe being a dynasty only means winning half the time. But if so, how to handle the Los Angeles Kings' They've won two of the past four titles. If they won next season, they'd have three in five years. Can two dynasties run concurrently' That seems to be a pretty good argument that the Blackhawks need to win one more title to be considered one.The reality is that it won't be decided for yearsand it won't be decided by commissioners, players, coaches, executives, owners or sports writers.It will be decided when those kids in the restaurant start passing down the word with their own stories.A Chicago-based writer who also contributes to theNew York Times, Greg Couch covers the sporting landscape for Bleacher Report.
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