The most elusive prize in hockey is not the Stanley Cup, but the ability to call your team a dynasty. How exclusive is this “dynasty club” exactly? The Hockey Hall of Fame only recognized nine official dynasties. The last one being the Edmonton Oilers Dynasty that won five Stanley Cups from 1984-1990.
Since then a few candidates for dynasty status have come forward. Most obvious might be the Detroit Red Wings who won four Stanley Cups from 1996-2008, this while making it to the finals six times from 1995 to 2009. More recently is the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup three times from 2010-2015. Both are not officially recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame but were included in a recent ESPN article ranking NHL dynasties.
So, how about the New Jersey Devils? They had a fantastic run from 1995-to-2003. So, should they be up for consideration? Some have called them a dynasty, others called them a “mini-dynasty”. Overall, the consensus through the hockey world is that it was just a really impressive run, and nothing more. Why is that?
Where the Current Devils Stand
Every dynasty recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame has at least four cups. If we are going by cups alone that leaves the New Jersey Devils one short.
While ESPN included the Blackhawks’ run from 2010-to-2015 in the company’s dynasty rankings those cups were won in a five-year span. This compared to the Devils’ in an eight-year span of success. Interestingly enough, one of both the Devils’ and Blackhawks’ three cups during the team’s respective dynasties, was won in a shortened 48-game season lockout year.
So, for the Devils to even enter the conversation of officially being dubbed a dynasty, the team would have most likely need a fourth cup during that time. There were two separate times the New Jersey Devils lost in a Stanley Cup final. Let’s take a look at each.
The 2000-01 Stanley Cup
Besides the 1994 Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers, this might be the series most Devils fans want to forget. The Devils blew a three-two lead — this includes an attempt to close the series at home in a Game Six — to lose in seven games to the Colorado Avalanche. The series is most remembered through the NHL for the “feel-good” story of Ray Bourque finally being able to win the Stanley Cup.
If the Devils had won in 2001, that would have been there third Stanley Cup championship and their second consecutive one. Although repeat champions are somewhat rare in today’s NHL — the Pittsburgh Penguins achieved the feat in 2016 and 2017 — this was only three years removed from the Detroit Red Wings winning in 1997 and 1998. Plus, this was a decade removed from the 1980s. Where every Stanley Cup, except two, were won by either the New York Islanders or Edmonton Oilers.
If the Devils won in 2001, that would have been the team’s third Stanley Cup. Let’s assume the team would win again in 2003, and that brings the franchise total up to four. This matches the officially recognized dynasties, as well as the Detroit Red Wings of the same era.
It is worth noting that the Devils would have won four cups in eight season. This compared to the Red Wings who won four Stanley Cups in 11 seasons. This may have even not been enough for the Hockey Hall of Fame to officially call the Devils a dynasty, but at least enough to take note.
The 2011-12 Stanley Cup Final
The only other time in history the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup was the team’s most recent appearance, which was a loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2011-2012. The Devils went on a Cinderella run to make the Stanley Cup but ultimately lost in six games. The loss was not unexpected, given Los Angeles dominant play that postseason, so this one lacks the disappointment of the 2001 Stanley Cup final brang.
So, let’s say the Devils ended up beating Los Angeles to win their fourth Stanley Cup championship in 2012. Would that be enough for a dynasty status? Probably not, when you look at the makeup of the teams.
Every dynasty features, for the most part, the same players winning multiple cups. The only players on the Devils’ 2012 team that was a part of the team during the cup years were Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, and Petr Sykora. The Zach Parise-led team was entirely different from the cup teams of the 1990s and early 2000s. Even if it would have been four cups in less than two decades, it probably would not have counted towards a dynasty.