The Los Angeles Kings have another chance to hoist another Stanley Cup on Friday night, as they have a commanding 3-1 lead on the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final. If they do, it’ll be the second time in three seasons they’ve pulled off the feat.
The Chicago Blackhawks know how they feel, having been Cup winners twice in four seasons, the first team in the salary-cap era to win twice. With that winning comes the inevitable dynasty talk. The Blackhawks heard it last June, and there’s still a chance they could become that dynasty. The same goes for the Kings who, like the Blackhawks, have a strong core, great young players and a solid developmental system. A victory tonight – or in Game 6 or in Game 7 – enhances that talk that much more.
Yes, all that winning earns dynasty talk. It earns respect from others around the league. It also earns a big-old target on those winning teams’ backs that others will be aiming for over the next several years.
For the Blackhawks and Kings, the dynasty road is paved with hazards in the form of the competition. The opposition looks at where the bar is set and tries to reach it with big trades, drafting and better player development. So over the next few seasons, don’t be surprised if hitting that dynasty status – whether that means winning another Stanley Cup, two more Cups in a certain amount of time, etc. – gets a hell of a lot tougher.
The Western Conference’s two divisions were incredibly difficult in 2013-14. The Central has been that for several seasons now, and it didn’t disappoint again despite the Detroit Red Wings heading east. The St. Louis Blues got better, although their big whopper of a trade didn’t help because that’s not the spot where the Blues were lacking (by the way, folks, this is why that whole “are the Blackhawks going to match a big move” bit is foolish). The Colorado Avalanche made tremendous strides. And if the Minnesota Wild has a goaltender who’s healthy from start to finish in a season, it’s going to be a force, too. The Blackhawks, great core and familiarity in place, will be challenged.
The same goes for the Kings, whose Pacific Division is also a challenge. The Ducks, much like the Wild, are a goaltender away from being right there – heck, the Ducks were right there. The Dallas Stars broke their playoff-less skid this season and, under the direction of general manager Jim Nill, should continue to get better. The San Jose Sharks are still a talented bunch – and once they get the killer-instinct attitude to match the play, they might change their postseason shortcomings.
The Blackhawks and Kings are still in great shape. They still have all the key pieces to bring home a few more Cups. The competition, however, is only going to get tougher, better, stronger. The blueprint has been set by two of the league’s best; others are only going to be too eager to follow it in an attempt to knock the best off the top.