“They Should’ve Been a Dynasty” NHL Edition

Too often in its first-round series against Columbus, Lightning coach Jon Cooper and his Tampa Bay players found themselves trailing on the scoreboard and searching for answers. Really, they're still looking. The Blue Jackets swept the Lightning out of the playoffs. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Coach Jon Cooper and his players reacting to yet another stunning loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets; Columbus swept Tampa in 4 games during the first round of the 2019 NHL Playoffs (Credit: Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times)

In case you missed the first three parts of this series, click here for the NBA, here for the NFL, and here for the MLB

In this edition of “They Should’ve Been a Dynasty,” we explore recent NHL teams that should have won more than they ultimately did.

Remember the rules, I see as a dynasty: a team that has won at least three championships in a 10-year window. It can be a smaller window (i.e. a three-peat), but I think the simplest barometer is winning three championships within a certain window of time, showing that you were the best of your sport, and you showed it repeatedly.

Ranges of time are flexible depending on the eye of the reader, but this is how I view them.

Boston Bruins (2008-2015)

Image result for bruins lose to the montreal canadiens 2014
(Credit: Elise Amendola/AP)

Stanley Cups: one (2011)

Stanley Cup appearances: two (2011, 2013)

Eastern Conference Finals appearances: two (2011, 2013)

This one is tough for me. I remember sitting at home watching Bruins playoff games, and it was always amplified because my family (my mom in particular) were hockey fans.

In 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Bruins played a Game 7 at home where, if they had won, they would have had home ice advantage against the team they faced in the next round. They lost Game 7 each of these years.

The Bruins had one of the most amazing playoff runs in sports history in 2011, as they are the only North American team to win three Game 7s on their way to a championship, but other than 2011, the team was 1-4 in Game 7s during this seven season stretch.

In 2008-2007, the team had 116 points, a point behind the President Cup winners that season, the San Jose Sharks. They won their first playoff series since 1999, moving on to face the sixth seed Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes took a 3-1 lead, but Boston got to Game 7. The game went to overtime before the Bruins lost, ending their season. The Hurricanes were swept in the next round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

In 2009-2010, the Bruins were the sixth seed, but won their first round series against their division rivals, the Buffalo Sabers. At the time, after the first round, the semifinal matchups were determined based on the highest seed facing the lowest seed, and the remaining two teams facing each other. As a result, the Bruins faced the seventh seed, the Philadelphia Flyers, and had home ice for the series. They took a commanding 3-0 series lead before the Flyers came back to even it at 3 games apiece. In Game 7, the Bruins took a 3-0 lead (not kidding) before Philly came back to win the game, and series, 4-3.

The Bruins won the Cup in 2011, their first in 39 years, but in 2012, they were bounced in the first round for the first time since 2008 in 7 games by the Capitals. Washington lost in the next round in 7 games.

They made another Stanley Cup run in 2013, but they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, which included a stunning Game 6 loss where they had a one goal lead, but gave up two goals in less than 20 seconds to lose the game, and the series.

In 2013-2014, the team won the President’s Cup for the first time since 1989-1990, going into the playoffs as logical favorites. They won their first series, but in the semifinals, they faced their chief rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins took a 3-2 lead, but lost their next two games, bounced early yet again. The Canadiens lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games.

In 2014-2015, the team was in playoff contention until the end of the season, but ultimately missed the postseason, doing so for the first time since 2006-2007. They missed the playoffs the next season too.

This might be the team with the most heart-breaking losses in this entire exercise. If they had won just one Game 7 in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, we could be viewing this team completely differently, but it did not happen. They had a talented core centered around Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, as well as great goalies in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. Former GM Peter Chiarelli gained a reputation for moves that ultimately did not help the team, and some question coach Claude Julien’s tenure, but it was the most successful chapter of team history since the 1980s/early 1990s. However, as a fan, I feel like it could have been more.

The team looks like they’re in good shape today, so hopefully a run is on the horizon.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2014-present)

Image result for lightning lose to blackhawks 2015
The Lightning look on as the Blakhawks win the the Stanley Cup in 2015, their third in six seasons (Credit: Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times)

Stanley Cups: none

Stanley Cup appearances: one (2015)

Eastern Conference Finals appearances: three (2015, 2016, 2018)

I originally had the range a bit further back, but after some further thought, I did not think it was fair to tie to eras together. The Lightning made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, and although current captain Steven Stamkos was on the team, he did not yet hold that title. Although Stamkos was the most talented player on the team, the Lightning were still led by veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Martan St. Louis. Therefore, I’m starting the range for them from the first season Lecavalier and St. Louis were no longer on the team: 2014-2015.

I thought I might be able to take Tampa off this list if they did good this season, but oh boy, they further entrenched keeping themselves here.

The 2018-2019 Lightning team won 62 games, more than any NBA team this season, and tied for the most wins in NHL history. They won the President’s Cup for the first time in team history, doing so over 2 weeks before the season ended. Needless to say, they were the best team in the league. However, they were SWEPT in the first round of the playoffs, the first time a President Trophy winner had ever done so.

I’ll get back to this year’s team in a moment, but to recap, in the 5 full seasons since Stamkos has been the captain of this team (he got the “C” at the end of 2013-2014), the Lightning have made the playoffs four times, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals three times (winning once). The only time they did not advance this far was this past season.

In 2015, they made the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004, losing in 6 games to the dynasty of this decade, the Chicago Blackhawks (their third title in 6 seasons).

A year later, the team fell back in the standings compared to the year prior, but made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals yet again, facing the Pittsburgh Penguins. They had a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 at home, but they lost. In Game 7 in Pittsburgh, the team lost 2-1, ending their chances of reaching the Cup for a second straight season.

The team failed to make the postseason in 2016-2017, but next year, they had the best record in the conference with 113 points. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons, where they faced the Washington Capitals. They started off losing the first two games, but took a 3-2 lead. However, in Games 6 and 7, they were shut out 3-0 and 4-0 respectively, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

This year we saw them step it up another notch, but they suffered the biggest upset in, possibly, sports history.

If you’re keeping track at home, you’ll note Tampa lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in 2015, 2016, and 2018. However, in the latter 2 years, they held a 3 to 2 lead and needed to win just one game to advance to the Stanley Cup, failing to do so each time. This season, they had one of the greatest regular seasons of all-time, and looked like an absolute juggernaut, but after losing a 3-0 in Game 1 to Columbus, they were never the same. They lost Game 2, star player Nikita Kucherov was suspended for Game 3, and although they were close in Game 4, Columbus took the game, and the series.

One could argue this is a case of “They SHOULD BE a Dynasty,” which is fair, but this team has already missed multiple opportunities to take over the league. The have improved their point output the past few seasons, have an extremely talented roster, and yet they have not made the Stanley Cup Finals since 2015. The fact we already know they will not be there this season is further salt in the wound.

After seeing the Virginia Men’s Basketball Team get upset as a 1 seed by a 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018 (first time EVER), and then winning the tournament a year later, maybe next year the upset to Columbus will be a footnote in a cool redemption story. But right now, in the present, it is yet another disappointing season in a string of them for a team that should have won the Stanley Cup by now.

Thank you for sticking with us this entire series, we hope you enjoyed!

Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

Author: Nick Collins

Boston sports fan sharing his love for sports and perspectives as a fan

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