This made teams prior to 2004 better teams than those afterwards when a salary cap limited how much talent they could assemble. By my standards of an elite team we have seen one in the recently expired CBA - the 2007 Anaheim Ducks - who soon fell from that level when Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne took time off the next season. In fact if we rate the Stanley Cup winners from best to worst I would rank them as follows:
1. 2007 Anaheim Ducks
2. 2008 Detroit Red Wings
3. 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
4. 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
5. 2011 Boston Bruins
6. 2012 Los Angeles Kings
7. 2006 Carolina Hurricanes
There is a clear pattern here. Stanley Cup winning teams are getting progressively worse. The only exception is the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes who can be taken as a fluke winner who missed the playoffs the next season.
You know, it's very easy to make a blanket statement and then array "facts" in whatever order you want to support that statement without giving any explanation as to how or why you are doing so. The author, PuckStopsHere, says that "by his standards" the only elite post-lockout team has been the '07 Ducks. And yet he doesn't tell us what his standards are. He ranks the post-lockout Champs by simply putting them in order with the lone exception of the team he calls a fluke who he puts at the bottom of his rankings, again with no explanation whatsoever.
The truth is that the Stanley Cup champions have not been progressively getting worse since the lockout. And facts will bear this out. The '06 Hurricanes were actually a very good team that finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference and 3rd in the entire NHL. Their championship was hardly a "fluke." I will grant you that their playoff record was weak at 16-9, but their regular season success, even in a poor division, vindicates their Stanley Cup championship.
The '07 Ducks were not an elite team. They were a group of thugs and dirty hockey players led by the ultimate hockey scoundrel Chris Pronger. That having been said, they were still a very good team (oh, and how I hate to say it) for several years from their first run to the Finals in '03 until just a couple years ago and kept threatening to win more than one. I don't think they were the best champs, but they were sadly in the top half.
As for Detroit and Pittsburgh who traded titles in meeting in back-to-back seasons in '08 and '09, I would agree that Detroit was the better of the two. They never faced a 7th game in that '08 run and really never even had a close series. A throwback to the pre-lockout era, they continued what is the closest thing to a dynasty the NHL has seen since the Oilers dominated in the '80s. I would put the '09 Penguins a few notches below the Wings. The Penguins were certainly a solid team, but in both the 2nd and 4th rounds of the playoffs they fell behind their opponents 2 games to none and 3 games to 2. It shows impressive resilience on their part that they kept forcing those series longer, but the truth was they were a team that thrived on their home ice and played poorly away from the Igloo, never really dominating anyone. It's hard to say a team that was so reliant on its home ice is one of the very best of recent champs.
Like their Central Division stablemates in Detroit, the '10 Blackhawks were another dominant regular season team that never faced a 7th game in the playoffs. They dominated everyone they faced through the entire playoffs and deserve to be called one of the best post-lockout champs.
I do agree that the 2011 Bruins belong near the bottom of the list. A team that trailed the opening and championship rounds 2-0 before coming back and had to win 3 7th games, in addition to not being able to win a road game in the Finals until Game 7 is a weak champion. Their 16-9 playoff record is tied with the '06 Canes for the worst in the modern era. They only won the Cup in '11 because it was a bad year all around.
And as for the most recent Champs, the Los Angeles Kings. As a Kings fan and blogger, I am of course biased, but I don't see how anyone could suggest they are the 2nd worst post-lockout champions. Are you punishing them for being an 8th seed? I agree that their regular season was nothing special, but the fact is that the team we're judging is the group that skated with the Cup and by the time the playoffs were over, this was a remarkable team. They did things no other team has ever done – in any sport – like leading every single series 3 games to none and winning 10 straight road games to open the playoffs. Jon Quick broke records for playoff goaltending and the rest of the team stood tall in front of him, dominating every single opponent they faced. The '12 Kings became the first team since the dynastic '97 Red Wings to win the Cup with a 16-4 playoff record, and they very nearly tied the all-time record for fewest playoff losses. And one cannot say they didn't face strong competition because they took on three division winners en route to making the Finals. It's asinine to call this team the second worst post-lockout champs.
So I have presented my evidence and now I will give you my list of the Cup champs from best to worst, 2006 through 2012.
1) 2012 Los Angeles Kings
2) 2008 Detroit Red Wings
3) 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
4) 2007 Anaheim Ducks
5) 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
6) 2006 Carolina Hurricanes
7) 2011 Boston Bruins
Hmm, imagine that, there is no pattern whatsoever to allow one to say the Cup champs have been getting worse over time. And all I had to do was think about it a little bit rather than just say what I wanted to be true and then lay things out to support my nonsensical argument.
Let's see if Puck Daddy will link to my rebuttal!