Five remaining veterans keep Wings winning Staff

6/1/2008 12:50:18 PM

For a team to be categorized as a sports dynasty during any given era, the first thing fans and pundits will look at is a consistent run of championships.

The second most important element is keeping a core group of players to win year after year.

The Montreal Canadiens that won five straight Stanley Cups in the 1950's had a dynamic group that included Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Don Marshall, Dickie Moore, Jacques Plante, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Jean-Guy Talbot and Bob Turner.

The Habs also had a large group of players in the 1970's that took four straight Stanley Cups - including Rick Chartraw, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Guy Lapointe, Michel Larocque, Jacques Lemaire, Doug Risebrough, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Steve Shutt and Mario Tremblay.

The New York Islanders captured four consecutive championships with Mike Bossy, Bob Bourne, Clark Gillies, Butch Goring, Anders Kallur, Gord Lane, Dave Langevin, Wayne Merrick, Ken Morrow, Bob Nystrom, Stefan Persson, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Duane Sutter, John Tonelli and Bryan Trottier all in the fold.

And the Edmonton Oilers won five Cups in seven years with Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, Randy Gregg, Charlie Huddy, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe and Mark Messier.

While no one is comparing today's Detroit Red Wings to those powerhouse teams of the past, the Original Six franchise is as close as it gets in a league where building consistent winners gets more challenging every season. Fans in Hockeytown, USA have been treated to a team that won three Stanley Cup championships in six seasons between 1997 and 2002. And with one more win in this year's Stanley Cup final, it will be four Cups in 11 seasons.

That's not exactly 'dynasty' parameters compared to the fabled teams of the past, but it's still very impressive considering they still have five key players on this year's roster who were members of those teams. Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom and Kirk Maltby are still making big contributions, while Darren McCarty - who returned as a free agent during the season after two years with the Calgary Flames and an IHL stint - is also an important piece of the puzzle.

"McCarty did a great job on the bench," Babcock said after Saturday's Game 4 victory. "I gotta give him a lot of credit. With six minutes left, he's standing up and telling everybody (to) go after them, don't back up. When you have veterans like that, it helps you get through situations like that."

And the winning attitude doesn't stop on the ice. All three of those Cup winners were coached by Scotty Bowman, who is still with the team as a consultant. Ken Holland earned general manager's job a month after their first Cup in 1997, but helped build the team in various front office roles since joining them in 1985. He was also assistant GM to Jim Devellano, who is still with the team as Senior Vice President.

"You can go down the line and see all the things they were able to do internally," said NHL on TSN analyst Pierre McGuire. "Ken Holland had the scouting down and Scotty Bowman had the team-building down so they always identified positions of need."  

Together, this group has shared more than a decade of success with three Stanley Cups, four Presidents' Trophies, five regular season conference titles, eight division titles and 10 straight 40-plus win seasons and three straight 50-plus win seasons.  

And through it all, keeping all five veterans in their lineup is a remarkable accomplishment considering the gluttony of annual trades and free agent signings in today's NHL. By comparison, no other team in the league has that many players left on their roster from the 1996-97 season. The New Jersey Devils have four players left from 11 years ago, with only two - Sergei Brylin and Martin Brodeur - that won all three Cups between 1995 and 2003. The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars each only have three players left from the 1996-97 campaign. And none of those teams have been as consistent over the last decade as Detroit.

"It never gets old," Lidstrom told reporters after Saturday's 2-1 win in Pittsburgh. "We know as a team we haven't won anything yet, but this is what you play for all year long."