Why the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the Last NHL Dynasty

The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
1 of 2

A dynasty is rare in the current NHL era, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have had all the necessities to achieve lasting success.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have gone from failures and the laughing stock of the league in 2019 to back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. The front office had the mental fortitude to not pull the plug after a series of conference finals losses and a Stanley Cup final loss prior to the first-round upset to the Columbus Blue Jackets. There are examples of dynasties ending due to old age, and others due to the front office giving up too early.

The 2017 Chicago Blackhawks were upset in the first round, and the front office pulled the plug rather than going for it the following season. The result has been years of mediocrity, and they still can’t seem to decide what they need to do.

A dynasty from 2009-2017, a near-decade of dominance was rare in the league and, despite another dynasty in back-to-back cups by the Pittsburgh Penguins, I highly doubt that there will be another one for a LONG time.

First, let’s talk about the players and what they require.

Dynasties require every part of the organization to be at an elite level, from the general manager to the coaching staff, to the players… It takes EVERYONE on the team to win a single championship. Multiple? It takes the entire organization to stick together or properly make up for their losses. Everyone needs to be at the top of their game at the right time and they have to have surprises no one expects to take them over the hump.

Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde were two guys who were under the radar that blossomed to become difference makers for the team. Two young two-way forwards who are a doozy to play against due to their grit (Gourde) or their speed (Cirelli). They played huge parts in the dynasty in a depth role, something teams have to have to win. No shallow team will win in the postseason.

The Lightning has been able to lock up their stars for a bargain, with Steven Stamkos signed long term at 8.5 million, Brayden Point signed for 6.75 million for three years, and Victor Hedman signed for 7.875 million, both being drastically underpaid for what they contribute to the team in their back-to-back cup seasons. Then, there’s Nikita Kucherov who signed for 9.5 million when he is one of the best players in the NHL when healthy (same as Brayden Point next season). The players also have to have the mental toughness and grit to tough out a long-term series of hard hockey. The Lightning have those guys at the prime of their careers, and they show no sign of stopping soon.

Essentially, a dynasty has to have their stars signed at team-friendly deals to win. If the promising team’s stars don’t and demand expensive contracts instead, it is near impossible to build a proper team around them. When the stars get paid too much for what they contribute, the success always falls off earlier than anyone expects. And, if the drafting isn’t right, the team won’t have good, young talent on cheap deals to help push the team to the next level. Guys like Dave Bolland, and Dustin Byfuglien propelled the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10 before getting traded, then Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell in 2013-15. You need a good farm system for lasting success and the Lightning has that right now.

So, unless something changes drastically, promising teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers probably won’t win a Stanley Cup with their current core. You need a deep team to win and these two teams have too much money spent on guys who should not be earning as much as they do AND don’t rise to the occasion when the going gets tough (you can decide who these players are). The team needs a strong farm system to add depth when quality players leave in free agency as well. Both the Maple Leafs and the Oilers don’t necessarily have that.

No team can win without the right coach. Let’s talk about that next.