The 2022-2023 season marks the end of an iconic era in the NHL
The last two decades in the NHL have been dominated by a handful of teams. For some, the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs will present an opportunity to add a new chapter to their success stories. For others, the season is already over.
The latter will be the case for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have become familiar with missing out on the postseason, but the Pens and Caps saw their 16-year and 8-year playoff streaks end this spring.
As years go by, those three franchises will be among the first that NHL fans think of when they recall the 2000s and 2010s. With playoff streaks over and key players moving on, the spring of 2023 marks a turning point in the NHL.
The 2022-2023 NHL season marks the end of an iconic era.
Let’s start with the Blackhawks. Their dominance in the early 2010s was unrivaled. The first dynasty of the salary cap era, Chicago captured Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013, and 2015. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith, among others, guided the way for the Hawks.
With all of their success, the Blackhawks have already begun to deal with the realities that follow such a stretch, as the team has reached the playoffs only once in the last six seasons.
Now that Kane has been traded and Toews has played his last game with the team, the last traces of the Blackhawks as we’ve come to know them are officially gone.
The Penguins were the only team to match the number of championships that the Blackhawks won. They got their first in 2009 and then became the first team in nearly two decades to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with titles in 2016 and 2017.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang have powered the Pens for nearly two decades as they owned the longest active playoff streak across North American men’s professional sports until just a few nights ago.
While the Big Three is under contract and should be back for at least next season, the end of the playoff streak is still a big deal. This could prove to be the end of the team’s success, or at the very least, the end of their dominance as a lock to reach the NHL’s playoffs.
Finally, the Capitals were absolute juggernauts in the regular season, claiming Presidents’ Trophies in 2010, 2016, and 2017 under the leadership of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Only one other team has even won two Presidents’ Trophies in that span.
Unfortunately for Ovi and company, winning the Stanley Cup did not come as easily or as often as it did for the Blackhawks and Penguins. After years of playoff letdowns, the Capitals finally did cash in to win the Cup in 2018.
Washington had only missed the playoffs one other time since 2008, so missing out this year by 12 points is a bit of a shock to the system. In terms of their core, the Caps seem to have more questions than the Pens but more to work with than the Hawks, so the future is unclear.
Regardless of whether or not these teams can return to the playoffs next year or win another Stanley Cup, this spring brings to an end an iconic era of NHL hockey.