Dynasty Debate: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have combined for half of the Stanley Cups awarded since the introduction of the salary cap 12 years ago.
 
With three Stanley Cups apiece in that span, each team has warranted the discussion of being a modern dynasty, which would put both the Blackhawks and Penguins on an elite list that NHL.com has compiled.
 
The list, last updated in 2015, accounts for records in select periods but clearly puts an emphasis on Stanley Cup titles. There is little to no crossover between the accounted seasons, which hints that in order to be a true dynasty, exclusivity is required.
 
But is one team more deserving of the "dynasty" label?
 

Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015)

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Chicago Blackhawks players pose for a team photo with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals at United Center in Chicago on June 15, 2015. Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks have won three of the past eight Stanley Cups. The team's 2010 Stanley Cup title ended a 47-year championship drought before adding another Cup in 2013 and 2015. Here's a look at Chicago's past decade.
 
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The Blackhawks have failed to make the postseason just once in the past decade, going 40-34-8 in 2007-08, Denis Savard's last season as head coach. Savard was fired by GM Dale Tallon four games into the 2008-09 season after a 1-2-1 start.

Quenneville led the team to a 45-22-11 record and the franchise's first playoff berth in six seasons, losing in the Western Conference Finals.
 
In the summer of 2009, Tallon himself was relieved of duties and replaced by Stan Bowman, and the modern-day Blackhawks were born.
 
Bowman often gets credit for the 2010 Stanley Cup champion team, but it was Tallon who created one of the deepest Cup-winning teams of the past 10 years. However, Bowman quickly made the team his own, moving Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi, Kris Versteeg, and Brent Sopel.
 
It started a path of continuous trades and salary-cap crunching that has proved successful but also may be finally catching up to the team. During Chicago's run of three Cups, Bowman has operated with a core of six players.
 
These players include Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, the only six players to have won all three Cups with the Blackhawks that remain a member of the team. Patrick Sharp was also a part of the team for all three Cups, but he was traded to Dallas in the summer of 2015.
 
The core players have kept Chicago competitive during regression due to the tradeoff of winning. The Blackhawks' success has seen Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Johnny Oduya, Michael Frolik, Teuvo Teravainen, and Scott Darling traded away due to salary-cap concerns and the need to maintain the team's winning core.
 
Yet, much like every season, Chicago's future still looks quite promising. Rookies Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz are both former first-round picks who showed poise during the 2016-17 season.
 
Hartman, 22, scored 19 goals and 31 points in 76 games and drove play in the right direction. Schmaltz, 21, tallied six goals and 28 points but was often on the wrong end of shot differentials.
 
Then there's Alex DeBrincat, who has torn apart the OHL the past three seasons with the Erie Otters and could find himself in Chicago next season.
 

Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017)

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Pittsburgh Penguins players pose for a team photo with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in game six of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN, on June 11, 2017. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008, the Penguins returned to the finals in 2009 and won their first Cup since 1992. The Penguins won again in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first back-to-back champions since the Detroit Red Wings in the mid-1990s.
 
The Penguins have more wins -- and losses -- and a slightly better points percentage than the Blackhawks in the past 10 years.
 
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The Penguins also now hold the longest active playoff streak in the NHL at 11 consecutive seasons. Chicago is second with nine.
 
Pittsburgh has been built on a smaller core than Chicago. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury have been the only recurring players for each of the Penguins' Stanley Cups.
 
However, Fleury was the backup to rookie Matt Murray during last year's run and was replaced during the Eastern Conference Finals this year, as well. Letang also missed the second half of this season and all of the playoffs.
 
During that span, Pittsburgh has also had two GMs and three head coaches. After eight years in Pittsburgh, Ray Shero was fired in 2014 and replaced with Jim Rutherford, who has built the first back-to-back championship team in 20 years.
 
Rutherford immediately fired head coach Dan Bylsma, who was named the interim replacement for Michel Therrien and helped guide the team to an 18-3-4 record to end the regular season before ultimately claiming the Cup.
 
Byslma was then replaced with Mike Johnston ahead of the 2014-15 season. Johnston spent the previous six years as coach and GM of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.
 
In 2014-15, Johnston coached the Penguins to fourth in the Metro Division, followed by a first-round exit to the New York Rangers. The following season, Mike Sullivan replaced Johnston on an interim basis after the Penguins began the season with a 15-10-3 record.
 
Sullivan opened up the team's offense, and slow starts from Crosby and Letang turned into 85-point and 67-point campaigns, respectively.
 
Rutherford has built a strong team by being active on the trade front, most notably adding Phil Kessel to the team's core in 2015. Other notable moves include the addition of Patric Hornqvist, Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz.
 

End of (Dynasty) Discussion

In the end, Pittsburgh holds the advantage of the dynasty label.
 
Chicago's ability to hold together a core both on the ice, on the bench and in the front office is remarkable in a league with consistently growing parity. But Pittsburgh's dedication to winning and its core have paid off after notable turnover at key levels of the organization.
 
The Penguins have found the right combination to believe more Stanley Cups are on the horizon. However, Chicago's core remains intact, as well, and history has shown that the Western Conference powerhouse will rise up again, too.
 
Perhaps the two can meet one day to hash out the dynasty discussion once and for all, until then Crosby holds just another entitlement above the rest of his peers. 
 
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

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