The difficulty of defending a Stanley Cup in the salary cap era is something that’s been playing on Jared Bednar’s mind for much of the NHL season.

Bednar is the coach of the Avalanche who, after years of being seen as a legitimate contender, finally got over the hump last spring. It wasn’t easy. It never is but this was more challenging than most years because the new champions had to navigate their way past the two-time defending champions, the Lightning, in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bednar’s first season playing junior hockey with the 1990-91 Saskatoon Blades coincided with the final year of the last true NHL dynasty. Between 1984 and 1990, the Oilers won five championships. Prior to that, the Islanders won four Stanley Cups in a row and before that, the Canadiens won four in a row. Montreal also won a Cup in 1986. It meant that during a 15-year span, three teams accounted for every championship but one (the Flames won 1989).

But think of how different things were back then. In 1975-76, at the start of Montreal’s run, the NHL had just 18 teams. By 1990, the end of Edmonton’s run, the league was up to 21 teams. And in the 30-plus years since then, an additional 11 teams have been added. In the 21-team NHL, 16 teams made the playoffs. In the 32-team NHL, 16 teams make the playoffs. So, the odds are longer because the league has expanded in such a meaningful way.

Then the salary cap came along in 2004-05, adding another wrinkle because it limited how much a team could spend on its roster.

When GM Bill Torrey was running the Islanders and won the first of those four Stanley Cups, there was no pressure on him to move on from Butch Goring, Bob Nystrom and Billy Smith soon after the parade. The Islanders made tweaks to their lineup along the way, but the core remained intact until it was clear that their era had passed and it was time to move on to the next iteration of the team.

The Oilers were disassembled after four championships in five years because owner Peter Pocklington didn’t want to meet the payroll demands of his star-studded lineup. That was a decision he made voluntarily – not one that he was forced into by the operating principles of the league at the time.