If you've read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you'll know that we've defined the Double as the feat of winning both the regular season championship and postseason (Stanley Cup) title in the same year. It's a great accomplishment that requires both regular season and playoff success, and as such, each part of the Double should be respected in its own right. In this third and final part of the series, we'll look at NHL results since the Great Expansion.
You might think that suddenly doubling the number of teams in the NHL, as they did in 1967, would make the Double a more difficult feat to accomplish. In the Original Six era, the Double was won 56% of the time. With twice as many teams, surely this rate would decrease. However, in the first six seasons after expansion, the Double was taken four times: by Montreal in 1968, 1969, and 1973, and by the Bruins in 1972. The reasons for this are clear. The six expansion teams were assigned to the Western Division, with the established teams in the Eastern Division. Each division had its own playoffs, and the respective division champions would meet for the Stanley Cup. This guaranteed that there would be an expansion team in the Cup final every year, so it's hardly surprising that Doubles would continue at a high rate until some of the new teams caught up to the Original Six in caliber.
The first such team to do so was the Flyers, of course, who took two Stanley Cup titles but finished behind Boston and Montreal in those years, denying them the Double. After that brief two season respite from Doubles, we started seeing them again with great regularity. Montreal again did the Double in 1976, 1977, and 1978, the Islanders won it in 1981 and 1982, followed by the Oilers in 1984 and 1987, and the Flames finished it out in 1989. So in the 22 seasons following expansion, the league had 12 Doubles, a rate of 55%, which matches the Original Six era as exactly as possible given the number of seasons we're working with.
The frequent Doubling in this time period, despite the ever-increasing number of teams, was the result of the great competitive imbalance that existed in the league, which carried over from the Original Six and was compounded by expansion. It never really got any better in the years we're looking at, either. As late as 1988-89, we had two teams (Calgary and Montreal) who had at least 115 points, and then only two others managed to exceed 90 points (Washington with 92 and Los Angeles with 91). Six teams had 66 points or fewer. The NHL was a league of strong sides and also-rans.
"Double" winners, 1968-1989
Season League winner Stanley Cup winner
1968 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1969 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1970 Chicago Blackhawks Boston Bruins
1971 Boston Bruins Montreal Canadiens
1972 Boston Bruins Boston Bruins
1973 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1974 Boston Bruins Philadelphia Flyers
1975 Montreal Canadiens Philadelphia Flyers
1976 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1977 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1978 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
1979 New York Islanders Montreal Canadiens
1980 Philadelphia Flyers New York Islanders
1981 New York Islanders New York Islanders
1982 New York Islanders New York Islanders
1983 Boston Bruins New York Islanders
1984 Edmonton Oilers Edmonton Oilers
1985 Philadelphia Flyers Edmonton Oilers
1986 Edmonton Oilers Montreal Canadiens
1987 Edmonton Oilers Edmonton Oilers
1988 Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers
1989 Calgary Flames Calgary Flames