There are numerous factors involved in determining why any sports team wins or loses their league title. One of these is often the age of the players or their years of experience. Do younger teams really have to mature and grow together before they can become championship calibre teams? What if your team is too old? At what point does father time catch up with a team and experience becomes a negative instead of a positive?
There is no one perfect answer to this question, but we thought it would be interesting to examine the average age of teams who have won the Stanley Cup and see what we find.
The following numbers are based off of only players who actually played in the playoffs for each team. The age of each player is based on Feb. 1 of the year that the playoffs took place.
I decided to start my calculations with the year the Conn Smythe Trophy was first awarded, the 1964-65 season. This gives us 48 seasons of data to work with. Let's get right to the results and see how things shake out….
|4||New York Islanders||1979-80||25.45|
|6||New York Islanders||1981-82||25.59|
|9||New York Islanders||1980-81||25.7|
|17||New York Islanders||1982-83||26.17|
|18||Los Angeles Kings||2011-12||26.18|
|28||New Jersey Devils||1994-95||27.33|
|31||New Jersey Devils||1999-00||27.59|
|33||Tampa Bay Lightening||2003-04||27.83|
|37||Detroit Red Wings||1996-97||28.39|
|41||New York Rangers||1993-94||28.78|
|42||Detroit Red Wings||1997-98||28.92|
|44||New Jersey Devils||2002-03||29.36|
|46||Toronto Maple Leafs||1966-67||30.67|
|47||Detroit Red Wings||2001-02||31.17|
|48||Detroit Red Wings||2007-08||31.7|
The youngest team to ever win the Stanley Cup is none other than the 1985-86 Montreal Canadiens, lead by a 20 year old rookie goalie named Patrick Roy. Claude Lemieux was also only 20 years old while other youngsters included Chris Chelios (24), Brian Skrudland (22) and Guy Carbonneau (25). The only players over 30 on this roster were Larry Robinson (34) and Bob Gainey (32).
Five out of the top 15 youngest teams belong to the Edmonton Oilers (2nd, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th). Wayne Gretzky lead most of these teams to the title in the 1980's with their first title coming when he was only 23 years old. In fact, their top 5 scorers during their first victorious playoff run were all 23 years of age or younger (Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Coffey, Anderson).
The two oldest teams belong to the Detroit Red Wings who consistently put together very experienced teams through out the 2000's. The oldest team, in 2007-08, was lead by a younger core, but was filled with aging veterans like Dominik Hasek (46), Chris Chelios (43), Nicklas Lidstrom (37), Kris Draper (36) and Darren McCarty (35).
The average age of the Stanley Cup winning teams in the last 48 years is 27.2. Only 3 teams in the last 18 years are under the average age (2011-12 Kings, 2009-10 Blackhawks and 2012-13 Blackhawks). Some might find it interesting that the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins are ranked so low considering they were lead by Sidney Crosby (21), Evgeni Malkin (22) and Marc-Andre Fleury (24). Their core players were obviously very young, but the roster was filled with veterans like Bill Guerin (38), Sergei Gonchar (34), Miroslav Satan (34) and Hal Gill (33).
The first chart takes into consideration every single player who played during the playoffs, but what if we tried to remove the fringe players and focus on the core players of each team? The following chart shows the average age of the top 10 players from each team (top 9 scorers plus the goalie). This is not an exact science as you can argue that some defensemen should be included in the core even though they aren't among the scoring leaders, but for the purpose of this study I think it should give a pretty good indication of what we're looking for.
|Top 10 Players Only||Avg. Age For Entire Team||Difference|
|8||New York Islanders||1979-80||25.5||25.45||0.05|
|10||Los Angeles Kings||2011-12||25.8||26.18||-0.38|
|18||New York Islanders||1980-81||26.5||25.7||0.8|
|19||New York Rangers||1993-94||26.6||28.78||-2.18|
|20||New Jersey Devils||1999-00||26.8||27.59||-0.79|
|21||New York Islanders||1982-83||26.8||26.17||0.63|
|22||New Jersey Devils||1994-95||26.9||27.33||-0.43|
|26||New York Islanders||1981-82||27.5||25.59||1.91|
|31||New Jersey Devils||2002-03||28.3||29.36||-1.06|
|35||Detroit Red Wings||1997-98||28.4||28.92||-0.52|
|38||Tampa Bay Lightning||2003-04||28.7||27.83||0.87|
|39||Detroit Red Wings||1996-97||28.7||28.39||0.31|
|42||Toronto Maple Leafs||1966-67||29.5||30.67||-1.17|
|47||Detroit Red Wings||2007-08||30.7||31.7||-1|
|48||Detroit Red Wings||2001-02||35.1||31.17||3.93|
What really sticks out here is how the average age jumps up dramatically for the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings. The core players average is almost 4 years higher than the entire team. This team was centered around veterans like Chris Chelios (40), Brett Hull (37), Dominik Hasek (37), Steve Yzerman (36) and Luc Robitaille (35). One of the few youngsters on this team was Pavel Datsyuk (23).
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins where the core players were 2.28 years younger than their team average. This team was lead by Mario Lemieux (26), Kevin Stevens (26), Tom Barrasso (26) and Jaromir Jagr (19).
So how big of a role does age really play? I don't think we can really say for sure as the results show a wide range. What we do know is that no team is really too young or too old. What really matters are how well they play as a team and which team gets hot at the right time.
Which teams surprised you the most on this list? Let us know in the comments below.