1. Focus on hiring and retention: Remember the great Canadiens, Islanders and Oilers dynasties of the ’70s and ’80s? Despite a growing shortage of talent due to NHL expansion and, for a time, the upstart WHA, these franchises were able to build and hold onto a core group of top-notch players—which translated into multiple championships.
2. Have a deep bench: A few great people can carry any given team at any given time, but to win consistently during the long playoff haul you need a full cast of players with the talent, energy and enthusiasm to shine whenever they’re needed—say, a backup goalie when the starter goes down or the fourth-line winger who scores in the third overtime period.
3. Capitalize on your opportunities: Teams that score regularly on the power play make deep playoff runs. Those that don’t have to work twice as hard to achieve success—and can ill afford to make any mistakes.
4. Walk the leadership talk: Six-time champion Mark Messier was known for his no-holds-barred pep talks with underperforming teammates, but he backed them up with great on-ice performances of his own, like his hat trick in a do-or-die game during the 1994 playoffs.
5. Pay attention to chemistry: Messier’s 1994 Rangers also showed the value of employee “fit.” By reuniting several past-their-prime former Oilers and surrounding them with other veteran role players hand-picked by coach Mike Keenan, the Rangers were able to win the Cup—their first in 54 years.