by PuckStopsHere on 06/05/12 at 03:12 PM ET
The media is starting to speak up about the fact that the Stanley Cup playoffs have largely been boring hockey. For example Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun and Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province have written about this.
It is a topic where people are quick to attack the messenger. The messenger is calling hockey boring and I love hockey so I must defend it - that is the mindset of many fans. The problem is that misses reality. The messenger loves hockey. The messenger is pointing out a problem in the state of the game today.
The problem as I see it is there are no great teams anymore. The salary cap has seen to that. Whenever a team starts to be good their players start to require raises and they cannot afford to keep them together. The team is broken up before they would have peaked and become elite teams.
This leaves us a league with no great teams. It has no elite teams. It is a group of teams that are largely interchangeable in their talent levels. If a team is good enough to make the playoffs, they are good enough that they can win the Stanley Cup. No team is better than them by any significant margin. With the right luck anyone can win. Nobody who wins is particularly memorable because they are no better than anyone else. This is particularly noticeable in the Stanley Cup finals. In NHL history there have been teams that are better than others and these teams tend to make the finals and have memorable runs. When two such teams meet up we have a memorable Stanley Cup final series. When no such teams can exist, due to the NHL CBA, we never get such a series. We get a Stanley Cup final that is no better than a first round series in terms of talent available. That is our situation right now in the NHL.
This problem manifests itself into the hockey that we watch. Teams do not feel that they can win due to their talent. Instead they play a technical defensive scheme that discourages creativity and taking the risk to make an outstanding play. Each player is a cog in the machine and is not given a chance to reach their potential. This has left us with a measurable lack of elite defencemen in the NHL in our current generation. This leaves us with games where teams pull their star players out of offensive roles to play defence and block shots. It has the noticeable result of top players like Paul Stastny missing games due to shot blocking injuries (he has broken a foot and a finger) and that is a clear waste. It also has the result of pulling Stastny away from the game he plays well to become a cog in the machine and not allowing him to develop as a star. This leaves us with fewer stars.
This should outrage the hockey fan. It has created a more boring product than there should be. Instead it seems the hockey fan needs to defend hockey and attack the messenger. The idea that the current NHL product has been damaged in the NHL’s search to maximize profits is not one that can be seriously considered. Hockey is fine they say. If you don’t like hockey stop writing about it. What they don’t see is the messenger loves hockey and is ashamed at the fact that this isn’t the hockey it should be,
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